As a child growing up, conflict was avoided by all of my elders. So much so that an abuser was able to remain in my family and in close contact with children for generations. It was apparent to me at a young age that bringing light to problems or issues in my family dynamic was considered inconsiderate, vengeful and it showed a lack of trust.
Another example of this was in the schoolyard. In my younger years, conflict was not allowed in school. All the kids had to play together, even if they didn’t like each other. Everyone had to be included even if they were bullies or were being bullied.
Over the years, this feeling of disrespect grew. I felt unheard and it boiled in me like lava.
I had no understanding of healthy conflict. I viewed all conflict as bad and I wanted it to be dealt with immediately. This leads me to my teenage years. This is when we generally all start to see conflict everywhere in our lives and around us. I was so tired of feeling hurt, quieted, and overlooked that I aimed to gain tools for conflict resolution from anyone who was willing to teach it to me.
I learned to fight, both physically and verbally. I considered superior-inferior dynamics in every situation and used it to my advantage – by belittling others. I would escalate emotionally and yell or hit things when I was angry or upset and then reason my emotions saying ‘I do these things to express my true pain and hurt because otherwise people won’t really understand how I feel.” With this, I felt a sense of resolution, but it was not the conflict, but rather my ego that was being resolved. Knowing this, it probably wouldn’t surprise you that being a lawyer, police officer or corrections officer was at the top of my career list.
As time passes though, you start to recognize that the resolution you came to with each conflict was not necessarily the one you intended. I did not intend to ruin my relationships, or build mistrust and fear, but that’s exactly what I did.
It was actually my career path that led me to educate myself more on conflict resolution. I started taking courses to prepare myself for entrance into corrections and this made me aware of how poor my coping skills were and how little coping tools I really had.
Through practice, patience, and awareness, I have better tools now to resolve conflict. I still struggle when the other party is not willing to, or needs time to process, as this relates back to childhood when I had to sit in pain while others went on with their lives.
Now with the understanding that apologizing and owning your mistakes is one key to making conflict healthy instead of unhealthy, I am able to better address conflict in my day to day life and help others find a healthy sense of resolution.