Words by Jane Faulkner
I really value calmness, peace and the live and let live philosophy. So when conflict recently reared its ugly head in my life I felt really challenged. Life was already full and stressful and I was struggling to find calm amidst the chaos, when someone I love dearly, clearly let it be known that he did not agree with how I was living my life. This really rocked me, I went through all kinds of emotions, anger, resentment, blame, guilt and shame, I wanted to stand up and justify myself and my life and turn his thinking around. I wanted to rant and carry on and tell him this, that and the other about his life as well.
Luckily something stopped me. I realized that to defend myself and to become reactive at this stage could irreparably damage our relationship. I realized that nothing I could say or do would make a difference to how this person felt and that I would have to totally change who I was and how I lived, for him to give me the nod of approval.
So I asked myself; how can I hold onto me and what I stand for, and yet still remain loving and available to this person. I clung to my Spiritual practice and when I was in his presence and my want to react back, was powerful I reminded myself to breath and stay present to myself. I backed myself and honored my truth in the life I was living. I was happy and inspired in my life and yeah, it’s not perfect; but it’s a piece of work I’m proud of.
I felt the anger in my body, the want to justify and fight back and I breathed, I felt my feet on the floor. I felt the heat in my body and I acknowledged to myself that I was angry and deeply hurt and yet, I still cared for this person and could see that he also was deeply wounded and suffering. I was shaky inside and this conflict made me deeply look at my life and ask myself deep questions; like what was important, what was my truth and what did matter to me.
Ironically, I was completing an online course by an amazing man called Dr. Daniel Friedland. He talks about the different parts of our brain and how we can move from the reptilian brain, (the part of the brain that reacts and doesn’t care about the consequences or the relationship) to the pre-frontal cortex, (the part of the brain that enables us to see the situation clearly, our centre for higher order thinking and the part of our brain that has a social conscience and cares about the relationship). He has a saying, ‘you name it to tame it’- meaning you name the feeling too tame the feeling. So when I’m angry now, I breathe deep and I name the feeling. If I don’t feel safe telling the person in front of me, I acknowledge the feeling to myself. Luckily, my kids and my husband have provided me with plenty of practice!!
This way of being has had a huge impact on my life and has shown me a new way to hold onto myself and yet remain present to the other during conflict. It has allowed space and wisdom to enter. I am more able to stay in my adult self and respond, rather than be drawn into my childhood wounds and react and then regret. This period of conflict has taught me the value of honesty, of owning my feelings and of backing myself and honouring my choices and my life. It has also shown me how much I value relationship over the need to be right. At the end of the day, what is an opinion worth over the presence of a loved one?
So our conflict is not resolved and fixed, I think it will be a work in progress and yet inside me I feel at peace, I feel safe within myself. I am able to hold onto me and yet remain open to him.
How do you deal with conflict? What are your hot spots, the parts of you that react and get triggered?
Jane is a mum, partner, psychotherapist in private practice, yoga teacher, group facilitator at Gwinganna Health Retreat and nurse. To connect with Jane, check out her fabulous website.
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TED talk by Brene Brown: The power of vulnerability
Quotes thanks to Pinterest