Are you still defending yourself?
See, some kinds of conflict threaten our sense of self. The fact that another person seems to have the power to hurt us makes us feel weak, unstable, and unsafe.
In order to defend this sense of self and feel stronger, we may attempt to demonstrate our own power to hurt them back. Mature? No. Helpful? Definitely not. Kind of understandable? Yes.
Personally, I hated how vulnerable I felt when my husband did something that hurt my feelings. I felt scared that he had the power to make me feel so upset.
Giving him the cold shoulder felt like a way to hide this “weakness,” and assert my own power to hurt him. It also was a way to protect my ego, because by not taking things out I could avoid challenging my current belief system, thus maintaining the belief that I was right and he was wrong.
So even though I had all the hard-earned communication and conflict resolution skills I needed to work through the problem, create increased communication, and build understanding, I wasn’t going to use them; creating increased understanding and connection wasn’t my intention. My intention was to defend myself. So that’s exactly what I did.
The problem was that by focusing on defending myself, I was basically putting all my energy into avoiding what I didn’t want—pain and suffering—instead of into creating what I actually did want. Deep down, I wanted way more than simply not getting hurt, but I wasn’t working toward it.
What I desired was a relationship of trust, honesty, and openness; one where we each had the courage to share what we were really feeling and would listen to one another with an intent to understand rather than judge. One where we would have compassion for each other’s failings and work to strengthen one another (even when we were upset) rather than tear each other down.
This was the future I really wanted for us, and I knew that my current responses to our conflicts, while easy and comfortable, weren’t going to get us there.
Sometimes we find brilliance in the strangest places…