Conflict, Anger, Sarcasm and the Urge To
If you're like most people, when conflict comes up
inside you, you get "grabbed" and react
Usually this "automatic" reaction happens in a
split second and even though you may not want it to
happen, it does.
- We get defensive and say something mean and
sarcastic that we later regret
- We feel anger boiling inside us and we have
the urge to fight back
- We back away from conflict, shut down to
protect ourselves and may physically leave the
- We freeze and get that "deer in the
headlights" look in our eyes and nothing comes
out of our mouths
Or we might do a combination of any of
Whatever happens inside you, we're guessing that
a lot of times you feel like you just don't have
any control over yourself when this pattern pops
And to make matters worse...
You have people in your life that react either
the exact opposite of you or just like you do in
Over the past couple of days, Susie attended a
fabulous workshop given by Richard Strozzi-Heckler,
founder of the Strozzi Institute.
During the workshop, one of the exercises Susie
did with a partner revealed how they each
habitually (and automatically) acted in conflict
Susie and her partner at the workshop didn't
"think" about their reaction beforehand--It was
just as if their body, mind and actual physical
body "knew" what to do when push came to shove (so
This is a very common pattern we've seen in
ourselves, our relationship and in the
relationships of most of the couples who work with
us one on one in our relationship breakthrough
coaching--and it's a pattern we'll call
This is where one person pushes and the other
person withdraws or retreats.
We don't have to tell you that t always creates
distance and disconnection between the two
This withdrawal can be from any number of
reasons but fear of not getting your needs met and
not feeling safe is always at the bottom.
In most cases, people find themselves pushing
because that's how they've previously gotten their
way--and they don't feel "safe" or trust doing it
any other way.
But it also can be from a mental place of trying
to help the other person see his/her genius--in
other words, trying to "fix" him or her.
"Pushers" may not even recognize that they are
"pushing" even when we are. They might even be
shocked to discover that someone else thinks of
their actions as being "pushy."
In Susie's previous marriage, she found herself
"pushing" her ex-husband to "feel" emotions.
She remembers when her grandfather died, trying
to get her "ex" to express the feelings that she
knew he must have because they both dearly loved
Susie had the sensation of "clawing" at her "ex"
to get him to feel but he just shut his emotions
down even more.
If you're familiar with this
"pushing--withdrawing" dynamic, you probably
figured out that he is the "withdrawing" type.
This was a reoccurring theme during their
marriage and she never understood that her pushing
him to "feel" was actually causing him to withdraw
They kept doing the same thing over and over,
expecting a different result each time. It never
So what do you do if you are pushing someone to
feel or act a certain way by another?
What do you do if you are the one being
The first thing to do to unlock this stalemate
is to recognize and admit that this is a dynamic
that happens between of you.
Be sure and talk about it when it's not
happening because you'll have a lot more success if
you're not in the middle of it.
If both of you can recognize that it does happen
in the relationship, you can begin making
agreements about what you'll do when it happens
again. And then do that thing--like maybe make a
joke about the fact that you' see yourself doing it
again and then stop it.
Don't point out the other person is doing what
he or she is doing unless you have that agreement.
If someone is withdrawing or retreating in a
relationship, they are not feeling safe in that
moment, so pushing only adds to those feelings.
The person who is withdrawing may be focusing on
a past negative event or projecting negative
possibilities into the current or future
situations. As hard as it is to believe, they may
simply be feeling too much, rather than not
The situation may be overwhelming to them.
If you're the one who withdraws, you may need to
ask for a little space, saying when you'll come
back and talk about it again.
You can also look at how you can stay present
when things get tough and not run away emotionally
If you're the one who is "pushing," you may need
to learn to back off your energy a few notches so
the other person feels like he or she can open to
A question that you can ask each other when
you're no in the throes of your "push--withdraw"
dynamic is "What does this situation remind me
We've used this question when it's happened
between us--and it works to focus attention inward
instead of outward at each other.
In our relationship, we've taken turns in
different situations withdrawing and pushing. And
when we ask the question "What does this situation
remind me of?" we usually can feel in the moment a
connection with something from the past that has
created the conflict inside us.
It may not be a question that can be answered in
the moment but it has been helpful to us to agree
to come back together and talk about it later.
The most important thing is for both of you to
create a way to trust and feel safe in your
relationship so that you can regain your connection
& Otto Collins
Other Relationship Issues,
and Otto Collins are spiritual and life partners
who are committed to helping others create
outstanding relationships of all kinds. They
regularly write, speak and conduct workshops and
seminars on love, relationships and personal and
spiritual growth to audiences all across the USA.
They are the creators of the "Relationship Toolkit"
which has helped people in over a dozen countries
improve their relationships. It includes a video
Partnerships plus two
and Relationship Success
Relationship Quotes Worth a Million
Dollars! You can also
read more articles like these and subscribe to
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by visiting their web site at www.collinspartners.com
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