When we’re in conflict with loved ones, even if we’re the most resourceful and skillful mother f-er around, we’re still going to hit conflicts that trigger us SO DEEPLY that we cannot find our centre.
As human beings, we have some serious survival instincts. When we’re in situations that make us feel as if our identity (i.e. values) is being threatened, our physiology kicks up a whole host of reactions that direct us to fight, flight or freeze. When we’re in any one of these states, it’s very hard to be our best selves. So, we have to find a way to calm ourselves and bring ourselves out of a survival state.
*Note: If this is due to real trauma, the trauma must be healed before we can expect ourselves to move through this process.*
First, find your breath. Stay with it until you feel your heartbeat and muscles return to normal.
And then ask yourself: What if the person you’re in conflict with is experiencing the same fear as you?
Yup, I said it. And what if I were to tell you that this is generally true in 85% of cases– because sometimes someone is just an asshole.
If we return to the first blog in this series, I told you that conflict generally comes from one thing: fear. Fear that one of our needs is not being met: love + connection, safety, and significance.
What if the person who is making your life hell on earth at work is also simply afraid because they are insecure in their own position, so they must belittle you to feel powerful? When you share your dreams with someone you love and they react in criticism, perhaps this is more about wanting to keep you safe than cut down your dreams. A friends’ disagreement on your stance on Black Lives Matter is simply a fear of looking at their own responsibility in their daily choices.
We have to recognize that the old paradigm of conflict management goes one of two ways: sooth and ignore, or aggressively over-power the other person to assert one’s strength and therefore UNFUCKWITHABILITY, thereby keeping oneself safe and intact.
This isn’t a wrong way to be, it’s just generally unskilled. It lacks in open-heartedness. Vulnerability. Perspective. Curiousity. Self-reflection. But damn, it’s effective in its own way (READ: ruining intimacy and relationships, shaming and blaming others into submission)
And so, when we’re confronted with these emotionally charged moments, choose the new paradigm that is rooted in love. Choose empathy even when it feels hard. This simple shift in thinking can offer so much healing.
Does this jive with you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
“How to Deal” is the second part in a three-part series on Conflict. If you missed #1, hop on over and check it out.
In Part One of this special conflict series, I illuminated a paradox in our lives- as women we’re often taught to avoid conflict lest you be labeled a bitch, overly emotional or too needy. But there are really healthy outcomes to conflict if we use an approach that is built on open-hearted communication.
But what does that actually look like?
The first thing we need to do when we’re feeling a conflict creep into our lives and our relationships is to get curious.
Notice how it’s often just a small event that tips us over the edge? This is because this is often something in our system that we’ve been soothing or ignoring over time. The event that made us explode isn’t the core issue, it’s something more.
As I mentioned before, this ignoring/soothing pattern is in place for a reason- it has served us well in our lives. But each conflict presents us with a new opportunity to be more skillful in conflict and lean into solving, rather than continuing our perpetual cycle of suffering.
What am I really upset about? Am I feeling unheard/misunderstood/insignificant/unsafe? What is it that I truly want? Is this actually true? What do I need to remedy this? Is it something I can give myself, or do I need something from someone else here? And then, act accordingly.
Here’s the hard truth: sometimes conflict in our closest relationships are about someone else and how they are treating us. And sometimes, the conflict is really about ourselves and how we’re treating ourselves.
How do I know this? Because I learned this the hard way, babes. When I was feeling stagnant in my life and choices, I would turn to my partner to blame him for the lack of excitement in our lives. When I was feeling like my life was out of control, I tried to control my partner. When I felt not enough, I became a stage-four-clingy-jealous-insecure monster that judged everything he said or did.
I took my whole pile of unresolved issues and I shoved them into our relationship in a super-fun-passive-aggressive- ticking-time-bomb way that really, really sucked for the both of us + nearly destroyed our relationship on many occasions.
This is not to say that he was always perfect and that my feelings weren’t justified. This isn’t a way of excusing and allowing ourselves to be treated poorly. There is a fine line between mindful curiosity and taking radical self-responsibility and a very cunning path to soothing. It is up to us to discover where that line is.
So we remain curious. We keep leaning in with an open heart. We keep showing up in love.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and if you have any further questions about conflict. Let me know in the comments.