- Do you lie to have control over the other person not being mad at you?
- Do you give yourself up, going along with what the other person wants to keep the peace?
- Do you avoid standing up for yourself?
- Do you shut down or withdraw?
- Do you use substance or process addictions as a way of being unavailable?
- Do you get angry and blaming, intimidating the other person into backing down?
Many people are afraid to get into conflict, and they believe that their fear is about what the other person will do. When I ask my clients what they are afraid of if they speak up for themselves and take loving care of themselves in their relationships, this is what they generally say:
- "He will get angry at me."
- "She will leave me."
- "He will disconnect from me."
- "I will end up getting hurt."
- "It will always end up being my fault."
- "I can't win."
- "I will end up alone."
Most people believe that their fear of conflict is due to the other person's behavior. But if you were to explore the fear, your Inner Child might say to you:
- "When he gets angry with me, you don't take care of me. You abandon me. You don't speak up for me, or take me away from abusive behavior."
- "I am afraid of her leaving me because you always leave me. You don't care about me, so I am terrified of her leaving and being alone."
- "You disconnect from me, so it terrifies me for him to disconnect from me. You don't take care of me when he disconnects from me."
- "I end up getting hurt because you abandon me, allowing me to take things personally. You hurt me by abandoning me in conflict."
- "You shame me, telling me that things are all my fault."
- "You don't stand up for me. You cave in all the time, giving me up so I always feel like the loser."
- "I get angry because you are not around to take care of me. If I didn't get angry, I would end up being taken advantage of."
The fear of conflict always comes from the wounded self being in charge instead of the loving Adult.
If you chose to show up as a loving Adult in conflict, you would embrace conflict as a learning opportunity, regardless of the other person's behavior.
If the other person is open to learning, then both of you can learn much about yourselves and each other from the conflict.
If the other person is not open, then you can learn much about taking loving care of yourself in the face of another's intent to control.
Avoiding conflict with lying, addictions, anger and blame, giving yourself up, resisting or withdrawing does not make the conflict go away.
In fact, much conflict is about these very behaviors. While a conflict may be about an issue, such as being late, being messy, sexuality, parenting, chores, and so on, eventually the real conflict is about protective, avoidant behavior.
As many of you know, the Chinese symbol for conflict has two meanings: conflict and opportunity.
Conflict is always a wonderful opportunity to learn, when your intent is to learn.
However, in order to open to learning in conflict, you must have a loving Adult capable of taking loving action in your behalf – of speaking your truth, of disengaging from a closed interaction, of bringing love and comfort to the Child, of exploring to discover the source of your painful feelings, and of discovering what you can do for yourself in the face of another's refusal to explore.
Fear of conflict will gradually disappear as you do your inner work and develop your powerful inner loving Adult.