Ever notice that your life consists of a series of gnarly fights, meltdowns, and disasters? So you’re realizing that you, yes you, are both the creator and the created of these kaleidoscopic kerfuffles. Now that you know, what do you do?
Have you ever known anything other than conflict, worry, or insecurity? Rewind, honestly, and take a look. Your childhood was probably either generally stable and consistent, or not. If it was, then you may be idealistic, and believe that everyone and everything is as responsible, reliable, and positive as you and your family are. If so, then you will likely be set up for disappointment, despair, and even divorce. Most people are not like this (this positive and consistent), and when we egocentrically believe they are, because we are (and our parents were), then we fall prey to the illusion of our rose colored probabilities. If we grew up in a dysfunctional family, then we expect the world to be like this, and are more likely to view things like arguing, fighting, or violence as normal. Even though we might try our best to avoid it, because we have grown so familiar with it, we often wind up in a recapitulation of our childhood relational dynamics, as if under the spell of dark and dirty magic. We might also experience normal imperfections as problems, since we are hyper-vigilantly focusing on the their prevention (seeing the tiniest little negative emotion, disappointment, or challenge as a ginormous problem when it is actually just normal).
If you are an idealist, then you have probably grown codependent, and will likely put up with far too much shit. You will presumably make excuses for, accept the blame for, and continue subjecting yourself to conflict, trauma, and even violence. This is often because you believe that, if you do your part and wait long enough, things will return to the only way you have ever known them to be. If the rest of the world was like your parents and childhood, this might work; but it is not.
If you are a well-scarred survivor, then you will likely try your hardest to put up with no shit at all; but end up buried in it. Because it is so familiar, since it simply seems normal to you; even though your only goal in life is to make sure you don’t do what your mother did; you end up doing it anyway before you realize what just happened (again, because it feels so familiar, it is sometimes hard to see it for what it is). There is also a tendency to over-react to the slightest raised voice, apparent frustration, or sadness as if it is a full-blown catastrophe; not allowing for the normal rise and fall of human emotion and imperfection; because any amount of discomfort, for you, represents potential conflict; so you want to stop it altogether. When reacting like this, even if a relationship was otherwise healthy and normal; you may create exactly what you were trying to prevent (by over-reacting, attacking, and blaming your partner when they are doing nothing wrong, you may generate the dynamics of your childhood, when they were not previously there).
So you go to therapy, or hang out with healthy friends; and the conflict, like a hurricane, goes away. Now what? What do you do? Everything seems so empty, boring, or unnaturally quiet. The lack of strong emotion, drama, and heated engagement leaves you feeling insecure. Why? Because this is what made you feel alive, wrapped you in a rush, or brought you two together in the past.
Fight the urge to re-engage in any conflict, trauma, or violence. Do this by becoming intensely aware of yourself, your thoughts, your emotions, and your intentions. Notice how the drama has served a purpose for you, without your knowledge of this. Become so aware of yourself that, no matter what the situation, you will see. Then, from this broadened perspective, maintain calmness, safety, and happiness at all times. If those you know, or strangers, try to push your panic buttons; just remind yourself that you threw them all away. Develop a zero tolerance for conflict, don’t give in no matter what, and stay far enough away to watch and see. If you start feeling drawn in, then leave.
Photo Credit: “We Can Do It!” by J. Howard Miller, artist employed by Westinghouse, poster used by the War Production Co-ordinating Committee – From scan of copy belonging to the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, retrieved from the website of the Virginia Historical Society.. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons