Because my childhood included an adult that had anger take over from time to time, I learned to function (to some degree) in conflict. It was definitely an unhealthy environment, and it taught me the value of emotional hygiene, which, admittedly, was not a big deal in the 50’s/60’s/70’s in the circles I was aware of at least… Anyhow…
Conflict is a part of life. Trauma does not have to arise out of conflict. It can, especially if left untended, but facing conflict with equanimity (you’ve got a problem? ok. let’s hear it and we’ll go from there) barely ever happens. Instead, people tend to suit up. Not all conflict is worth suiting up for.
Tucker used to hate returning things to stores. It just rang his bells. Why voluntarily put yourself in conflict. It seemed ridiculous to me: returning an item to a store is not a conflict. Well, to me it wasn’t. But, for some time it was to him. And i think that is in part because they had so little conflict in his house, and when they had it, it was a drag, so why walk into a situation where someone might get mad? We’re all the products of our early environments.
My friend Brandi used to do a really excellent seminar on Boundaries. How creating boundaries, which is often interpreted in a “stay away” attitude, is actually an act of intimacy. I trust you enough to let you know what my compass says here.
I used to tell my kids, if someone isn’t liking you right now, don’t take it personally. Think about pizza. Sometimes you can eat pizza every night for days. Sometimes, you just don’t want pizza. It doesn’t mean you don’t like pizza or you’re cursing it, it just means… let’s focus our attention elsewhere for a minute.
So, boundaries and handling conflict are two areas (which I believe are intertwined) where our culture could use an upgrade. Indeed, if we’re going to progress culturally, I believe we need a whole new conversation about these things. What kindness it is to be clear about what we are feeling and needing. I mean, we don’t always understand it ourselves, but as we commit to dialing in to our inner compass, to living life from a place of trust (not trusting that everything is going to go a certain way, but trusting that you have the resources and support to move forward in life come what may), we can receive what comes to us with curiosity over defensiveness, clarity over wishing the world would change, and deep groundedness in ourselves over lashing out at others.
Of course, we are humans. Things get messy. It’s hard to grow without changing (impossible) and hard to learn without making mistakes and hard to break things without making a mess. Framing mistakes as undesirable is another source of confusion for me in our culture. Maybe that will be tomorrow’s post…