Emotions and Conflicts Resolution By Marie-Josee Borduas
We all have the capacity for anger or joy, peace or war, contentment or discontentment. What we choose to focus on is what flourishes. What we choose to focus on is what we inevitably get more of.
“The heart is like a garden: it can grow compassion or fear, resentment or love. What seeds will you plant there?” - Jack Kornfield
Freedom of choice sometimes, unfortunately, includes the freedom to choose to suffer. And we do choose to suffer more often than we should.
When someone says or does something that leave us feeling vulnerable, upset, or sad, we often respond by nurturing more of the same. It's as though we believe that others have the power to hurt us by their words and actions. It is as though we are a victim, and we need to protect ourselves by putting up a wall of resentment, fear, disdain, hurt, and self-pity. We believe that the silent treatment sometimes will help us to fight back against our enemies who are often those very persons we ought to love the most.
Some of us might simply not know any better. We might simply not see what we are truly doing, and how our actions are nurturing the very things we do not want.
But some of us logically do know better, and simply do not want to act in accordance to our logical mind. All the knowledge in the world means nothing if we lack the intention to use it.
It is the questions that we ask ourselves that determine our level of success. Ask better questions, get better results. There is an immense resourcefulness in us, which is strongly under utilized, simply because we do not seek out the answers to our problems. Your next questions should be "Why don't I want to?"
We have a tendency to retaliate to hostile behaviour with more hostile behaviour, thus escalating the conflict. In conflict literature this is called a “retaliatory spiral”.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you." - Matthew 5:38-42
Deep down, no one wants conflict, but we justify our response based on the way we feel we were treated. We believe in giving people a taste of their own medicine. Which only serves to continue the conflict, which as it spirals out of control becomes harder and harder to resolve.
Why do we feel so justified? Basically, conflict threatens our sense of self. We do not like that another person appears to have the power to hurt us, make us feel vulnerable, weak, or unsafe. We fear that another person can make us feel this way. We therefore defend our sense of self to feel stronger. By not talking things out we avoid challenging our own limiting belief system.
"All a person’s ways seem right in his own opinion, but the Lord evaluates the motives." - Proverbs 16:2
The truth is, no one has any power over your emotions, but yourself. You are not a victim to other people. You are a victim to yourself. At the core, your true heart's desire, is to have increased understanding, connection, and love. But on the outside you are acting on achieving significance by defending yourself. When you focus on defending yourself, you are putting all your energy into avoiding what you truly do not want at your core - pain and suffering - instead of into creating what you truly do want. Everything we do in life is to either avoid pain, or gain pleasure. When faced with the prospect of both, avoiding pain usually wins out. Avoiding pain can be a very strong driving force.
But our true heart's desire is a relationship of trust, honesty, openness, and love. A relationship where we have the courage to share what we are truly feeling and experiencing. A relationship where we can listen to one another with understanding, and not judgement. A relationship where we have compassion for each other’s failings, and where we work to build each other up rather than tear each other down.
"Therefore encourage and build one another up" (1 Thessalonians 5:11), "Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building up the one in need and bringing grace to those who listen." (Ephesians 4:29)
The key is in our focus. What we practice grows. Our emotions are our own creation. No one has any power to make us feel anything. The truth is, we choose to feel a certain way, and blame our external circumstances for our feelings. The next time you feel sad or upset, pull yourself up straight, shoulders back, head high, and with the largest smile you can muster say "not today". Today, you are in charge of your emotions, and you choose to only nurture the true of love, happiness, and joy.
Choose to respond to conflicts in a way that sets a foundation for the kind of future relationship you truly want.
It is only when you start to use your knowledge and skills that you will truly see change. All the workshops, self help books, and counselling will not help you until you decide to take action.
That isn’t to say that it is easy. It is hard, particularly in the beginning. Much like when a child learns to walk, it is rarely easy, there are lots of falls. But the child that is determined to walk in spite of the challenge has given you the future you enjoy today. To stand on your own two feet. And the conflicts you face, and overcome today, will give you a future you will be proud to live in and call your own.
Love requires openness when we feel most like shutting down. Moving toward when we want to retreat. Taking responsibility for our part when we want to blame the other. Listening with compassion when we feel most frustrated. Having a clear intention in mind of our ultimate goal or outcome, helps us navigate conflict. If you want love, then love. If you want joy, then choose joy. If you want contentment, choose contentment. No matter what, it is your choice to do so. It is one of the few things that no one can take from you, your power to choose your emotions.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.” - Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor
Your future does not happen by accident. It is consciously created by the choices and decisions you make today. Your future depends on you setting clear intentions that are aligned with your values and true heart's desires.
Here are some questions to help you:
1. Where is your focus?
2. Who do you truly want to be?
3. What do you want to create?
4. How do you want others to perceive or describe you?
"Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." - Romans 12:17-21
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