By Anita Anand
Our greatest conflicts are not with other people but within ourselves
Do you find yourself attending a family function when you would rather be home reading a book or watching TV? Or signing up for a long weekend yoga workshop and find you have to leave, as there is an emergency? These situations are examples of conflicts that arise when there are real or perceived opposition of needs, values and interests. A conflict can be internal (within oneself) or external (between two or more individuals).
We all have conflicts that require us to make tough choices. We are resentful, angry, sad and often do not know how to respond.
Let me give you an example: My friend, of Indian origin, lived in Malaysia for many years and then moved to Australia. She had two sons, who were raised in Malaysia and Australia.
Her younger son, his wife and two young children were in the US for a few years and were ready to move back to Australia. My friend offered them her home while they searched for their own home and work, etc. Two months passed. They have made themselves comfortable, use her car whenever they want, leave the children in her care for extended periods of time and don’t bother to inform her when they are coming or going. Deep down, she is resentful. She had to tell her son that it would be nice to have a negotiated car use, childcare and dividing the chores in the house. . And, she is sad that she has to say all this to her son and his wife. Surely, this would be something they would have in mind?
Not necessarily. We tend to take people and situations for granted. This is why it is important to make clear what is expected of people. It is not easy to do, but is essential. If not, there will be conflicts. In this case, the children are taking the mother for granted, and assuming that their needs supersede hers. In the Indian cultural scenario, we would be bad hosts and parents if we did not open our homes to our children, in-laws, relatives and friends. But, what about our needs? How much and how far are we ready to go, to sacrifice our needs for others? Is it possible to have both their needs and ours met?
Start with feelings
Clarity about feelings is essential in resolving conflicts. An important component of conflict resolution involves only you – knowing how you feel and why you feel that way.
You may think that your feelings are clear to you, but this is not always the case. Sometimes we feel angry or resentful, but do not know the reason. At other times, we feel that the other person is not doing what they ‘should’, but we are not aware of exactly what we want from them, or if it is even reasonable.
Get in touch with your feelings by writing them down. You can then communicate them better to the other person. Sometimes, this process brings up heavy issues, and can be helpful.
Once you have a list you can see what you are dealing with. The next step would be to examine the choices available to you to resolve the conflict.
According to the Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode, a tool developed to measure an individual’s response to conflict situations, there are five basic ways of addressing conflict. Let us look at these:
Accommodation – or the surrender of one’s own needs and wishes to accommodate the other party.
Avoidance – or avoiding or postponing conflict by ignoring it, changing the subject, etc. Avoidance can be useful as a temporary measure to buy time or as an expedient means of dealing with minor, non-recurring conflicts. In more severe cases, conflict avoidance can involve severing a relationship or leaving a group.
Collaboration – or working together to find a mutually beneficial solution. While the Thomas Kilmann grid views collaboration as the only win-win solution to conflict, collaboration can also be time-intensive and inappropriate when there is not enough trust, respect or communication among participants for collaboration to occur.
Compromise – or finding a middle ground in which each is partially satisfied.
Competition – or asserting one’s viewpoint at the expense of another. It can be useful when achieving one’s objectives outweighs concern for the relationship.
Whatever you choose of these options, you will have to be able to live with it.
With most conflicts, it is important to find a resolution. While this may seem the thing to do, many people suppress their anger or just ‘go along to get along.’ They think that by addressing a conflict, they are creating one, and simply keep quiet when upset.
Unfortunately, this is not a healthy long-term strategy. For one thing, unresolved conflict can lead to resentment and additional unresolved conflict in the relationship. Even more important, ongoing conflict can actually have a negative impact on your health and longevity.
Therapies such as Bach flower remedy, chakra cleansing, crystal therapy, hypnotherapy, transactional analysis, Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) – are all useful in getting to know ourselves and understanding our motivations.
In my practice, most clients have serious conflicts – within themselves. As a therapist, my task is to present them the other side of the picture, what they do not want to see or cannot see. Often, the conflict starts with the client themselves and their inability to resolve the conflict. Most of them are at the avoidance mode – mentioned in the Thomas Kilmann model. This too leads to unhealthy behaviour and poor physical and mental health. Our greatest conflicts are not with other people. They are within us and that is where we can start.
Anita Anand is Delhi-based hypnotherapist and crystalhealer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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