I wish we would shout at each other more. Not in a violent or aggressive show of dominance, and not out of hate. What I mean is, often in our interpersonal relationships, whether they be familial, friendships or romantic, we are often encouraged to speak in soothing, calm tones when we are angry, and if we can’t, we need to take a break until we can.
I am all for this and think that in 90% of interactions with loved ones, this method is the most life-giving, helpful and healthy. It’s respectful communication with whomever we are in conflict, shows that our anger doesn’t outweigh our desire for resolution, and that this conflict is okay, safe, neat. We are having a heated discussion, not a fight.
But sometimes, that 10% of the time, I need to fight. I want it to be okay to yell. I want to be able to say the things that come to my mind with the fervor that I feel. I don’t always want to be in control, be measured, be calm. Not to be scary or domineering, but to be emphasizing. Instead of the hushed and tense dynamics of slamming doors and rolling eyes, being able to say exactly what needs to be said: “Because you disappointed me!” or “My feelings are hurt!” or “I think what you’re doing is a bad decision and I think you’re going to end up hurt, which scares me!” Shouting it out to get the point across that I feel strongly about the issue. Especially if the conflict has reached a tipping point: shout the truth or ghost out of the relationship.
When an issue arises in a relationship that feels especially hurtful or scary or triggering, our fight or flight mechanism kicks in. We feel like we are under attack because we are at risk of losing love and connection, our deepest primal fears as modern humans who rely on both. In these times of excessive interconnection, where we are saturated and bombarded with connection, it can almost feel a welcome relief to cut something or someone out. To flee instead of fight. And sometimes, it is absolutely the healthy choice to cut someone out of your life who is maliciously toxic. But more often than not, ghosting, abandoning a relationship outright with no explanation, is dangerous and the most hurtful of all.
While it most often relates to dating relationships, ghosting happens in friendships and other personal relationships all the time. When we ghost, we communicate indifference. We convey that we don’t care enough about the person or relationship to have it out. It’s so hurtful.
We leave it all up to the person we are ghosting to figure out what happened. What went wrong, what we did, what they did. Script-writing about the situation instead of focusing on what actually happened gets easier and easier, and often so much more toxic. Instead of an issue being based in reality, it’s based on our perceptions of what happened, clouded by time and lack of communication. What does ghosting accomplish besides petty satisfaction? It doesn’t tell the other person what they did. It doesn’t tell the person that you’re hurting. It actually sends a message that you’re the dick.
I’d rather talk about it. But if talking isn’t an option, if emotions are too high or the issue too fresh, let’s at least yell about it to give ourselves and our relationship the best chance of coming to a resolution. I’d rather have a blow-up fight than be ghosted.
I’m speaking from experience because, I’m sorry to say, I’ve done both. I’ve both been ghosted and have done the ghosting. It’s so much worse than yelling. I’ve spent endless time wondering what I did wrong, wondering what I could have changed to have the person come back to me. I’ve also bounced on legit close friendships in my life because I was too scared or hurt to speak the truth. I can say it was because I was young and stupid (true), but it means nothing if I didn’t learn from it. What I learned is that I missed out on precious time, precious relationships, that I can never get back because I was too proud, too hurt, too scared to confront the issue.
Wouldn’t it be better for all parties to speak your truth, even if that means you cry or yell? Even if it means that you have to admit you’re hurting and that this person is capable of hurting you because you love them? Even if it means that you won’t be able to work it out, but at least you’ll be able to move on eventually and stop having dreams about all the ways you messed up?
I was once describing a conflict I was having with a friend to my dad and he said, “This hurts and is hard because you love each other so much.” How true that is. It’s far worse to have conflict with someone you love. Ultimately, there is far more potential to resolve it because you love each other so much, but only if you put in the effort.
You need to have a safe and otherwise healthy relationship to be able to get away with yelling. It can be scary. It can be too intense. Again, I’m not advocating for abusing power or taking up emotional space in a room by yelling for the sake of it. I’m talking about it being okay to sometimes let the scale tip and yelling your frustrations out when keeping them inside is more dangerous to the relationship, the situation, or your mental health.
By focusing so intently on keeping the peace, what we are often doing is avoiding and denying. Avoiding rocking the boat. Denying our hurt feelings. There are certainly some situations where this makes sense and staying in control is the only option. However, there are some situations where yelling is what you need to do. Where it is really okay and warranted. Where it is the only way to clear out a long-rotting issue in a relationship. And I’m for that. I’d rather be yelled at than cut out. I’d rather yell.
So often in television or movies, what is totally satisfying as a viewer is the fact that we see people having it out. Yelling at each other in heated conference rooms or shouting over each other in their living rooms. It also feels the most unrealistic to me. People actually telling their loved ones their honest thoughts, in the moment, in person. There are a few people I can do this with, but the further out the rings of relationship go, the more difficult it is to do.
I can understand why yelling and shouting would really scare someone. It’s not like I like being yelled at. I hope it’s clear that I understand there’s a time and a place and a relationship that it would be the most effective. Where it could actually be the healthier choice. Because I do think there is something to being empowered and invested enough in the context of a generally safe and stable relationship to loudly say, “This is not okay! I don’t like this! Now what are we going to do about it?!”
Because maybe by yelling, by crying, by letting conflict be messy, by letting relationships be complicated, by allowing ourselves to feel hurt and embarrassed and angry out loud, we could in fact breed more love, more honesty, more vulnerability, more compassion, because we would feel free enough to accept each other, and ourselves, as flawed and forgivable.