Conflict happens much of the time because we want something or we don’t want something. Maybe we want to change a process or maintain the status quo when someone else is attempting to initiate a change. The only reason we are in conflict in these situations is because it matters to us; if we didn’t care there would be no conflict.
“A lot of people are afraid to ask for what they want that’s why they don’t get what they want.” -Madonna
But sometimes we find ourselves faced with a decision or a dilemma and we don’t know what we want. Worse yet, sometimes we can’t even tell that we don’t know what we want and we start arguing for something that we don’t value or need or might actually reduce our quality of life. If this happens you have definitely jumped onto the conflict merry-go-round and although it’s easy to get caught up in the thrill of the ride and instinctively hold on for dear life, you are only going around in circles. Get off.
What do I really want? What makes sense for me? What is holding me back from saying what I really want? Only you know the answers to these questions. To find these answers you may need to dig around and it might get messy, but the answers are never *out there*, they are always *in here*.
Folks around you like to say what they think you should want or what they would want if they were in your shoes. There are also all those messages from childhood that continue to swim around in our heads telling us how it is and what to do. But how to reach through this sludge to find the nuggets of insight on the inside? Here are some ideas:
- Write it out. In a journal. In a poem. Haikus on your iPhone (I have a great collection of those). Morning Pages are a classic hit. When we write we can tell our story and the only audience that really matters – US – will be open and non-judgmental.
- Talk it out. Tell your mom, your brother, your friend, your boss, your therapist, your lover. Tell someone with a good ear and a caring disposition. Tell someone who likes you and doesn’t judge you. Tell someone who has confidence in you. Make sure you give back.
- Get mad, get sad. Stomping around and yelling when it is safe and private can be eternally useful (‘WHY DOESN’T HE UNDERSTAND??!! HOW THE HELL DID HE GET SO STUBBORN??!! I COULD JUST PUNCH HIM IN THE FACE!!’). So can crying and getting in touch with grief or disappointment (‘How come this always happens to me? I can’t take anymore of this. It’s so unfair.’). Let the feelings flow because they have an ancient wisdom that our thinking brains try to circumvent.
- Meditate. This one is new to me but I really like it. My best friend calls meditation her lifeline. I value the relaxation of it, because true thinking arises when our minds are at peace.
- Pray. For some this is a type of meditation. It’s all about aligning yourself with a higher purpose. Getting in touch with that has to be a good thing.
- Forget about it (AKA relax and have fun). Go bowling with the kids! Huck the football with a friend! Hike down by that cool creek on a hot day that you always think about when you are driving by the trailhead. The message here is similar to to ‘meditate’: you will be better in touch with yourself and your best thinking when you are relaxed and happy.