In Part 1, we looked at the importance of self-care in doing conflict well. We looked at taking care of ourselves in ways that create a strong feeling of safety and comfort. We learned to do something relaxing and joyful, something self-caring. Then, we learned that we could access that feeling: stop, breathe and remember.
When I was 27 years old, I distinctly remember how I did conflict. Very poorly. I caused harm, mostly to myself but also to my relationships. I didn’t know that I was my worst enemy. It was always someone else’s fault. I drove myself to desperation. Finally, through the encouragement of family and friends, I talked with someone, well, I went through a bunch of someones, therapists and coaches, and what did I discover? It was me. It wasn’t the me I wanted to be. I learned that I allowed my emotions to overcome my better sense. I was reacting rather than responding. Today, my life and the way I do conflict is very different. I’ll be honest. I don’t always act as the me I want to be, but I do so more now than before.
How did I achieve this change?
Knowing yourself, your thoughts, what pushes your buttons, what turns you on, what you want and what you don’t want…all these things are learned through self-awareness. So many of us go through life on autopilot, following in the steps of those before us. Sometimes literally, sometimes emotionally. We aren’t taught in school to think about the way we think. We are shown ideas, words, numbers, facts, but rarely do we learn the connection between all those things – our perspective. We all view what happens in our lives through our own perspective, based on the way we think, the assumptions we make.
Filters are the lenses that color the way we look at the world. For example, I am the youngest in my family. I was a funny kid, I guess. I’m told I said funny things all the time, and I remember my family laughing at me. That’s what I remember, them laughing at me. I am a very literal person. I wasn’t trying to be funny, so it felt to me like they were making fun. If you ask my mom, though, she says they were just enjoying the funny things I said. Filters. I saw things differently because of my personality, age and experience. My mom saw things from her perspective. It’s about how we see, hear and process things that impacts how we approach life and conflict.
It’s hard to make choices from a conscious place in conflict if we don’t know what the unconscious choices we might make are. For example, if I don’t realize that I always cry when criticized, I probably won’t change that behavior. However, if I know that is my reaction, I can stop myself, breathe, remember what I want to feel and how I want to act and do that instead. Without self-awareness none of that can happen.
Find a quiet place with no distractions. Take paper and pen and write. Until you reach three full pages. Then stop. It doesn’t matter what you say, how you spell, whether your grammar is correct, just write. By hand, no typing. Don’t censor. Do this every day for 30 days and enjoy what you learn about yourself and see if it might change the way you do conflict.
Note: Some prompts that can get you writing are:
What are ten small, minor, insignificant things in your life that you are grateful for?
Think of one of the best days of your life. What made the day great?
What scares you most?
What makes you happy?
What is the one thing that if you had it would change your life forever?
What are the five values that mean the most to you?