Monday, August 20, 2007

Resolving Conflict

First, my apologies to anyone who worried because I didn’t post for so long. I hate feeling under the weather at any time but especially during the summer!

What I want to post about today is resolving conflict. And I know that conflict is hard for survivors of abuse to deal with. Many of us grow up hating conflict and wanting to avoid it at all costs. Unfortunately, that approach can lead to becoming victims of further abuse and/or relationships that never become real because we’re too afraid to let the other person see us as we truly are.

I’ve said before that conflict arises out of a clash caused by fears. Today I’d like to talk about a very specific fear and one that I think triggers some of the worst conflict and one that if we understand it we can use to resolve conflict in a way that is most likely to be win/win for everyone.

I’m talking about conflict triggered because someone’s self-image gets threatened.

Bullies do this—either instinctively or consciously. They zero in on how we see ourselves and do everything they can to undermine our sense self-worth—often by attacking those things about which we have the most self-doubt or by trying to make us believe we’re not good at what we really are or that it’s a bad thing. Which is why we avoid conflict—because we’ve been hurt by bullies who trashed our sense of self-worth and we don’t want to risk having it happen again!

Attacking someone else’s self-image is the quickest way to start a fight or create permanent bad feelings. The quickest way to make a new friend or create good feelings is to understand what someone values about him or herself and—IF we can do so HONESTLY—reaffirm that we see and value that quality in them.

What all of this means is that once again our optimal strategy is to work on boosting our own self-esteem. We can do so by reminding ourselves often of all the things we do like about ourselves and rewriting the messages we took in as a result of the abuse. We can understand that at every point in our lives, we did the best we could—then—and that if we don’t like the choices we made—then—we can make different ones NOW. And if necessary we can make amends for past mistakes. We can walk away from bullies who try to trash our sense of self-worth and learn techniques to deal with bullies for those times we cannot or are not ready to walk away.

If we feel good enough about ourselves, we can be open and honest with others. We can face conflict far more easily if we know that we can stand up to bullies and that even if the other person has a legitimate grievance with us, we are capable of growing and changing and becoming more and more the person we want to be. We can risk rejection if we know that while it might sting, it won’t shake our sense of self-worth because we know clearly who we are and we like that person.

And if we don’t like who we are, we can make a list of who we would like to be and then small steps we can take in the right direction for each change we would like to make. Taking action, any action, will make us feel better—if we choose steps we can achieve AND if we give ourselves permission sometimes to stumble along the way. We can look for people who believe in us, even when we have trouble believing in ourselves and who will encourage us to become the best we can be WITHOUT berating us for where we are now.

Ultimately, the words anyone else says hurt us only to the degree that they resonate with our own fears and self-doubts. If we can set aside that issue then when we are in conflict with someone we will be able to step back and decide:

a) Is this a relationship we really want or need to have? If so...
b) What does the other person value about him or herself and can we reaffirm it to defuse emotions so that the issue can be settled on rational terms?
c) Is there a way to frame a solution within the context of the qualities the other person values about him/herself?
d) What words and actions are consistent with the person we choose to be REGARDLESS OF WHAT THE OTHER PERSON SAYS OR DOES?

Wishing for all of you the ability to value and love yourselves and see within you—and others!—the best that each of us can be. Sending blessings and safe and gentle (((((((hugs)))))))),

April_optimist

4 comments:

Karma said...

Thanks April. I'm going to make this list on my blog.

keepers said...

Hi April

Another excellent post, one we liked a lot. you zero in on those bullies and how they undermine our sense of self worth and that in itself was something we fought with for years and years. this was a biggie for us to begin overcoming. thank you for all you say and out out here, reinforcing much of what we have learned in just the last several years.

peace and blessings

keepers

the clanberries said...

bullies also use their own inadeqacies to value their own self worth

April_optimist said...

Karma,

Good!

Keepers,

Often it makes a difference just to know our instincts have been right.

Clanberries,

Absolutely right! By targeting us, bullies don't have to look at themselves and their own self-doubts and fears. They try to make us look smaller so they can feel bigger.