The question of the day at The Daily Post is; How Do You Handle Conflict. This answer varies depending on the problem, my pain and / or energy level, and how close I am to the source of my conflict.
When I grew up, children were “to be seen and not heard, and seen as little as possible”. This meant, in general that kids should “stay out of the way and not cause a ruckus”, and in our family it meant we could feel happy and express thanks but any negative emotion was ours alone. For this reason I began to keep a notebook. In this notebook I expressed myself or “screamed on paper” at the abuse, injustice, and pain in my life and in the community around me. But I was pleasing on the outside and that meant I was a good kid.
When I married at 20 years old, I hadn’t yet learned how to express myself and was still very much a chameleon; creating a persona according to who I was with and what I thought they wanted me to be. Eight long years later, when we divorced, I found my voice. During the marriage my ex would poke fun at me and do his best to cause me to argue back. He wanted me to fight back and I just couldn’t.Well, every now and then I did but it was ugly and not at all helpful. I never knew what would come out and that scared the crap out of me so I did my best to just keep it all inside, until that fateful day that “broke the camel’s back”. What it was doesn’t matter anymore, in fact, after a while I was grateful because it opened the floodgates of my emotions and with it my voice.
For a while I screamed. I jumped on the bandwagon of every cause, attended every argument I was invited to, and when there was nothing to fight about, I created something and called it worthy. All of that just felt wrong, even while I was doing it, but especially after. Then I became overly analytical when faced with conflict proving my mental prowess was far superior to anyone who disagreed with me, but I was obviously wrong on that note and frankly, I bored even myself.
After a while I grew tired, and sick. Then I became even more tired, far sicker, and more easily irritated. For several years I had to use my new voice to be an advocate for my health because the doctor’s couldn’t find one definitive reason for my symptoms and since they couldn’t fix me, I was obviously not broken.After 13 years I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia.
Because I have Fibromyalgia and stress is one of the many symptom triggers, and because I have raised and am still raising teenagers, I have found that choosing my battles is the most necessary and helpful technique in dealing with conflict.
These days I continue to “scream on paper” but only because I don’t like the ugliness that comes out sometimes. After I have gotten it all out, I have a greater perspective as to whether the problem is a real or imagined injustice and if I am the one at fault or someone else is, or if there is a “fault” at all. When I have this perspective I can then decide if it is worth my time and trouble to address.
When I have to face a conflict, I try to do it with grace. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fly off the handle and make a mess of it and have to go back and apologize. This is my least favorite way to handle conflict and in my experience, the very least effective. When I handle it “correctly”, I do my best to see and understand the other person’s point of view, consider what they, and I, am fighting for, and seek a way to create a win/win outcome. That isn’t always possible, but because I finally know who I am, that I have value simply because I exist, and that I am loved I can face conflict and know that if we cannot reach an agreement that doesn’t have to mean that we cannot remain family, friends, or associates.
I don’t like conflict. I don’t like the way it feels inside or out, but I know it is a part of life. I am thankful for the lessons that the adults in my childhood taught me, for the lessons my first marriage taught me, and for the lessons my faith in God have taught and is still teaching me. All of these have culminated into a wiser and more graceful being. I still miss the mark, but it is so helpful to know that I can disagree and still love and respect someone.
Peace to you all,
Andora Henson, TheWritingMommy