This post on conflict has taken awhile because it’s so freaking huge for me. I’m really uncomfortable with conflict. In fact, I pretty much hate it.
Oh, well. Too bad for me.
Learning how to handle conflict is an integral piece of growing up and taking care of ourselves instead of expecting others to take care of us.
Managing conflict well requires being willing to tolerate discomfort for the sake of growth.
Managing conflict well requires believing in our own self-worth.
Managing conflict well requires trusting in the essential goodness of others.
Like the other components of self-care we’ve been discussing, conflict management requires learning skills that most of us weren’t taught , and practicing skills that many people around us will find challenging and uncomfortable.
- Self-care is our job because we’re holons – whole/parts that exist both as separate entities and as components of something greater than ourselves. We’re created to be who we are.
- Real self-care requires self-regard, self-knowledge, and self-compassion. We often settle for shallow imitations because giving ourselves what we really desire is so freaking scary. Truly caring for ourselves often looks and feels irrational, it’s labeled “selfish,” and it requires visibility and risk.
- So we require boundaries – knowing where we stop and others start – taking care of our side of the street. Knowing the difference between my business, your business, and God’s business, as Byron Katie puts it.
And all of these new skills will inevitably lead to conflict.
As we develop new ways, we disrupt old ways. As we become more ourselves, don’t expect people around us to form a cheering section. Do expect what Martha Beck calls “change back attacks.”
When we define our edges and boundaries, when we are clear on our values and goals, we’ll have more conflict in our life. It’s inevitable.
I don’t know about you, but that’s not good news for me. As I mentioned, conflict scares me to death. In my family of origin, conflict often meant someone was going to get physically and/or emotionally hurt.
In my adult life that’s no longer true, yet the pattern remains.
Note: if conflict for you means that someone will get physically hurt, please get help. You’re in an abusive situation and you need help, right now.
Most likely what I’m dealing with when, as an adult, I feel scared of conflict is my lizard brain, the source of fight/flight/freeze responses to threat. What’s required to deal with these primitive, false brain responses is to activate my higher order thinking skills (HOTS).
We activate our HOTS by slowing down and noticing what we’re thinking, how we feel, and what we want. The best tools I know of to do this are mindfulness, the awareness wheel, and being clear on our values and goals.
We retrain our brain by choosing to tolerate discomfort for the sake of growth.
We retrain our brain by choosing to know the truth and to tell it, for the sake of authentic, intimate relationships.
Our cultural conditioning, our training to be nice, to be good girls, goes deep.
This will take time, so let’s start today to build the skills necessary to be happy and healthy.
I’d love to hear about your self-care journeys and practices in the comments!