Skip to main content

Avoiding Conflict

It’s very hard to separate rational truth from what we were taught as children.

For as far back as I can recall I have strived to avoid conflict. With everyone, in every circumstance, regardless the consequences. Not only do I stifle eruptions of anger that well up within myself (even if justified) I do everything to avoid others becoming angry with me, especially in public. As would be expected this has exacted quite a cost emotionally and at times financially and professionally.

My husband challenged me recently to consider this pattern of behavior; to study it deeply and identify why I often sacrifice everything at the altar of ‘keeping the peace’. So I did. I took time away from distractions and set myself down to pray and pursue and unravel this compulsion that often costs me so dearly.

Here is what I discovered.

From the time I was a very small child my mother would frequently yell at me. It was terrifying, loud, sometimes accompanied by physical violence (throwing things). I never had to ask ‘why’  she was angry; she always volunteered the reasons:

~if only I was a good girl she wouldn’t be angry all the time

~I *made* her yell at me because I am  terrible daughter/person

Paired with my Mom’s behavior was my father’s frequent derogatory comments and put-downs regarding my appearance, my personality and my behavior. He was on the same page as my mother in explaining why he treated me this way:

~I tell you this terrible truths because I love you and want you to become a good person

From both sides it was clear: I was a bad person. I could be a good person. If I could figure out HOW to be a good person, the yelling and the derogatory comments would stop. From this I could also extrapolate that if someone expressed anger with me in public everyone within sight/earshot of the scene would find out that I am a bad person (b/c why else would someone be angry with me?).

This may seems ridiculous, shocking, or unbelievable but I held onto this thinking  well into adulthood. That is why others expressing anger has always been interpreted as terrifying reinforcement that I AM TERRIBLE. And since I don’t want anyone else to every hear “YOU ARE TERRIBLE”, likewise I rarely express anger toward others.

Jon’s prompting to *really* think about these issues lead me down a fruitful road. Not only did I honestly analyze the beginnings of these ideas and feelings but I was ready to evaluate them objectively. And that’s when, at age 35 (approximately 2 months ago) I realized my concept of anger is completely flawed.

Truth is, there are many reasons why someone might express anger toward me:

~ they are angry at something/someone else and taking it out on me instead

~I did something and it upset them and I need to evaluate whether their upset is reasonable (and take action to amend) or unreasonable (and let it roll off or explain to them why I’m not amending behavior). This doesn’t mean I am terrible, just means I might have some behavior changes to make.

~they are mentally ill

~they are sadistic

~they are jealous and want to hurt me

~they are proud and their ego is feeling threatened

~other (I am sure there are more reasons)

When I first came up with my list I sat down, stupefied, in the realization that I was able to rationally make sense of it all on paper. But would you believe readers that just because it makes sense on paper I still struggle with letting go of the old way of thinking? I’m working on frequent self-talk and corrective thinking:

“Anger != I am terrible. Anger != I am terrible.”

I repeat this mantra in my thoughts frequently, especially when others are clearly on the verge of expressing anger toward me. It’s very difficult in the moment of an angry scene to remember this truth, but I am working on it. And working on it allows me to stay emotionally reasonable and open to hearing what the angry person is attempting to communicate instead of curling up into a self-hatred ball inside myself. A long and slow road ahead but I have a map now. I have a map now!

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Board Game Review: Brass Birmingham

Here’s a story of a lovely lady (spoiler: it’s me) and her pride and how it has led to the discovery of the single greatest board game I have ever played. It’s probably also a good primer for other reviewers on increasing your reach.At GenCon this year, I was perusing the wares of the various booths and my eyes caught a glimpse of two beautiful game boxes. Each had crisp metallic lettering with an old world feel and artwork that radiated European class. I made my way to the booth and waited patiently to speak to to the team manning it as there were many buyers lined up to purchase the games. I didn’t know anything about the games (Brass Birmingham and Brass Lancashire), or the publisher – Roxley Game Laboratory – but I knew I wanted to review one or both of the games. Almost every board game love story I star in in can be summed up this way: I am seduced by the artwork or theme and then I stay for the right mechanics. When the lead rep spoke with me, he gently rejected my request. He …

Board Game Review: Brass Lancashire

A few months ago, I fell in love with Brass Birmingham (you can read that review HERE). I fell hard. It was an all time top 10 best games ever kind of love and so when Roxley Game Laboratory offered to send me Brass Lancashire to play and share my thoughts, I was a bit hesitant.  Is there even a chance I could enjoy it as much as Birmingham? Lancashire was the original game designed by Martin Wallace, and while it’s been updated for the most recent release, I was concerned it might prove to be an older, tired version that couldn’t compete with Birmingham.

My concerns were unfounded. Brass Lancashire is fantastic. Playing Lancashire after playing Birmingham is a bit like dating someone and then dating their sibling. Sure, there’s a resemblance, but the kissing feels different.
The artwork for Brass Lancashire is beautiful, radiating a classic style evocative of the theme (industrial era production). The artists have shown great attention to detail such as the raised gold lettering on …

Board Game Review: The Shipwreck Arcana

We hosted a lot of small gatherings in December and they presented the perfect opportunity to bring some games to the table that we hadn’t yet played. The Shipwreck Arcana was one of these games. My husband Christopher talked me into acquiring it, promising it would be something I’d enjoy. I was skeptical because he described it as a logical/mathematical pattern building puzzle game (BoardGameGeek.com classifies it in the Math category among others) and I don’t tend to enjoy those as much as other types of games. We played several games, usually with the full count of five players. The first thing I noticed when I unboxed the game was how pretty the Arcana cards are. The artwork is is unique in style and reminds me a bit of a tarot deck. It’s a pleasure to lay out the cards for display on the table. Components include the Hours card, the Arcana cards, fate tokens, score and doom trackers, number line tokens, and a velvet grab bag. All of the components are sturdy enough to hold up to…