Once upon a time – no, this is true. Once I had a friend with a very sweet small boy, and I watched his mother bringing him up from when he was a baby.
She never, ever just said ‘no’. Everything he was to do or was not to do was carefully explained to him with the reasons. Everything had reasons. It was very tedious. But it was worse than that – this poor child was being brought up to be tyrannised by reasonableness. Somehow a great many of us have arrived at the conclusion that being reasonable is a total virtue and that everything we should do should be reasonable. And if we can ‘prove’ to others that we are being reasonable we couldn’t possibly be being annoying, or infuriating or even just plain wrong. We’re being reasonable, so what’s the problem?
The nearest I have come to doing severe damage to Charles has probably been the times when we are having a row and he insists on being relentlessly and unresponsively reasonable. It’s a kind of torture. And it’s a way of staying in your head and deadening your feelings.
This can become a dreadful problem when you are angry about something and you judge yourself to be unreasonable. Take a for instance: you have a baby die. No-one’s fault. Grief is obvious. But you are also more than likely to be angry. Who with? What for? Why? Not reasonable is it?
So – you may invent someone or something to blame, and this is a bit dishonest. In the circumstances, if they love you a lot, the person you blame may tolerate that, but it will come between you at a time when you need to be close to other people. Or you may squash your anger into a little parcel and bury it inside. This will be corrosive and depressing. But reasonable.
What if your partner didn’t want the baby anyway? You might be angry about that and somehow (unreasonably) feel that they were somehow responsible. But that’s not reasonable. So you don’t say this. You don’t hear yourself, sounding so upset and angry and bonkers and then break down into tears or smash things. So – no relief.
Your partner may feel glad about the death – now there’s bad. So they will feel bad and probably angry with you for putting them in this situation. Not reasonable… so they may also be tight-lipped, kind, gentle, responsive and – resentful. They may very well not even be aware of being angry. We are good at disguising unacceptable feelings from ourselves.
Can of worms? That’s where being reasonable leads…. Feelings are not reasonable. They just are. It’s what you do with them that counts.