The voices woke me at 2.30 in the morning. At first, I thought it was one of my girls, but the sound was coming from a different direction. That’s when I heard it, “I hate you. You’re a f***n ass***e. Just leave me alone!”
The people next door were having a domestic. I shudder to think what was going on in the early hours of Tuesday morning. But whatever it was, it shocked me. Then it saddened me.
Domestic violence is real. But this isn’t a post about domestic violence and the conflict women and men experience each and every night across Australia. No, this is a post about the human heart and the pain that is buried deep within each of us.
How have we so badly lost our way, that even humans who share a home – and most likely have some sort of love commitment to one another – get into such wretched conflict?
Interpersonal conflict is a not-so-silent war that rages between people all over the world. The conflict often surprises you. It takes you from a peaceful togetherness, straight into the jaws of disagreement, bitterness and jealousy.
Conflict is not just between husbands and wives either. Bosses and their employees experience conflict. Co-workers have disagreements all the time. Strangers on the street can have moments of heightened rage. Countries salivating for power go to war to prove their worth.
And the list goes on.
I am a passionate believer that conflict does not need end in shouts of rage, bitter disagreements and even physical violence. Yet for many, painful conflict has become the default response.
Conflict will happen. It’s not a matter of if, but when. And we must be prepared.
If you stopped to analyse the ‘beneath the surface’ sources of conflict you encounter, I’d have it a guess they would include some of the following:
- a desire to be known…but it wasn’t forthcoming
- an inability to clearly communicate what you were thinking…but you couldn’t get the words out
- a snapping back at someone who expresses an opinion or espouses a thought different to yours…because you couldn’t govern your immediate response and just listen
- unable to (or choose not too) deal with your own personal pain…and that erupts every so often with the people around you
- you’re lonely and deeply wanting connection…but don’t know how to ask for it
- having your buttons pushed by the difficult person/s in your life…and you let them get to you
- not being able to be completely honest with someone for fear they will not like what you say…and that will negatively hurt your relationship
- Or simply feeling overwhelmed with life and you do whatever you can to numb that pain…including getting into conflict to keep people at arms length
When everything is stripped back, humans have a deep desire to be fully known by others, and loved by others.
It’s the reason Instagram filters are used so heavily. Or that you spend an hour each morning putting on a lather of makeup before leaving the house. Or the reason you keep going back to the abusive partner because you believe that eventually they’ll ‘love you properly’…or at least it’s a better alternative than being lonely.
You see, we are deeply afraid. Afraid to be ourselves and to let others share in the pain we have, whilst hoping they’ll continue to love us. So instead, we choose to manufacture an image in the hope others will like it, when in reality, we just want to be loved, accepted and encouraged for where we are at right now.
There is an eye-opening piece of ancient wisdom that says:
“Where do you think your fighting and endless conflict come from? Don’t you think that they originate in the constant pursuit of gratification that rages inside each of you like an uncontrolled militia? You crave something that you do not possess, so you murder to get it. You desire the things you cannot earn, so you sue others and fight for what you want. You do not have because you have chosen not to ask.”
And it’s true, isn’t it?
When all is said and done, the things that cause fights, arguments, conflict and disagreements with other people are those things that come from deep within – unmet needs.
We are scared to ask for what we want, because we have no idea how to hold the vulnerable space to truly connect. We don’t employ the patience needed to be with someone and really hear them. When we are unable to hold the space we lose the ability to communicate the important things – our deepest heartfelt desires. And if we can’t connect with each other, we lash out in an attempt to probe a response from the other person and create some type of faux connection.
Most people just wish conflict didn’t exist – like we could all live in some type of peaceful nirvana. What we fail to recognise, however, is that conflict provides an abundance of opportunity.
Conflict is the doorway through which we know and become fully known. It helps us to love others and receive love. It leads us to be at peace with others, and discover peace for ourselves.
The way we work through conflict, the way we manage it is what’s important. We can either react to conflict, in the same way we always have, or we can respond in a way that brings health, wholeness, vitality and value to the people we relate with.
For many of us, the person we quarrel with most often is also the person we value the most. So it’s worth figuring out a way to make it all work and at least move toward a healthy, workable relationship.
Working through conflict means working through pain. And working through pain is messy, but it’s healing. And healing is transformative and life giving.
Instead of avoiding conflict, lean into it. Because simply put, if the person you’re in conflict with means something to you, you’ll do whatever it takes to get along.