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I run from conflict.

[Perceived personal attacks or criticisms trigger my flight-or-flight response (no, that’s not a typo).]

That’s not entirely true. Let’s be honest here. Most often, when an interaction turns antagonistic, I freeze.

[Apparently, freezing is a natural fear response to give the mammal in question (me) time to assess the situation before fighting or flighting.]

Whatever the biology… I. Don’t. Like. Conflict. Big revelation, right? I mean, who does? Except for maybe lawyers, rappers, and Jerry Springer, that is. But it’s more than just a preference for some of us. For me, it’s become something that causes me to isolate myself and avoid the kinds of long-term relationships that are important to happiness and growth. Even the potential of conflict causes an obsessive whirlwind of stressful thoughts and feelings.

I am so conflict averse that I’ve become a chronically single solo entrepreneur who earns most of his income from sitting alone writing.

Hi, my name is Curtis. I’m a conflict aversion addict. And I’m ready for a change.

Step 4 of any Twelve-Step program suggests taking a “fearless moral inventory” of oneself. Knowing and accepting who you are (the full picture, the “good” and “bad”) and why you are who you are, are prerequisites for conscious growth.

So let’s start by taking a trip to the past…

Looking to my formative years, my conflicts consisted of fighting with my younger sister over limited resources (mom’s attention, the one television, the front seat of the car, etc.) and fighting with my parents about their reasonable and unreasonable rules of behavior. A common enough childhood experience, I imagine.

I’m not aware of many (if any) “scarring” level conflicts with either my mother or sister. They may exist, but if they do, they’ve long been forgotten by my conscious mind. I was the older brother, my mom was very loving and fair, and the conflicts I do remember were resolved quickly and relatively unemotionally.

My conflicts with my father are a different story. I remember them being quite intense. Turned up to 11.

My dad’s rules seemed arbitrary, his standards impossible to meet. Conflict with him felt very unfair and defeat felt personal.

Therefore, it seems that my most emotionally-heightened experiences of conflict at that formative age were extremely one-sided and I often (always?) lost.

In that context, learning to avoid conflict seems like a necessary survival skill for my child self. The problem is applying that survival skill now as an adult in situations where it’s not effective or appropriate.

Adult Curtis: Poor, predictable Curtis. Always chooses conflict avoidance.
Child Curtis: Good ol’ conflict avoidance! Nothing beats that!

Okay, moral inventory complete. [Not quite, but this is a blog post. Move along, nothing to see here.]

So what about that change I’m apparently ready for?

The answer seems to be more exposure to people. More investment in relationships of all kinds. More structures in my life that “force” me to interact with others in messy, emotional ways. More risk taking. More vulnerability and trust. More authentic communication. More beer. Okay, not more beer. Less beer. Less emotional eating. Less obsessive people pleasing. Less thinking and more feeling. Most importantly, less hiding.

So here I am, coming out of hiding. What are your thoughts, suggestions, experiences? Conflict is welcome in the comments below. [I think. No definitely. Just be nice, okay? Or fuck it, be mean. Let’s do this. I’m ready. I think.]

Thank you.

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I’ve given this question of trust some space for over a week without any new insights other than this:

I don’t think the snake in the visualization was about trust. I think it represents an unconscious fear that if I do meet a wonderful woman there will be some “insurmountable issue” that makes it impossible for us to be together.

My past two relationships have ended because of just such an issue. Perhaps this is a common reason for relationships to end (or else they wouldn’t have ended), but clearly I have some approach avoidance because of it. It’s preventing me from even seeing the possibility of a romantic relationship, let alone pursuing one.

It feels good to at least know that obstacle is there.

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For my meditation this morning, I used a CD on attracting love that I borrowed from a friend. During the guided section, I was instructed to open a door and let in the woman I loved and who loves me. I was guided through three different situations in which she and I would experience loving each other and enjoying each other.

I was instructed to make one of those situations be about deep trust between us. For some reason, I started to imagine that this woman owned a snake. Now, ever since I was a kid, I’ve had a very intense phobia about snakes. So I started to feel all of that fear and anxiety in connection to this woman.

Pretty interesting, right?

I’ve known for some time that safety and trust are incredibly important to me. And when I have that in a relationship (romantic or platonic), I recognize it and appreciate it. But I had NO idea there was this intense kind of fear associated with it. No idea, none. In fact, it’s so surprising to me that part of me wants to discount this experience as random or perhaps having a different meaning.

But in a strange way, it makes sense. My most recent romantic relationship was with a woman who not only was planning to move 1000 miles away, but she had defined her priorities in such a way that made it impossible for us to have a long-term relationship. If I do have this deep fear around trust and safety, it makes sense I’d choose to be with someone who was unavailable, and therefore not a risk.

This insight is brand spanking new to me, so I’m still in the awareness and inquiry stage. As I understand it more, I’m sure I’ll talk about it in my posts.

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This morning I encountered this quote by Ross Jeffries: “What you believe is possible for yourself, what you believe you deserve at the deepest levels determines which future you’re going to experience. And then that future reaches back through time and shapes you and molds you into being the kind of person who’s ready for it the day you meet it.”

Just this past Tuesday I was talking to a friend about a similar message expressed by Richard Bach in his book, One. In that book, the characters met future and past selves, people who they were becoming and who were becoming them.

About a year ago, I wrote a post about a time when I’d stand in front of the mirror and imagine talking to my future self. He did reach back through time, encouraging me to be who he knew I was, until the day we met and became one.

I think we tend to look outside of ourselves for proof of who we are — income, love, respect, possessions. At least that’s my tendency. But there’s two problems with that. First, there are many forces that influence those things besides who we are, so they are not reliable indicators. Second, our thirst for more of those things can blind us to the abundance we do have.

I opened myself last year to the possibility of being the husband to an amazing woman and the father to an amazing daughter. And because those relationships did not unfold in the way I envisioned, I took it as proof that there’s something wrong with me.

Worse, I’ve started to create negative fantasies about how I’m not good enough to care for my nieces (i.e. I don’t earn enough, don’t have a house, don’t have health insurance) if something ever happened to their parents. (There’s a story why my mind went there, but I’m not going to get into it.)

Deep inside, I know I’m whole and complete and perfect. Yet I carry beliefs, thoughts, feelings, fantasies, memories, stories, and perspectives that tell me I’m not.

What baggage must I let go of to allow that beautiful person I am to shine more brightly?

These 100 Days of Peace in Relationships have led me to that question, and to the understanding that all of my relationships with others are mirrors of my relationship with myself. That voice in my head that can say kind words to me, cruel words to me, or simply be quiet and let me be.

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This is the final day in my 100 Days of Peace in Relationships. It was a wonderfully revealing exploration for me that looked nothing like I thought it would when I began it! I’ll reflect on it in more detail tomorrow.

Today I want to write about a dream I had last night. I was trying to take photographs of family members at some kind of a family gathering, and I was not having much success. Children would not smile or look at the camera, people would move in and out of frame. It was frustrating because I felt powerless to accomplish my goal.

When I woke up, I recognized it immediately as one of my “impotence dreams.” These are a repeating kind of dream in which I have some goal (typically something mundane like finding a room in a building, or in this case taking photographs), but I am unable to achieve that goal no matter how hard I try.

I haven’t had one of these dreams (or I haven’t remembered one) in at least several months, maybe longer.

I’m pretty sure it’s related to a conversation I had yesterday in which I now see I was looking for some acknowledgment and instead I felt unacknowledged. It reminds me of when I would come home with a 98 out of 100 on a test and my father would ask me what happened to the other two points.

So I’ve come to see how important it is for me to acknowledge myself, and to ask for acknowledgment from others, for my progress and growth. I’ve also become aware of how sensitive I am to advice (no matter how well intended) when I don’t feel acknowledged. I take the advice as an implicit accusation that I’m not good enough.

There’s nothing wrong with someone wanting to help me figure out how I can do better. I am so grateful for all of the amazing people in my life who care enough about me to want to push me to grow. And there’s an important context for that: I recognize that because I can lose sight of the acknowledgment part so easily, it helps to have other people to remind me before they give me advice.

Which is probably a great segue to my reflections on these 100 Days. Like I said, they unfolded much differently than I intended, and I want to acknowledge myself (and ask for acknowledgment from YOU) for everything I learned and all the ways I’ve grown, instead of focusing on what I didn’t or how I haven’t.

In short, I ROCK!!!!!!! More tomorrow…

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Last night I had a dream that I was at a party (or maybe I was throwing the party), and all of my friends were arriving. As they arrived I would get very excited to see them and I’d run up to them and hug them. What I find meaningful about the dream:

  1. In the dream, I felt incredible joy and wonder at life’s magnificent abundance (as represented by all of the amazing people who are my friends).
  2. The dream felt like it took place in the present, so the conditions in my life (my level of income, my romantic relationship status, my achievements and goals) were the same as they are now…and I felt whole and complete, and not lacking or wanting in any way.
  3. The only friends who came to the party were the ones that live locally to me now and who I see on a regular basis, again suggesting that I am fulfilled by my life and not feeling like anything is missing.

Each night before I fall asleep, I say a prayer intention that includes these words: “I engage this creative mind to use the dream state to help me experience these things [grace, gratitude, wonder, joy] tonight so that I can create them even more readily in waking life.”

This dream was a wonderful gift from the universe. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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Tonight at PONG (my weekly Power of Now Group), I got further clarity on the 3 stages that I typically move through in my healing after a romantic relationship.

Stage 1 is when the memories are still fresh and there are lots of associations. For example, if you know someone who always wears a unique outfit, and then you see that outfit somewhere else, you’ll naturally associate it with the person you know.

In a romantic relationship, there are certain structures to it that are unique (for me anyway): the tonality I use when I speak, the position I give that person in my life, the physical aspect of the relationship, the kinds of activities we do together, etc. And when I think about these things, I naturally associate them with her. So in this first stage, I can’t see women for who they really are, but only in comparison to the woman I was dating. This is the stage I’m in now.

Soon, the memories fade enough that I reach stage 2. This is where I don’t have such strong associations, but I still can’t quite envision another woman in my life in that way. I can see women for who they are, but I can’t yet see myself in a relationship with any of them.

It can also look like this: I know what I don’t want, but I don’t know what I want. And in fact, getting clear on what I don’t want can be a doorway from stage 1 to stage 2.

Stage 3 is where I open up to possibility. I can imagine myself in a new romantic relationship, and I don’t need to know exactly what it will look like. I know what I want and am open to a romantic relationship with any woman who fits me in those ways. I see women for who they are, and I appreciate them fully and honor my platonic relationships with them (and men, for that matter) for who they are. I am ready for a romantic relationship, but I don’t need one because I’m enriched by all of the relationships in my life.

And stage 3 is when I’m most attractive (in both the physical and metaphysical ways).

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