Conflict: Lesson LearnedBy Ivanka Jankovic
September 28, 2008
Conflict is an inevitable part of life. Inner bonding helps us to move from the victim place, and learn what is really going on when we end up in conflict with someone.
There are people that thrive in conflict. They take any opportunity no matter how small it is to vent and unload their problems. Their story is always the same. They are good but somehow life treats them unfairly. I belonged to the other group that is conflict phobic and would do anything to avoid it. Being highly sensitive I sensed even the slightest sign of another person's upset so I had to prevent disaster before it would happen. This is why I become a caretaker.
But there is a point in person's life when the cup gets full and there is no way another drop can get in. Old defenses and old behavior stop working, and there are two choices: to either get sick or to grow. I still have to meet a person who woke up one day and decided to embrace the healing journey. Usually, life puts us in position that we have no other choice. It is in those moments that some doors will open and we will learn something that is extremely valuable for our personal growth. This is how I got introduced to inner bonding.
Most of my early Inner Bonding was around the fact that I was a loser in any conflict. It is not only that the other people blamed me for anything that went wrong in their life, but also my wounded self would do the same. She would give me a lesson what I did or did not do, and what I was supposed to do. She would insist on perfection by giving me a "do it perfect list", and then simply abandoned me.
Looking into all lies and false beliefs that I had around conflict was very scary. Although I never got angry it turned out my child was very, very mad at me. I learned that I always assumed that I was wrong and the other person was right. I endured the other person's venting and blaming. I always found an excuse for inexcusable behavior, had compassion for others but zero compassion for myself. My biggest fears were fears of rejection and abandonment. I constantly lost myself but did not want to loose the other person. Well, that was about to change.
Doing small loving actions had a huge impact. One day I found myself listening to another person's usual venting and just said I am not willing to listen to that. To be honest I was very surprised that I've said that, given my history of not rocking the boat. Of course I was told it was my imagination - that there wasn't any dumping. The person used the same behavior that always worked to change my mind, but this time it simply did not work. I ended the conversation saying that I am not available for any negativity now and in the future. How my message got across I did not know, but it did. From that day on I was treated with respect. It really puzzled me because I worked so hard on my communication skills so that I can be heard and understood but always failed. So I asked my guide what happened. The answer was very short: You are not ready for an explanation. I did try to get a little bit of info but no luck.
As my Inner Bonding progressed I accepted that I am the only one responsible for my feelings, and have no control over another person's behavior. I become less conflict phobic. I took any opportunity to learn about my false beliefs, and myself. Then there was Eureka! I learned that if an interaction is very negative I can walk away, and as a matter of fact that is the most loving thing to do. It was a big AHA moment as something like that never occurred to me, and I ever saw anybody doing it. So I was eager to put it into practice. But I had no luck. For over a year there was no major conflict in my life.
A couple of months ago I got assigned to a project that had all the signs it is going to be a troubled one. Not a single person on that project was happy as the design kept constantly changing. I followed my guide's advice and did what I could do. But my part required work with a colleague from the other team. This was her first project and I did notice that she loves drama. One day I went and asked her what was the best way that we can integrate both parts of the project to meet atight deadline. She put hands on her hips and told me: Well, the other team gave me a hard time so why it should be easy for you? I looked at her, sensed all the negativity that just came out and walked away. Communicating with her was extremely difficult as any time I asked about something she would say "but what about..." and then list non-related issues. If I said I had a problem she would immediately reply that it was nothing comparing to her problems. She took any opportunity to vent her negativity and each time I walked away. We discussed design so many times to the point that I was getting sick of it. Any of my requests for something was met with rolling eyes, and the words "You are too demanding."
It was on my last day at work before vacation when I rushed to finish something when she came and told me that we haven't discussed a particular requirement. It was the same issue that we talked about but she could not keep her attention span for a split second (it turned out this was the piece that she could not deliver on time but it would be nice to put some blame on me). I stood up and said: "Give me a break!" I saw her face blushing and she was taken aback by my reaction. Enough is enough. Again I walked away.
I was not looking forward to going back to work after the vacation. She managed to push my buttons quite a few times and I did react. My wounded self was concerned as I was not being nice any more. She was telling me: "What are people going to think of you?" I hugged her, acknowledged her concern but did not try to be nice. Things were about to escalate.
In one of the conversations as I started to answer her question she kept jumping from one topic to the other. I stopped and told her that it was not ok. She rolled her eyes again, crossed her hands over the chest, got ready for a fight, and told me that I am difficult to talk with. We agreed that there was a communication issue and went to discuss it in the meeting room.
As we sat down she said: "You are so rude and cruel. Nobody treated me the way you did. You walked away without a single word so many times. It never happened in my life. I had sleepless nights and I feel very sick. She was on the edge to start to cry.
I let her talk. A part of me who was calmly observing the whole situation said: This is a poor me drama. A wave of blame hit me but I did not blink, and I did not believe it even for a split second. I told her that I also find that we have a huge communication issue and offered her to talk to our manager. Maybe we do not need to work together. No! No! She wanted to find a way to work with me and again blamed me for her distress.
This is when I explained that I walked away any time when she was negative, and I will walk away in the future as well. I told her that I do expect her to listen and be present when I am answering her questions instead of jumping from topic to topic. I was tempted to tell her that she needed to look at what else was causing her insomnia besides me. If I were her only problem in life she would be sleeping like baby. But my guide was shaking her head as no. So I just told her that I was not responsible for her sleepless nights and she was causing them. This totally confused her.
As I sat there and she attempted to blame me and induce guilt on me I saw all the hooks that she was throwing at me hoping that I will engage into conflict. I just repeated what I was not willing to tolerate. She was not happy at all the way our conversation ended. She repeated the whole blame story again, and mumbled: "Ok I need to look at my tension."
As I was going to my desk a part of me said: I do not like her. I do not like to be treated that way. That was the first time in my life that I was able to tell that I do not like someone and I do not want to be around that person. My mission in life was to be liked and accepted by everybody. And I really mean everybody.
Surprisingly I was very calm that day, but the next morning I woke up furious. I quickly found out that my colleague's behavior was exactly the same as what my mother did to me all my life. Somehow her distress was always my fault. I spend my whole life trying to become good girl and it did not help. She always found a reason to blame me. That morning I clearly saw the truth: I was an amazing kid but there was nobody to protect me from a totally unconscious adult. My loving adult was outraged. She cannot change the past but will take care of my inner child now.
I did not have any expectations how my colleague will behave. But I was about to be again pleasantly surprised. She calmed down, came and asked specific question (listened to the answer) and was very cooperative for the rest of the project. Even some problems were solved without any drama.
Yet again I was totally puzzled and asked my guide if there was anything that she would like to share with me. This time Ana was very chatty and here is what she said.
"If you strip away all defenses or offenses that humans use during the conflict, you will find just one thing - The Need To Control. Conflict is only possible when both sides are fighting over control. They are on the same level. It does not matter how much one insists that he or she is better then the other. Conflict is not possible when one person does not want to control. You just told her what is not acceptable for you without any explanation and expectation of what she needs to do. You did not point out that anything was wrong with her (this is what really ignites conflicts). Instead you just told the facts and stuck to them. You were on a different level - that is why her blame could not reach you. However there was a moment when you wanted to tell her to look for other reasons of her insomnia (by the way she knows that you are not the only one). If you did that you would have dropped on her level and there would have been conflict, because you would try to control her point of view. This is the most common mistake. When she came the next day you did not try to make her life miserable and did not do tit for tat. You respected yourself so she is going to respect you as well."
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Today, notice what you do when pain comes up - especially the pain of loneliness and heartache when someone is being unloving with you. Do you get irritated, angry or judgmental? Do you resist or withdraw? Do you people-please and give yourself up? Do you numb out with food or other substances, or with activities such as TV? Notice the ways you might be avoiding your feelings rather than compassionately attending to them.
By Dr. Margaret Paul