Staying Centered in ConflictBy Dr. Margaret Paul
February 11, 2013
Are you conflict-avoidant? Does conflict terrify you? Discover how to heal this.
"I avoid conflict as much as possible because I cannot handle the anxiety it produces in me, as if I am going to die, even when I am in the presence of other people that are in conflict. I am aware that I abandon myself many times because I do not stand or fight for what I believe is right for me. I know we are going to encounter conflict in our daily life, it is part of it and I do not want to keep on feeling small at the presence of conflict. I want to be able to speak my truth, ask for what I need or stand for what I believe is right. How can I transform this, that is, how can I handle the anxiety and approach conflict in a more centered way?"
I completely understand what Angela experiences, as I used to feel the same anxiety, feeling like I was going to die. It took me many years to understand what I needed to do in conflict to no longer fear it.
I used to believe as Angela believes – that I had to learn to stand up, speak my truth, and fight for what I wanted or believed was right for me. I spent years learning to 'fight fair' and not crumble in the face of conflict. But even with all that, I was still scared of it.
Now I know why. Now I no longer fear conflict.
Angela, imagine that you have a little girl and someone verbally attacks her, or others are fighting in her presence. You have two choices:
You can stand up for her, speaking your truth or trying to get the others to stop fighting, or
- You can turn to her, embrace her with understanding and compassion, and let her know that she is not alone – that you are here and your wise higher self is here. You can let her know that whatever is going on is not about her, so that she doesn't take another's unloving behavior personally. If possible, you can leave the situation. If you can't leave, you can continue to focus on her rather than on the others, making sure that she doesn't feel alone, and that she feels comforted.
If you take the first choice, she will still feel alone and scared. It won't do any good at all to speak up for her or try to get others to stop. When people are upset, they are not open to learning, so whatever you say to them falls on deaf ears. You cannot get others to see you or hear you when they are upset or angry.
If you take the second choice, she will feel safe, knowing that you, as a loving Adult, are managing the situation and staying connected to her.
Angela, this is exactly what needs to happen on the inner level. The time to speak your truth and stand up for yourself is NOT in the moment of conflict. This is something you can do later, if you and the other or others are open to learning. Only when someone is open to learning will he or she hear you and want to understand.
When you take the second choice with yourself, you are staying connected with yourself rather than abandoning yourself. This is what your inner child needs from you to not feel scared. As you stated in your question, it is the self-abandonment that creates the terror, but you are confused regarding what is self-abandonment. You are still abandoning yourself when you enter the fray, fighting for what you want.
The only way you are not abandoning yourself in conflict is when you stay lovingly connected with yourself and your spiritual guidance, taking loving care of your own feelings. If you practice this, you will not only find that your fear goes away, but you will discover that you feel extremely empowered. This empowerment will help you know if and how to deal effectively with any others involved in the conflict, instead of reacting from a triggered position.
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We draw people to us at our common level of woundedness and our common level of health. Therefore, if you want your relationships to change from conflicted or distant to loving and connected, be devoted to your own healing and become the kind of person you want to attract into your life.
By Dr. Margaret Paul