I have spent so much of my life avoiding conflict with others. I would mold myself to situations to avoid conflict. I would stop talking to people when it got uncomfortable and I thought there was conflict. It was as though conflict was one of the worst things that could happen in my life.
I was wrong.
The avoidance of conflict is one of the worst things that can happen. And I’m still trying to teach myself this.
I have tried to avoid conflict to the point where I have created massive conflict within myself. I truly thought I was doing myself, and anybody that there was potential conflict with, a favor by avoiding it. I wasn’t. I was actually making things worse.
I can look back over the years and see many situations that I was in that, if I had just stopped avoiding the conflict and respectfully stood up for myself or the situation, things would have turned out so much differently. Would have or could have, I don’t know for sure.
What I do know for sure is that every time I avoided conflict, I created a situation within myself that I tend to ruminate over for years. Some things I look back on now and I am still ruminating over situations that are more than 10 years old. Why? Because I created internal conflict rather than working through the external conflict.
I would bet that every time I avoided some conflict in my past, I created an internal conflict that has gotten me to this place where I am afraid to piss anybody off. I have created so much internal conflict and internal suffering just to avoid what could potentially be a simple conversation. But why? Why have I so passionately avoided conflict? Because of my childhood.
My parents fought almost nonstop. I truly don’t remember much of a time when they were loving with each other. If they weren’t fighting with each other, they were always yelling at me. I don’t remember much genuine talking or teaching, just yelling. It was stressful. So, I vowed to not be one of those people. And with that internal vow, I made sure to avoid any possible conflict.
I still avoid it today and yet I yell at my dogs if I don’t catch myself. I hate yelling. Not only do I hate conflict, I hate yelling. All of this has created an internal suffering that has built up over the many years of avoidance. Now that I’ve identified the cause and effect loop, I am working to resolve it.
The first step is that I really try to change how I speak to my dogs when they piss me off. I am sure I would be in the same boat if I had children. I would be working to make sure that I change the habit of yelling that was unintentionally ingrained into my subconscious as a child. I also try not to yell at Eddie when we are disagreeing. How do I do this? I take a really big deep breath in and then calmly state what I was just about to yell. Does this work all of the time? Nope. Am I getting better at it? A little every time I almost yell or catch myself yelling.
The second step is that I stop avoiding conflict. I might not engage in the discussion right at the moment that I feel the conflict, but I am working to have those discussions. In fact, by giving myself time to journal over or simply think through my feelings, I can have a better, less emotional discussion that resolves the conflict much better than in the heat of the moment.
The last thing is that anytime I feel the conflict arise from a historical situation, I work myself through the conflict either by journaling or thinking through how I could have handled it differently and how it truly impacts my life today. I work to not ruminate, but rather coach myself through the situation so it is no longer a stressful trigger for me.
So far all I’ve talked about is personal conflict. What about societal conflict? Oh yeah, I still avoid that and that leaves no lasting effects for me. In fact, for my empathic self, it is better if I avoid societal conflicts else I would be wrapped up in emotion of too many people and it would break me. Some say this is degrading to others who need people to stand up for them. I say this is taking care of my health and well-being before giving to others. We don’t have to put ourselves in physical or societal conflict to help others. There are so many things that can be done behind the scenes. You just have to look for them. Also, don’t fucking shame people who aren’t in the midst of whatever conflict you think everybody should be part of. That just creates more conflict.
Regardless of where the conflict comes from, the main priority we should each have is to make sure we are taking care of our emotional and physical well-being before engaging in anything. Don’t avoid something that can be dealt with if it directly affects your well-being, that will only create more suffering. But don’t avoid conflict and rush into societal situations just because you are afraid of what people might say of you staying in the shadows.
There are so many types of conflict and we will have to balance what avoidance truly means for each type as we encounter it. We cannot create a blanket response to all types of conflict. That is how we create internal long-term suffering.