“Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril. When you are ignorant of the enemy, but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal. If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain in every battle to be in peril.” Sun Tzu/The Art Of War
It’s true that conflicts are good for you. I don’t seek conflict and I don’t enjoy arguments, but I am no longer afraid of them.
Today I crossed paths with a man I find highly antagonistic and difficult to be around and without foresight I found myself in a heavy argument.
For a long time I would do anything to avoid conflict, because I hated it. I would panic and feel scared and powerless, unsure how to protect myself. This was a leftover from of my childhood.
By avoiding conflict even when it was necessary and right, I would fall into the role of victim and people-pleaser. The truth was that I was weak and defenceless in my core, and therefore as a person, even though I pretended to be confident.
Conflicts cannot always be avoided but, more importantly, they shouldn’t be – because they have a use.
People and conflicts come into our lives to test our resilience and inner strength.
Conflict is not wrong or bad, but if you avoid it with fear, it will inevitably escalate.
We are all different and have different outlooks and opinions, and so it is clear that two conflicting forces will cause friction.
Sometimes defusing the conflict, negotiating or walking away is the best option, and all are encouraged in The Art Of War (Sun Tzu).
However, there are times when, without knowing how, you have found yourself right in the midst of an escalating argument or presented with a battle that must be faced. The only option here is to find your courage, trust yourself and feel your way through it.
We must stand up for who we are and our beliefs. They have no value if they are not tested or we do not stand up for them, and it is up to us to defend our own honour and rights, just as we would defend our physical being from harm.
If we don’t respect who we are, then no one else will.
We must treat ourselves as we expect others to treat us. ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’ is a lie: just ask anyone who has been mentally and emotionally abused. By not being able to stand up for ourselves, we leave ourselves wide open to being bullied, controlled or dominated by those who want to, and we are left with a horrible sick sensation, and feeling that we have let ourselves down.
It is a bitter pill to swallow.
Bullies/predators are never attracted to confident people for a reason: because they are strong on the inside and are too much hassle to attack.
Like sparring in any form of fighting, it is essential that we practise fighting to test our skill, techniques, nerves, resilience, courage and self-belief so that we can defend who we are, our core values and self-respect.
Standing up for oneself is not about dominating or controlling another. It is about defending our right to exist, be individual, different – ourselves.
For a few years I regularly trained in Wingtsun – a Taoist defence martial art. It is not about seeking fights or attacking using your own force, but is instead about learning how to defend yourself and your space by turning someone else’s energy back on them when they try to attack you.
These skills are no different when working with verbal, emotional and energetic attacks. Once you know how to defend yourself, you can relax, confident in who you are and that you can handle anything that comes at you.
Accept that we are sent sparring partners on our journey to test our inner strength and resolve, and it is no longer something to be dreaded, just an opportunity to learn – a lesson from life.
Some conflicts are short-lived, some longer; some are swift and surprising, and others you can see coming. However, all conflicts test whether we really do know who we are or what’s right for us when challenged, and allow us to demonstrate and highlight our skill and find out whether we need to practise, reflect or to grow as people.
How we deal with it is what’s important…
Today I fought. I wouldn’t have chosen it and normally I would have avoided this person’s antagonism, but I was in environment where other options of walking away and defusing were not possible, so before I knew it I was in the midst of battle.
Throughout, I felt quite spacey and distant, as though observing the words coming from my mouth. I wielded my verbal sword and my energetic might, not thinking, just trusting myself and that my body and mind knew best.
As I reflect, I feel proud of how I handled the conflict, and grateful for the opportunity.
The fight finished, without any conclusion or winner (as sometimes these things do), the outcome wasn’t what mattered; it was the battle itself, and that I fought well and so did he. We both parted with something to learn, and I felt stronger for the experience.
In the midst of our battle, someone else tried to join in (there are some people who love to get involved in other people’s business to create drama and stir things up!), but I managed to quickly block him, making it clear that he was not welcome and this was not his battle to join. He moved away and we were left alone, able to complete our conflict and find a resolution – which is an essential part of conflict.
In this situation, the resolution was accepting our differences and acknowledging a good fight.
In my years of family therapy I have often found that parents can intervene too quickly in sibling disputes, instead of helping children find a resolution or letting them work it out for themselves. Siblings offer great opportunities for learning to develop the skills to cope with, manage and resolve conflicts.
The other side of the struggle I am left with a sense of peace and completeness. I feel no shame or guilt (as I may have in the past when I was clumsy and unskilled with my words and actions and afraid of conflicts).
Instead, I just feel as if my resolve, inner strength and courage have been truly tested and I am richer for the experience.
So thank you for my resilience test today and my latest sparring partner.
It has reminded me again that am stronger than I realise and far more capable than I give myself credit; something that we can all easily forget…
With every conflict, challenge, problem or test my confidence and self- belief grows and I become more determined to pursue my happiness and achieve my dreams.
So bring it on…
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Jo Warwick: Writer, healer and downright believer in the magic of Life…
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