Childhood perceptions of conflict affect us all our lives. Reflecting on them without judgement enables us to begin to see conflict as a friend.
All of us have a conflict history. The roots of our conflict come from our own experience of it. They started growing in utero when we sensed our mother’s heartbeat speed up as she faced things she struggled with. This continued into our childhood as we found ourselves wanting to be ‘this’ yet having to be ‘that’. Those societal expectations shaped us and made us conform, but thereby we came to not know our real selves, nor to be able to express our true voices.
Since we weren’t accustomed to it as young children, conflict threatened and shocked us. We found ourselves needing to find ways to get what we needed. Our stance on conflict developed out of our response to feelings of discomfort, shame and anger that we associated with it. For example, we might have learnt to lie in order to avoid punishment, or we may have chosen the path of victimhood or aggression in order to survive. These behavioural patterns were simply how we learnt to cope when things felt out of control. Now, as we observe them in ourselves without judging, we can begin to understand our very deep patterns.
We all hold things inside us that don’t fit together, and we may be surprised when feelings emerge that we hadn’t anticipated if someone ‘presses’ on them. These ‘buttons’ are hurts we’ve experienced where we’ve felt overwhelmed – memories of injustices that have been done to us, or where we’ve been compromised in some way or vandalized by some well-meaning person.
With time we grow out of our earlier, more vulnerable state, but the inner conflicts do not just grow out of us. Traumas often get carried throughout our lives. These parts of ourselves which we struggle to accept are often where we find our greatest conflict. A big, necessary step is when we acknowledge these tensions and take ownership for our life stories. We see where, for example, we’ve been too pleasing, or too volatile. We can choose to accept and have compassion on those uglier sides. Loving our less-than-lovely parts takes vulnerability and courage, for we are needing to learn not to judge, but to come understand our conflict history. If, in fear, we avoid this, the conflict simply lies waiting for the next opportunity to manifest itself.
Learning to love ourselves is work and it starts in the areas of conflict. People who get ‘under our skin’ are a gift in that they are clear indicators that there are parts of ourselves that we can’t stand. Conflict is very much a reality in our lives. Let us take it not as something to run from, or to remain stuck in, but as our friend, showing us feelings we need to re-evaluate, for our ongoing peace and growth.
The Creative Conflict series as a tool for you to use at home and to reinforce the learnings from our meetings and reflections.
To begin with loving ourselves, we need to come to terms with parts of ourselves which are conflictual. Beyond the mess of what we often associate with conflict, lies a nugget of truth about ourselves and our world.