Henley Street Theatre Company in Richmond, Virginia has an annual tradition of performing a Bootleg version of a Shakespearean play. (To learn more about the concept click here to link to an article I wrote about this years production.) I love this event for it’s irreverence and raw energy so in late October I took a road trip to my town of origin to see a Bootleg version of Hamlet. The show delivered all the mayhem I could possibly want including gay sailors as messengers, a pot smoking, video- game playing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, on- stage head shaving and a dual fought with foam floaty noodles. The Bootleg forces one to see a play with fresh eyes and so I did. For the first time I really understood why Ophelia goes mad; because Hamlet is inconsistent with his affections – which, if you have ever been involved with a person like this, you know, is enough to drive one completely bonkers.
Shakespeare is teaching us an important relationship lesson: Avoid the person who waffles because they are ultimately incapable of having a mature relationship. Now I am not talking about the normal ebbs and flows of relationship growth here. They are like two steps forward and one step back kinds of things, a dance with an ultimate forward momentum. I am referring to the person who is all about you one moment then falls off the face of the earth for a couple of weeks then returns with the force of a tsunami, all flowers and expensive dinners, etc. They practically propose marriage and when you respond with equal enthusiasm they freak and ask to cool things a bit -which turns out to actually be a lot. You’re on, you’re off. You don’t know whether to make plans even a couple of weeks in the future because your relationship seems to be constantly on shifting sands.
This particular brand of “Crazy Maker” people can be overly emotional or overly emotionally committed somewhere else causing their dramatic emotional shape-shifting.
In the January 2012 issue of Psychology Today article titled: Are You With The Right Mate?, the author offers the following as character traits that inhibit the likelihood of a functional relationship:
” chronic lying; chronic worrying or neuroticism; emotional overreactivity; proneness to anger; propensity to harbor grudges; low self-esteem; poor impulse control; tendency to aggression; self-orientation rather than an other-orientation.”
(Addicts are deemed as incapable of functioning relationships earlier in the article.)
The article also notes that persistent stress factors outside of the relationship sabotage the likelihood of a durable bond. All of these are part of the hyper emotional situation. These stresses could be caused by health issues, dealing with aging parents, career dissatisfaction, problematic family members or a hundred other things.
Back to the Hamlet reference:
The Danish Prince yo-yo’s Ophelia to distraction. For example: At one point, he has got his head in Ophelia’s lap and is lovey and smiley. A few minutes later he yells at her to “get the to a nunnery”. He is all wrapped up in other emotional stuff like grieving for his dead father, seeking to avenge his father’s murder and anger at his mom for her quick marriage to his uncle, the murderer. Even though he loves her, it is impossible for him to accept Ophelia’s love and commit to her. Until he can work out how to balance his need for intimacy with his fear of it (With his family background who would be comfortable with a romance?), he is blocked – emotionally unavailable.
Ophelia, who has been led to believe by Hamlet that he intends to marry her, is caught in a whirlpool of mixed messages causing her to mistrust her instincts. Ultimately she ends up so delusional she drowns in a few feet of water.
If you come across a person who emotionally waffles, RUN in the opposite direction otherwise you may find yourself forfeiting your personal power and drowning in a pond of neurosis -which is a huge waste of your time and totally un-fun. Even Shakespeare knew that.