The shower – our favourite location for a victorious debate. Oh, the sweet satisfaction of going over a situation in our minds, either a conversation that has already happened or one that we want to have, and absolutely demolishing the other person with our pernicious perspicacity. Nobody stands a chance under the gentle wash of our own indoor rain closet!
This is usually a conduit for venting our frustration. But why not have the argument face to face? Plenty of reasons: perhaps it’s not a good idea to tear into your boss and get fired; maybe you don’t want to turn your friend against you for the sake of winning; it’s possible you simply don’t like confrontation.
But why do we always win these arguments with such totality?
Well, first off, simply because many of these sessions are a venting tool. It wouldn’t do much good to try to vent frustration using failure and surrender.
Another reason is confidence: perhaps they’re rehearsals for conversations we’re planning to pursue outside of our own bathroom and it’s like an Olympic competitor practicing their event while envisioning crossing the line first and standing on the top of the podium, gold medal hanging proudly.
If it’s the latter and you’ll be pulling the trigger on this for reals, there is a danger in simulating a winning debate with ease and ferocity. When you’re actually standing toe to toe with the other person they will inevitably say something you haven’t rehearsed – will you be able to respond appropriately?
Furthermore, if you’ve been infallible and angry in your practice runs, your abrasive emotional state will do two things: it will intoxicate you with anger which will prevent your thoughts from flowing clear and free, and it will also have you acting like a dickhead.
Who likes an angry person self-righteously barking at them?
Even if you don’t plan to have this conversation in real life there is a danger to approaching the thought of it with hostile dominance. Our brains are incredible – the most powerful computer in the known universe. But it’s important to understand that they operate on efficiency, not on accuracy, so you don’t always have the discrete control over your thoughts that you might assume.
So you’ve argued yourself red and blue in the face and kicked the crap out of someone in your mind. Your shampoo bottle will never forget this glorious day and you can walk out of there with your dripping head held high.
Unfortunately our ever efficient brains tend to respond emotionally to imagined events as if they were real, so you’ve created a memory of this furious conversation where you bit someone’s head off and rubbed their face in the dirt.
Now when you talk to this person after that soap and water victory, your inaccurate brainbox will remember that time that you smote them to the ground for their incompetence. Even if you do keep it from showing on the outside there are downsides to this.
One of those downsides is that it will colour your choice of words, your body language, and your perspective of them no matter what you do. Even if it is too subtle to notice, it is unavoidably tied to the experience.
It takes a person of well honed self-awareness and understanding to keep these background thoughts and memories in check, because it’s all too easy to be seduced by them swirling around inside of you and start treating this person with disrespect.
Another downside is that it takes energy to prevent your true thoughts and feelings from bubbling to the surface. If you do choose to keep strong feelings like this barricaded inside of your mind then you will inevitably have part of your energy and focus tied up in that juggling act, therefore limiting what resources are available for what’s actually happening in front of you.
Holding in truths like this is a form of dishonesty – a lie of omission. You can strap on a wonderful smile and pretend you don’t have a problem, but only if you want to walk through life looking like a shady used car salesman. I could go off on quite a tangent about looking genuine versus being genuine, but I already have and it’s here.
It’s not to say you should go around blurting out stark truths to people, spraying your opinions like a runaway manure spreader. Holy funnelcakes, no. Keep your upper and lower lips sealed firmly together if you feel your opinion is better than someone else’s. Or go ahead and fumigate everybody with your superior wisdom. I hope you’re ready to live with your choices.
But the shower shouting match is in itself an indicator that something within you is in need of attention, and the fact that it’s manifesting itself as an argument with someone else could very well mean that the attention required is found in a conversation with this person.
That is where tact is important. Argue until you almost pass out in the shower if that’s what you need… You know what, do not actually pass out in the shower – but come as close as you need until the root of what’s irking you reveals itself. Then find a way to address it with whomever is necessary to bring peace to the issue. If you do believe that venting in the shower is enough of a release and you don’t really need to get to the root of it, then perhaps you are settling for relief instead of pursuing joy.
And as long as we’re talking about peaceful resolution, here’s another opportunity for when you’re master of ceremonies in your shower: practice more than just venting. If you’re going to practice conversation, take both sides. Take some time to try to understand why you’re so sure the other person is a raging idiot. Just a sliver of perspective from their side can help bring clarity to your view, as well as bring you a little closer to a solution.
I’ve read that the Wright brothers – the same ones famous for creating the first truly functional airplane – would develop their critical thinking by fiercely debating a subject and then, after some time, switch sides and keep debating. After all, if you only understand one side of the argument, you don’t really understand the argument. It takes two, baby.
Another tick of the efficiency of our onboard computers is that anything that works reasonably well will be easily filed as “works no problem, keep doing forever.” So if we spend our days yelling at three linoleum walls and a curtain and then burying the truth deep within us, we will likely see no overt problem with it. This is one of those habits that has a way of accumulating a pile of tiny repercussions that are so small going in they don’t even seem to exist, but pile up so big they break something within us.
This is one of the ways that anxiety can take hold and really build up without us figuring out where it’s all coming from. By the time it’s big enough to start seeping out of you the habits are already running in deep ruts and it’s difficult to get ourselves into a different mode of operation.
What I’m on about here is that sour, angry responses to any situation is more detrimental to your own quality of life than you may realize. Nothing comes for free, and that includes you screaming at an imaginary manifestation of your groomer for cutting your dog’s sideburns off.
Words that need to be said… well, they need to be said. But to the proper person, and in an appropriate way. And emotions that get pushed inside find a way to express themselves sooner or later, and they usually sour even more with time.
So keep yourself on the bright side of things and find out what you honestly need. Argue your ass off in the shower, but don’t use it as a replacement for real (and yes, usually difficult) conversations.
What about you? Yelled at any good showerheads lately?