Conflict and ruptures in relationships are difficult for people to navigate.
Most people don’t have the right tools needed in order to repair a rupture.
Oftentimes, people are in defense mode and are unable to hear the other person. People in conflict are usually trying to “win” instead of trying to find the ways to experience peace.
Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about conflicts and how best to navigate them. I’m not an expert and am always learning.
I have held space for people in conflict, been in conflict myself, and have been caught in the crossfires of conflict. I have learned so much about myself through all of these experiences. My capacity to hold space for conflict has grown through these experiences.
One thing I have learned about resolving conflict is that the goal is not to “win.” If you continue to try to “win” in a conflict, you will always fail. Oftentimes in conflicts, one or both parties involved have had their wounds triggered. This is usually completely out of their awareness, and so it adds an unseen layer to the conflict.
People who are triggered and are unaware make choices from a wounded state. They have been hijacked by their wounds and are no longer in control of their experience. Their wounds are driving the car.
For example, a person’s wound that “the world is out to get them” can be triggered and they are only able to see what is happening to them through the lens of that wound. No matter what happens, because they are seeing their experience through that story, they are unable to be present to what is actually happening. They are creating the reality that this wound is proclaiming to be true.
That’s why it is so important to do shadow healing work. We must all become aware of our wounds so we can be aware of them when triggered. Then, the next time something comes up, we can notice that our wound of “not feeling seen” is getting triggered and we can take care of ourselves so that wound doesn’t hijack the experience.
It’s also important to understand that sometimes we do or say things that hurt people, even if we didn’t intend to. That’s some of the biggest misunderstandings in conflicts. The person who hurt the other is holding on to their intention behind what they said. They’ll say things like, “I didn’t mean to” or “you are misunderstanding me.” They don’t realize that their intention, in this case, does not matter. What does matter is the fact that what they said landed on a wound for the other person.
That other person is now triggered and unable to be present for what’s happening. The key to resolving the rupture is to acknowledge the way that what was said triggered the wound for the other person and apologize. This does not mean that you were wrong. It also doesn’t mean that what you said is incorrect. You are recognizing that you hurt the other person even though you didn’t mean to. You are recognizing their pain and listening.
For example, you can say, “I realize what I just said hurt you and I’m sorry; that was not my intention at all. The truth is, I really care about you and want to express what is coming up for me. Are you open to hearing me?”
This creates an opening and allows both people to drop into their hearts. You can try again to convey the depth of what you were originally trying to communicate once everyone is settled in their heart space.
It can also be too scary for people to be in conflict with someone because of past trauma. These folks may ignore their own needs in an attempt to avoid a fight. What they don’t realize is that they are abandoning themselves in the process. Over time, all those moments in which they have abandoned themselves will add up. All that built-up pressure must go somewhere. Most times, it leads to an experience where that person reacts intensely and then feels intense shame afterward.
When I work with clients who are working through these dynamics, the first thing I ask them is, “What are you aware of?”
What part of them gets triggered and hijacks their experience? Is it the wounded child? What’s the old story that is coming up? What thoughts or body sensations are they aware of?
This is all information that is important to track and take note of. There is so much in the subconscious that we can bring awareness to and heal. It’s important to understand what is going on underneath the initial reaction. Yes, that person crossed a boundary and we felt disrespected. What else is going on underneath that?
We are all mirrors for each other. When we are triggered by someone, we can take a moment to be curious about where the response is coming from within us. Curiosity is key.
A few important things to keep in mind when you find yourself in a conflict:
There is a difference between intention and impact. You can have the best of intentions but if the impact doesn’t meet your intentions, pause.
It’s a good idea to meet that person where they are at and acknowledge their pain. If what they need is for you to listen, then listen. If they want an apology, apologize. If you are desiring a stronger connection, take the time to clear the energy.
We don’t realize the power and energy behind the words we speak. If the person is triggered, they will be unable to hear our words until they feel grounded again—granted, there are a lot of nuances and every person is different.
These are generally good guidelines to keep in mind. Every person still needs to take responsibility for their own healing. It’s not okay to continue to allow our wounds to project onto others.