I find it interesting that almost every person I have ever encountered says “I don’t like conflict” as if they are the only ones who feel that way. Truly, conflict is nothing we intentionally seek, even if it appears that way at times. Conflict occurs when two or more people are in disagreement over an idea, a feeling, an action, or a possession. But conflict doesn’t have to be combat, a war, or a dissolution of relationship.
Conflict can be our opportunity to grow
Each of us deals with conflict in different ways. Some become the rescuer, others the victim. Some withdraw and shut down, while others step in and want to ‘shoo’ the conflict away with positivity. Some go straight to the feelings while others stay in the mind. None of these strategies are wrong or right. They are simply patterns we learned early in our childhood. They are conditioned responses that we took on because at that time in our lives that is what worked. These are the roles we played to keep peace and feel safe.
As children we had little power to do anything else, but today we have power and choice
We have the power to say no; the power to walk away; the power to express ourselves fully; the power to choose love. Typically conflicts arise because feelings have been hurt, perceptions are different, and most commonly we are carrying old baggage and beliefs which have been triggered in the encounter. I find that if I can stop myself from reacting long enough to ask myself the following question, I can easily stay out of those conditioned responses and old roles.
Did this person who said or did something that hurt me, do it intentionally?
The answer to that question will always tell me my next step. If it is intentional then I can choose to disengage from that relationship and the conflict is over. Why would I stay in a relationship with someone who intentionally wants to hurt me? Ever?
If the answer is no, then my next step is to understand what the other person is really needing and asking for that I did not recognize. Rarely is the conflict about the subject at hand. It is usually a deeper feeling, something positive the other is looking for, even if the behavior itself is negative.
As I seek to understand I am both present to the other and present with myself. I can honor that persons feelings without condoning their actions and I can share honestly my feelings and needs without blame or accusations. When I remember, throughout the discussion, that this person is someone I care about, my interaction with them is gentle and open. And in the exchange we are both learning more about each other and ourselves.
The hardest conflict to get through is the inner conflict we feel between parts of us that seem to want different things
Many times we don’t even realize we have inner conflict. But it will show up in some of the following ways. It causes us to stay stuck in situations that don’t serve us; to run away from opportunities because we doubt ourselves; to react to the world with fear and suspicion; to act impulsively to meet a current need at the sacrifice of the greater one; or even to not be able to make a decision keeping us paralyzed between two options.
These are the conflicts that if unchecked and unresolved will be the deeper issue playing out in our conflicts with others. So ultimately almost all conflicts begin within ourselves. And bringing this blog back full circle…
when we are unwilling to deal with our own inner conflict, projecting instead on to others, we will play out an old conditioned role!
So I invite you to think about this. To look at yourself through compassionate eyes and ask…
What is the role I play in a conflict? If I didn’t play this role, what might I discover about my own inner conflict? And once I am aware of that conflict can I be gentle and loving with myself? Can I find ways to meet my needs without the conflict?
The answer of course is YES! You can! But you have to be willing to do the work. The payoff?
Less conflict in your external and internal life. Renewed enthusiasm for life! Compassion toward others who have yet to do the work. Less judgement. More understanding. MORE of yourself.
I have personally walked this journey. It wasn’t easy. And I’m not always perfect at recognizing my ‘crap’! But when I am, I can tell you, it has made all the difference in my interactions with others. I very rarely play a role anymore and it is the most liberating experience to be authentic and empowered while also maintaining a loving connection with another.
Remember the ‘conflict’ is rarely about what is being said…and is always an opportunity to learn more about yourself…growing into your greatness.
As always, live easy and be kind to yourself