Posts Tagged ‘conflict avoidance’

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.

Read Full Post »