The Emotional Hangover

emotional hangover

“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” – John Powell

While summer is thought of as a time of vacation and respite, our summer has been somewhat of an upheaval. We aren’t in our home due to some renovations and are somewhat of a clan of nomads traveling around to family members. I usually like to take some time (ideally every day, but realistically every few days) to gather my thoughts, read some calming words and well, just breathe. I haven’t taken the time for that lately. And it shows.

I was with a friend the other day, and I was in a hurry. My kids were in the car, waiting for me as I chatted. I was distracted by cars driving by, and half of my brain was already at my next destination. I was talking, yet my words were just falling out of my mouth, mostly without thought or filter.

I said something that I wish I hadn’t.

In fact, as soon as it slipped out of my mouth, I felt remorse. My kids were still in the car, banging around, distractions from the street next to me continued, and I just wanted to rewind for two seconds.

Unfortunately, that’s not how things work.

I don’t know if she caught it or not, or even cared. Regardless, it didn’t sit well with me. I proceeded to go back to my car, get in and carry on with my day. But my words stuck with me. It was a feeling of “ick” I just couldn’t shake. Through dinner and into the night, the pit in my stomach just sat there and festered.

Then, right on schedule at 2 a.m., I woke up as if the dawn had already broke and coffee was ready and waiting. Although, it wasn’t dawn, and I still had a good 4 hours before my body would accept coffee. However, my brain didn’t get the memo. It continued to go over and over what I said, not only focusing on the words but my feelings of people that say those kind of things. I knew I was over-doing it, and I was making way bigger of a deal than necessary, but it didn’t make me feel any better.

I knew what was happening – it was an emotional hangover.

A hangover is often associated with the undesirable feelings, both physical and emotional, of over imbibing. It is also defined as something that has survived the past. While there was no imbibing on my part, my words had definitely survived their allotted time in my head. In fact, they had over-stayed their welcome and I needed to stop the cycle of the chaos they were causing in my mind and body.

So, I did something.

I had to take an inventory of what I said and why it bothered me so much. Truly, it was about the qualities I dislike so much in other people and don’t want to acknowledge that those same feelings may exist somewhere in me. I want to stay so far away from the “type of person” who talks like that, so I assure myself I am not like that (whatever that actually is…) And even if I know all of this, I certainly don’t want to give this impression of myself to the outside world.

A part of my shadow side may have been exposed.

After working through all of this, I took a moment to apologize to this person for what I said. I did spare her from this litany of self-realization, and kept it to a simple and genuine apology. It was the best I could do, since I can’t go back in time. Again, I don’t know if she was ever bothered, or even ever noticed in the first place. Most people would probably think I was ridiculous for getting so upset. But like I said, this wasn’t about other people. This had to do with my own perceptions and how I feel about myself.

Our apologies and acknowledgements are often not about other people, but usually about ourselves. Other people often serve as a reflection back how we see ourselves, shadows and all.

We all say and do things we wish we didn’t.

We all say and do things that feel like the opposite of who we want to be. This is where we can grow. Acknowledging what we don’t like is a start. Change can be slow, often two steps forward and one step back. It’s all about progress, not perfection (and understanding friends, too).


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