The Perils of Not Embracing Conflict
There is one primary thing that stands in the way of people and their loves. It is conflict. Most of us think we know what our conflicts are, but we don't. Let me explain why. It has been shown that often our mind functions like a data retrieval center. If I'm faced with a challenge and think, "Oh no, I don't like challenges," my mind will run through the memories associated with the fear of challenges, discomfort with challenges, fear of failure, embarrassment, etc, and present those memories to me. Crap. With the awful memories clearly in view, I am steeped with even more difficulty and I live out the result that matches with the image: failure and disappointment. If I think, "Challenges don't faze me!" then my mind will sift through all the scenarios in my life in which I've overcome challenges, had clutch moments, victories, triumphs, and the elation I felt, again fitting my results to match the image.
There is so much emphasis on the idea that conflict is something placed upon us, externally by others, that we don't often see conflicts arise within ourselves. I don't care how well you date, how good you look, how much money you make, how well you can sex someone up. One day you and your partner, spouse, or lover will be confronted with your very personal internal conflict. And believe me, EVERYONE has at least one.
Let me paint a familiar picture:
Things are going smashingly well in your relationship. You've managed to keep "it" (conflict) under wraps, even from yourself. Then one day, the incident happens. The catalyst that pokes you right in your tender spot:
1. Your insecurity about... [insert your least favorite physical feature] or [your weird quirk]
2. Your fear of... [most bothersome work task] or [least favorite social activity]
3. Your dislike for... [scariest responsibility] or [idiosyncratic pet peeve]
4. Your fixation with... [your favorite out-of-control vice] or [your private guilty pleasure] or [some OCD habit]
Why does "it" come up? Because this conflict is active in the back of your mind, fully awake although buried, deep in your subconscious. You think about "it" more frequently than you'd like to admit. You don't fix it because it's too deep and scary, like an abyss. Or maybe it's socially unacceptable. You don't even truly understand the conflict because it's so off-putting that you haven't even looked at it long enough to figure out what "it" is or where "it" comes from, or why you feel the way you do whenever it arises.
Besides it requires time, and new thinking, and new habits to deal with "it." So you ignore it, tuck it away, or like an antisocial house pet, you lock it away in its kennel while the guests are over. You avoid all things having to do with confronting it. You avoid all areas or places or thoughts or conversations associated with it. But it's there in the back of your mind like a classroom bully, still staring at you waiting for its moment even though you won't look. It flicks at your ear, throws pencils at you, hits you with spit balls as you're trying to pay attention in class or trying to get the attention of the class cutie.
Don’t look where you fall, but where you slipped. – African proverb
And so every spare moment that you're not focused, your mind will align your conflicting thoughts, words, and actions with your worst imaginings to materialize the circumstances which will produce your conflict back at your door step in all its full-blown glory. Only this time your partner sees it, and stares at it for a moment, surprised. Or maybe your partner recognizes it and offers to help you.
But it's too late, you're embarrassed because you've been hiding "it." You haven't talked about "it." Really, there was no need, it wasn't important. And who cares, everybody has something like it of their own. You get defensive. No one is attacking you, but you get defensive. Then, to take the attention off you, rather than look weak or insufficient, at some point you will blame or project onto your partner for your conflict. For bringing it up, harping on it, or making light of it if they tease you or say it's no big deal. There's no pleasing you. You got an answer for everything except how to fix this freaking thing!
Over time it becomes the, "I'm not good enough for you" type of sabotaging behavior or the "You think I'm not good enough for you," type of accusations. It becomes, "You're making such a big deal of it, can't we let it go?!" But only you're making a big deal of it. When we're not looking, (and most of us aren't because it's scary as hell to look at it) conflict runs through our house, through our lives and gets into everything! It's shape shifting ability allows it to magically take the form of any excuse we want to make: for why money isn't enough, why things aren't going well at work, why the sex isn't enough, why someone's not doing enough around the house, why we fight so much.
Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional. – Max Lucade
We start accusing our partners that they are not taking care of their internal conflicts. Why don't they handle their issues?! It becomes why we don't talk and why we don't have sex at all. Ultimately it becomes "why I think I'm really not meant to be with anyone," "why I'm better when I'm single," and "that's why animals in nature are not meant to have just one mate," so on and so forth.
Nope. It's none of that. It's just how mean a mo-fo this conflict is. If you let it - because you're too busy putting up a front, unwilling to be honest with yourself and your partner, or because you're preoccupied with trying to be "the man" or superwoman, or blaming others - if you let it... this thing will ruin your life!
That's conflict. But it's yours. And apparently you don't have time for it. You won't own it. You're too busy at work, and on Facebook, or hanging with friends, or vegging out in front of the TV. And this tyrant rules the roost, quietly, until the next fight. From day-to-day, YOU answer to IT.
I've watched things like this go on for years. And the more it bubbles to the surface, the more we deny it. The less we communicate with our partners, the less respect we have for one another and the worse things get until we shut down talking at all, having sex at all, and eventually divorce (depending whether or not we stick it out for children's sake).
Never cut what you can untie. – Joseph Joubert
We, then, get involved in all manner of side occupations to satisfy our longing for emotional support. This means comfort eating, sleeping around, shopping sprees, happy ending massage parlors, extreme workout regimens, drug abuse, or anything else that let's us escape the reality of our internal shit.
Consider this. Despite what we complain about, what external circumstances we blame it on, this is our stuff, our own internal shit earned over the course of our life. Not all of it is our fault to begin with, but we earn every right to it when we don't learn to throw a leash on it, get it to lie down, roll over & beg, play fetch with it, cuddle up on the couch with it, kiss it on the mouth, and eventually let it free back into the wild, wild nature from whence it came, understanding how to handle it should it come wandering home again.
When we embrace this creature of conflict and admit we've already agreed to let it have an extended stay in the house, then we understand there is benefit in learning to work with it. At that point our lives change. When begin to see that conflict alerts us to danger, we get better. It alerts us to the danger that we are the ones biting our friends and running away out of the yard despite our partner beckoning us home. It alerts us to the danger that we are the ones wetting the carpet and messing up our house.
When we embrace conflict, we see it can help us be more social and helpful with our neighbors.
Jim: Good morning, Bob.
Bob: Hey, good-looking conflict you have there. You have it so well-behaved. Can you show me how to handle mine?
When we embrace conflict, we learn that training it makes everything else fall into place.
Jim: "Hey, Bob, you're extra early to work today."
Bob: "Yeah, I've been getting up earlier to housebreak my conflict."
When we get a handle on our conflict, we realize that we will not growl at people, especially our loved ones. We'll be more lovable, and more approachable,. We'll roll around in the sack more often and enjoy being at home more often without the need to rip into pillows, over eat, shop for new leashes, or go humping the conflict of the cute bartender we met 3 months ago.
We'll cuddle up with our partners on the couch, act as a good guide, protect and respect the home, and maybe even catch a Frisbee with our teeth.
Embrace your conflict. Own it. It's there for you to grow. Make room for more.
If you liked this post, please subscribe. Also, take a moment and reply to one of these questions if you are brave. I love a good reply. Do you think you know what your conflict is? If so, what do you think it is? Do you think most people know? What do you think the most common conflicts are regarding love?