Conflict is automatically thought of as a bad thing. That word brings up images of fights of varying severity or outright war. Those are certainly examples of conflict, but they are unhealthy examples.
On a personal level, what if conflict could ultimately bring us closer to our loved ones? This post by Danielle LaPorte got me thinking about this idea.
You see, I’m used to unhealthy conflict. I grew up with it. I got spankings when I was bad when I was young (not all that often), and no one really sat me down to talk to me about why whatever I did was all that bad… Though I’m not sure of my exact motivation, I think this tied into my interactions with my little brother. When I was a kid, I used to clobber him. He’d do annoying little brother stuff, I’d get mad, and I’d beat the crap out of him. Not the best way to manager anger, but as a child I didn’t know any other ways to release it. Definitely not proud of that, but it happened…
Non-physical, unhealthy conflict was persistent too. There was always an underlying tension in our house. No one really talked about it or anything else. It continued to mount, until eventually all hell would break loose. There would be a big screaming match, followed by a few days of silence and wound-licking, then the cycle repeated. Fights between me and my now ex-husband were similar. They would start off about one thing, probably something relatively small, but they would end up incorporating things he or I had done months or years ago. They were usually loud and ugly.
As I’ve proceeded further along my path of living daringly, I’ve been learning ways to turn those patterns around. One of those ways is the point Danielle makes in her post. My wants and needs in my relationships are equally important to the other person’s, and I HAVE TO let them know when something negative is going on for me. I can’t let the fact that I’d rather not hurt their feelings get in the way of bringing up problems that are important to me. And the sooner the better.
This doesn’t mean I get to be a jerk and be callous with the people in my life. Instead it means that I need to go to them and let them know as kindly and respectfully as possible the problem I am having and what I need from them. Even if it will hurt their feelings. Because if I don’t, I start repeating the cycles from my youth. I’ll begin to get annoyed with the person, tension will build between us, finally something small will happen and I’ll blow up at them… I’ve lost friendships this way.
If I go to the person early with my problem, it’s not as big of a deal (though it’s still very scary). All of that extra negative energy hasn’t had a chance to build. I can go to my friend/boss/whoever and we can solve the problem that has come up in our relationship. Perhaps it will give them a chance to bring up something that’s been bothering them as well.
And that’s where the closeness comes in. At first the conflict feels very isolating. We are very vulnerable when we need to work through a conflict with someone in our life. We are worried our friend won’t like us anymore. But by working through the conflict, we’ve expressed our true self, which any friend should appreciate. Once we’ve worked through the conflict, we’ve strengthened our connection in that relationship, and it becomes better and healthier.
For me it’s a work in progress. I find myself slipping back into those old patterns now and again. But once I realize it, I can take accountability for my actions and make amends. That is a possibility for me now, where before there was only one path for me. Living daringly has made more options available me, giving me more choices in my life.