There is an interesting contradiction in the way many people construe “confessions” or expressions of emotion made under the influence of alcohol. Negative statements are generally given far more credibility than positive statements. The same is true of actions, but I think it is important to maintain the reasonable distinction between actions and statements.
Negative actions often impact others in a physically threatening manner so that protection of another individual becomes necessary. For instance, someone who more often than not becomes violent under the influence of alcohol needs to be dealt with in a way that protects others from physical injury as a result of that violence. There are, of course, many other examples of actions aside from aggression, such as irresponsible actions, that occur while under the influence. Actions like that must be taken seriously and addressed seriously because they threaten the well being of others.
So, context becomes a key, I think, in assessing various situations. I think there is a very significant difference between actions and verbal expressions of emotion. It has occurred to me that there is an interesting double-standard applied to emotions expressed by someone who is …, well …, drunk.
My wife and I were watching a movie and in the opening scene a college couple was leaving a nightclub. As they exited, the man started to tell the woman that he loved her and she stopped him before he got the words out saying, “Don’t start that ‘you love me stuff again – you only say it when you’re drunk’.” I had never really thought about it in quite this way before, and I have no idea why it suddenly struck me just in that moment, but I suddenly wondered why she thought his drunken expression of “I love you” was devoid of credibility.
Common wisdom – in fact, scientific knowledge – says that the influence of alcohol diminishes inhibitions.
Since the post-synaptic neuron cannot release a signal, the ability of the neurons in the frontal lobes to inhibit socially unacceptable behavior is reduced. […] The loss of inhibitions results because the post-synaptic neurons are progressively less able to conduct an action potential and illicit a response.
If that is so, then it seems a logical conclusion that some things said while under the influence could reasonably be considered more genuine than what is sometimes said – or not said – within the inhibited sober restraints that prevent us from expressing true emotions.
It occurred to me that very often negative expressions while under the influence are taken seriously as true revelations of an individual’s thoughts, personality, beliefs, emotions, etc. However, equally as often, if not more often, when someone says something like “I love you” while under the influence, they are not taken seriously; their expression of positive emotion is laughed off as some kind of joke, usually with the interjection, “You’re just drunk.” And then when that person is sober again, he/she won’t follow up on expressing the same emotions, whether true or not, because of fear; fear of rejection, fear of inappropriateness, fear of appearing a fool, perhaps because of some personal issue, etc.
Are we, as a culture, so overly conditioned to discredit expressions made under the influence that we miss many valid expressions of truth?