Ghost people

I keep catching myself having arguments in my head, arguments with people who aren’t here.  They might be connected to things I’ve heard or done in the last few days, or they might be about anything that crosses my always-moving mind.  Either way, someone I know will take the other side, in my mind, and we’ll argue about it.

It’s taken me a while to figure out the dynamic happening here.  It isn’t about the other people, not the real people; none of them ever know that I have mental arguments with them.  When I’m able to be fair, I can see that it’s not the real people — that the thing I’m arguing with isn’t acting like the real person would act.  It’s like a ghost-image of them appears and some dark part of myself animates it, and then I fight with the apparition, responding to the image without seeing the dark thing underneath.

You can never win that kind of fight by fighting with the image.  It’s all about the thing underneath.

I don’t like arguments.  I don’t like fundamental disagreement, the sort that can’t be brought around to consensus.  Sometimes adults have to agree to disagree, I know that, but I hate having to do it.  It always hurts.

Disagreement leads to separation.  I think about the ghost-people on the other side of my mental arguments and the real relationships they represent, and I feel tension and fear there.  I feel the risk of being rejected by those real people and ending up alone.  I feel like, if those arguments ever emerge into the real world, I have to be able to win them.  Because I can’t risk losing.  I can’t risk unresolved disagreement.  The dark thing underneath reminds me that I’ve experienced that kind of disagreement and loss, and how much it hurt.  It suggests that I’d better keep practicing my arguments, just in case I need them some day.

The dark thing is a liar, and there’s terrible risk in listening to it.  Because the ghost-people I fight with look like real people who I know.  If I spend too much time looking at the ghost-people, I risk forgetting who is real — I see the real faces and start to assume they are just the same as the ghost-faces, I start to ascribe the same motivations to them, I respond to them out of the hardness and fear I felt inside my mental arguments, arguments the real people had no part in and don’t know anything about.  Responding out of fear and suspicion drives people away.  If I mix up the ghost-people and the real ones, I could bring on myself the very thing I don’t want.

I’m teaching myself to spot my tendency to argue with ghost-people and cut it short, to banish the image of someone who isn’t here and go looking for what’s underneath, the harder, scarier thing to face, which is always a hurting, hateful part of myself.  The fight isn’t about winning a specious, false mental argument.  It’s to root out of myself that which is dark and fearful, to bind up and protect that which is hurt, and to try and open up a bit more to some real people, chasing out the fear of aloneness by fostering real connection and love.

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