Over the past several weeks, I’ve been challenged deeply around what it means to face conflict. My past pattern has been to avoid conflict of all types in a variety of ways. My favourite way to avoid conflict is to smile and be nice. Other ways include avoiding, running away or becoming very quiet, usually with anger steaming beneath the surface. I’ve discovered that “nice” is actually nasty. Better to face the discomfort of handling the conflict head-on rather than accept the discomfort that comes from avoidance. Either way it’s going to be uncomfortable.
Our societal structure still supports a considerable amount of cover up that creates conflict. To sell a condo, a real estate agent doesn’t share all the facts about the living space and it may be something the people purchasing the place don’t think to ask. Once they move it, they are stuck with windows that don’t open. The real estate agent may not be trying to cover up but are put in an awkward position by a condo board that is trying to save money by not having windows that open.
A spiritual leader may be interested in exploring how he expresses himself sexually but because his community was originally built in a format similar to a Christian church, he doesn’t feel free to do so. Instead he announces that his exploration has to do with consciousness expansion or the transmission of esoteric knowledge. Because the structure around him has built him up as a powerful leader, people either don’t question him or denounce him as a fraud.
Neither the real estate agent or the spiritual leader are inherently wrong or bad. One is trying to sell something that not all people would be OK with and one is curious and wanting to try something new. What I suggest is that for humans to be able to work through the complexity involved in honouring what is honest for each person involved, there may (at first) be a considerable amount of discomfort involved and the potential dismantling of what isn’t working anymore.
What is most challenging in both of these examples is there isn’t a trusting intimacy that has been built up between the agent and the buyer and the guru and the disciples. There’s an unequal power dynamic. Equality in relationship develops from years of interacting with each other one on one, in groups, and moving through a variety of experiences together. It also takes people who are willing to grow no matter that life throws at them and are willing to actually be honest about what they want to experience. This level of honesty will most definitely take you away from some people and towards others.
From what I’ve experienced in life so far, the kind of honest connection with others starts really small. You may have one person you can tell the whole truth to who won’t back away or shut you down. Start with them. Learn how to face what feels conflicting in yourself and find out that it doesn’t actually destroy you but actually shows you another level of how to navigate through life. Keep practising.
One small conflict at a time, you can start to face whatever it is in your life that keeps you stuck in a structure that doesn’t support who you really are. Interestingly enough, you may even find the structure starts to give way to you as you keep showing up without backing away from what is uncomfortable for you. In this way you start to create true movement in your life rather than spinning your mental wheels and trying to adjust your surface level reality to avoid what feels uncomfortable.
Every single time I’ve avoided what’s uncomfortable for me to admit or to face, I’ve experienced increasing levels of pain on all levels. Specific example: I spent years avoiding the truth that some of my relationships were built on obligation. Tremendous levels of pressure and anxiety developed from my commitment to holding in place my own mental structure of belief that I had to spend time with someone rather than truly enjoying my time with them.
Admitting the truth has meant that some people have left my life – not because I don’t care about them but because I do. You can’t force a river – at least not for long. It flows where it will. It will eventually dislodge the log hindering its movement not because the log did something wrong but because the river’s nature is to flow.