Hey there! Long time, no type. It’s World Mental Health Day and thus, the perfect day to break my blog silence, so here we are!
You know those experiences that were so great that you tell the same story to literally anyone new that’ll listen? This is one of those experiences, except I don’t tell everyone. I’m not sure why and I don’t think I ever contemplated the reason it goes unshared until actually writing this, but it’s a deeply meaningful experience for me that illustrates love and conflict.
If you know me even slightly, you know that I’m always surrounded by my partner and my best friend. For the sake of this blog, we’ll call my partner Redsy and my best friend Hopper. Hopper and I have been inseparable since middle school and when I met Redsey, he fell right into place. They’re my people and we’ve been the three amigos since.
One New York City evening, the three of us decided to journey to midtown Manhattan for rolled ice cream (like those sped up videos you see all over Instagram with the frozen surface and a strangely specific scraper). None of us checked the weather, so of course it started raining. Not just raining, pouring and puddling all over the place. We sat underneath a bodega umbrella just staring off and knowing exactly what the other two were thinking-- Redsy tends to get angry fast, Hopper runs anxious, and I’m hypercritical of those that I love. So Redsy is trying not to get mad at mother nature, Hopper is trying not to get anxious about inevitably getting soaked, and I’m silently judging both for low key freaking out. All three of us are comfortable with conflict, but none of us wanted the evening to end in conflict (especially not over rain). I broke the silence by exclaiming, “It’s just rain! We don’t have to be anywhere. Let’s walk to the train.” Notice I said walk, not run. That’s exactly what we did. The three of us strolled to the train while every other human scrambled around us probably thinking “What the fuck are they doing and why are they in my way?” We got about a block away from our station and I said, “Okay, yeah no. Let’s run.” Hopper almost immediately said, “THANK YOU” and we took off. We got to the train and I just smiled at both of them because I realized that I have really cool people in my corner. The moment at the bodega could’ve easily turned into conflict, but we each knew what the other would say and decided that instead of having a petty and meaningless disagreement, we’d suck it up together and put our knee-jerk emotional responses to the side. Redsy and Hopper looked past their anger and anxiety and I stopped my judgement for the sake of avoiding conflict and enjoying each other.
This story came up for me a few times during sessions this week because for some crazy coincidental reason, most of my clients discussed conflicts they are and aren’t having and their struggles with them. Almost every client shared how conflict is especially difficult to have and avoid with those they have intimate relationships with. This is a popular topic that I hear both in and out of sessions. Why is conflict so hard for so many people? What does conflict mean? When is conflict unhealthy? These are all super tough questions and the answer to each is 100% subjective. Below is my perspective to each question.
Why is conflict hard? What does it mean?
Before continuing to read, sit back and reflect on why conflict is difficult for you specifically. Or what about conflict makes you feel uneasy. Do you have an intense emotional response to conflict? Are you afraid of losing the person you might have conflict with? Whatever your reason is, you’re valid, but remind yourself that conflict is a natural side effect of humanity. Furthermore, some of the best relationships grow out of conquered conflict.
So what about it makes us feel uncomfortable and want to avoid it? Simply put, conflict sucks. Admitting that you’re having dissonance or disagreeing with someone you care about is hard. If you care for them, the last thing you want to do is have even the slightest negative thought about them. However, on the opposing end, if you care about this person, it’s safe to say you’ve been authentic with each other. Authenticity is hard to handle because no two people are the same. Stirring together those differences sometimes lead to tension and thus conflict. However, blending differences and getting over disagreements is beautiful and a powerful way of showing how much someone means to you. The best relationships are ones where you can be your authentic self, no matter what.
When is conflict unhealthy?
Another issue with conflict is that there’s a fine line between engaging in conflict for the betterment of both parties and doing so to place one’s self above another. This is seen in “proving a point” fights and disagreements that lead to name calling and other belittlement. If it’s the latter version, it’s unhealthy. In every relationship, every party involved is an equal and if at any point one or more of those parties feels above the rest, the entire dynamic shifts and can ultimately fail. This is not conflict, this is negativity. That’s an entirely different concern.
Other things to be aware of when trying to decide if your conflict is healthy is how you feel afterwards. Do you feel closer to the person(s) involved in the conflict or worse about yourself? If you feel worse about yourself, it most likely means that something in the exchange didn’t go as you hoped or went unresolved and should be re-addressed. Seriously, love yourself enough to bring up how you feel until you’re secure again.
Lastly, if at any point in time, conflict leads to physical, emotional, financial, or sexual abuse, it is not healthy and you should try and exit that exchange as quickly as possible. Always keep yourself cognitively and physically safe.
Those are all of my thoughts and reflections on conflict from this week’s hot topic. If you have any questions or concerns about what I wrote, don’t hesitate to reach out!
If you feel like your conflict is abuse or worried about your safety, below is the Crisis Call Center’s information. They’re available 24 hours a day and here for you.
Call 1-800-273-8255 OR Text “ANSWER” to 839863.
Thanks for reading. Love, Bri.