conflict resolution

Only very few people have been abundantly nurtured on all levels during their early childhood, with a healthy attachment to their family members, resulting in a deep trust in themselves, in others, and in life. As a result of our less than perfect childhood conditioning, most of us have developed a certain level of dependency on the approval and acceptance of those closest to us. We sometimes unconsciously try to manipulate or control others so we can satisfy our needs and desires. Conflicts between two people with these tendencies are a struggle between two egos, that develop recurring destructive patterns without ever truly resolving the conflict. In case the desired approval and acceptance were completely out of reach, we might have developed survival mechanisms that cause us to withdraw completely from authentic connections. We would then also be unavailable to engage in conflict resolution, but instead consistently be the one that ends the conversation, that walks away, or that hides away.

Many of us attract people as our partners and friends, that present us with recurring dynamics. These patterns invite us to look at our emotional wounding that lies at the root of these dynamics, often stemming from our early childhood. There seems to be a hidden law, that unconsciously causes us to re-create situations that we have experienced in the past, rather than consciously create constructive new situations. Somehow it feels better to be in situations we know and that are predictable, rather than in situations that are harmonious and healthy for us. There is an (illusional) sense of safety, not only in the predictability of the situation but also in the experience of how that situation impacts us, providing familiar feelings, even when they are painful. Becoming aware of our patterns, the reasons for attracting and recreating them, and doing the work to heal the emotional wounding of our past, allows us to make more conscious and more healthy decisions and develop new behaviors.

The dynamics we find ourselves in with those around us that trigger our emotional wounds, point us to our ‘homework’ during our journey of healing and expansion. Using our life experiences and the ways we respond to them as material to learn and grow from, offers great potential for transformation. An internal shift can take place, from an instant resistance against challenging moments of confrontation with people or situations to an embrace of the challenges we are presented with. When we increasingly trust ourselves and life, we can remain relaxed and surrendered, even in moments of conflict or challenges. Our breathing and our nervous system would remain calm, and instead of acting from an unconscious and triggered state of being, we would be able to feel, think, and act from a present, balanced and conscious space within ourselves.

The key to improvement in this masterclass of life is practice; in our daily interactions, with our partners, our parents, our children, our colleagues, and even with total strangers. Meditation, journaling, and therapies can offer effective (self) guidance in this process. When we are in the middle of recurring destructive dynamics with loved ones, relationship therapy, family therapy, or retreats that focus on connection can offer support to change our patterns constructively. We need to have a willingness to look at ourselves and those around us with compassion and focus on the root of the patterns individually and interactionally. Only then can we shift from our default mode of defense and attack, to engage in harmonious and constructive ways of connecting.

We often have the most serious conflicts with those we love the most. These connections are providing us with valuable lessons, and if we open our hearts to learning what they want to show and teach us, they are a strong catalyst for inner growth. We tend to miss out on these opportunities because we simply got used to walking away from connections that feel challenging to us. When the willingness to invest the time, energy, and space needed to thoroughly hear each other out, without judgment, a conflict can easily turn into a conversation. A powerful teaching that can assist in this process is non-violent communication, where we learn to communicate our own deeper needs and those of others. It emphasizes deep listening to discover the depth of our compassion. The teaching can be seen as both a spiritual practice that helps us see our common humanity, using our power in a way that honors everyone’s needs, as well as a concrete set of skills that help us create life-serving families and communities.