On Being “Unhinged”6 min read

Go through life as Margaret or Elizabeth? Which one would you choose?

Many many questions.

I was re-watching the first season of the series, The Crown, and in one scene towards the end, when Margaret was crushed by the her sister’s (the queen) refusal to grant permission for the marriage to Peter Townsend, the queen tried to comfort her. Margaret reacted quite angrily and told her sister not to pretend for one second to know what Margaret is feeling or going through – because she would never understand what it is to be “unhinged”. Margaret was highlighting the biggest difference between them; that she, Margaret, is not as strong as she appears, whereas Elizabeth is more in control.

This scene got me thinking. Is it because I often feel unhinged that I find those hinged as sad? Also annoying – as if living in an emotional prison. And what does unhinged really mean?

I tend to find ways to explain being hinged, as the queen is portrayed, as the unnatural way of being- not the normal way to be. A way people are, because they get formed like that by experiences that made it the safe way for them to be. Maybe it is because I envy those people who are hinged. I envy their lack of suffering, because I find myself all too often struggling to regulate my emotions. To make sure they are the right dose and not let my emotions run wild (of-course I am referring mostly to the negative ones, those are the ones we all try to control).

What does it take to be hinged? And how must it feel? What is it like to be so sensible? So in control?

I wondered.

Most of all, how does life feel when we are so stable? When nothing can move you so much that you get off course? I gather, if you are hinged, it means you are relatively stable. Like a door that is hinged. Only limited degrees of freedom in a controlled motion within a preset radius-confined space for movement. Nothing will throw you off course. Nothing can. You are that grounded.

So, I thought long and hard. Isn’t that a good thing? If nothing can set you off, shouldn’t we all aspire to be so hinged?

I’ve heard many people proclaim that they are robust when it comes to disappointments. They are the types who don’t collapse readily. If you won’t be moved enough to go off course, doesn’t that mean you don’t care that much? I wondered. Where do you get the motivation then to do whatever you do? And where do you find joy? What then, in god’s name, do you live for?

But isn’t  it better to be mostly balanced? To be sensible. Rational. Reasonable. Most of the time.

I contemplated on whether we can balance all this. It is certainly  better to have the condition that makes you more prone to be content, grateful and get on with life. To accept things the way they are and most of all be stable. To not always experience the full range of emotions in one given day. Wouldn’t that be better? At least easier?

For sure, to be hinged, to some degree at least, is necessary. One needs a minimum degree to safeguard oneself from negative emotional forces and from unforeseen blows. But can this condition be selective in such a way that it allows the positive through but not the negative. Can we be hinged so that we are immune from negative forces but still have the space to move with positive ones freely? I like to believe we all need a healthy mix. A balance. We should have the capacity to control our inner emotional forces to some extent while still being able to let our emotions find their way inside of us, influence us and drive us with some freedom and space to do so. It is not easy to calibrate this mix to this setting where we can fully live and also protect ourselves.

All this came from the conversation between Margaret and the Elizabeth, because it made me question myself. Who do I prefer to be in this scenario? To go through life as Margaret or Elizabeth? Can you be- so to speak-  hinged but still able to be overtaken by joy…by excitement? Or does one condition inhibit the other? If you are in control so much, can you also lose it over joy? Can you be overwhelmed by joy still? If you can’t fall apart, can you experience the bliss of coming together in a moment…by a feeling? To be thrown off course by a wonderful unexpected uncalculated and uncontrollable feeling?

I realize this is a question that resonated with me strongly because it’s part of the problem I‘ve had since I moved to Switzerland. Mostly people around me seemed to me very hinged. They have it together – or at least they seem to. I found it hard to identify with, and hard to connect with people who seemed so. Are some environments more unforgiving when it comes to being unhinged? More conducive of feelings expressed? Is it more frowned upon in certain cultures?

Here I was, having just in one day – one ordinary day – so many different moods. Losing it some moments over trivial things, bursting into laughter at something silly at other moments, listening to a song and going to a place in my mind…melancholic where dark thoughts loom and so on and so forth. Most people around me seemed more stable… in control.

Looking back at my life, I’ve always gone as far as possible from people who seemed hinged – As if, always drawn to people with whom I feel I share that state of being somewhat unhinged.  Sharing a way of  reacting to things without controlling it– even if only internally. Not being in total control of how my emotions play out. Not being able to handle matter of factor some otherwise mundane thing or another. Sometimes even struggling with normal things everyone faces daily.

Surely those who have more control have a more peaceful existence. Have more peace and tranquility. Stability.

I can’t help but think, is this what I would have liked? More than my life? My uncontrollable inner life. My inner self – all the turbulence, over which I seem to have only limited control.

What would it be like? If nothing can destroy me…can throw me off balance?

When you have nothing to lose, it also means you have nothing. Wouldn’t that follow?

I’ve often wondered when someone says, I don’t care, about being rejected or failure or another person’s reaction, is that a good thing? It means you won’t get hurt, but then what would you have felt if another outcome were to be? What do you also get in return? If you are so immune, does it count that you are healthy? Not sick?

If you cannot get sick…Are you already dead?