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|Thriving in the Wilderness: Facing Conflicted, Anxious Relationships |
My heart is beating fast. I have no words to say, though a thousand angry words rush through my mind. Frozen like a deer in headlights. Once again, I'm stuck in conflict.
Inside I'm self-righteous, able to see the fault lies elsewhere. It'd be easy to walk away. But when I really care about the other person, or the issue, the wilderness of conflict sucks me in. I'm driven into uncertainty and chaos.
But let the storm settle, and things become clear. There are new possibilities that address the issue. Our relationship is deeper and I'm a stronger person for it. If I can just get to that open place after the storm, I can get back my hope and creativity.
Bowen Family Systems Theory explains how anxiety moves through families and groups. Recently, I've been applying the theory to young adults relating to parents, or to teamwork in organizations. Do recognize yourself in these typical dynamics of conflicted anxious relationships?
"It's your fault! I'm clean." (Blame)
"You always let me down." (Criticism)
"You're such a jerk!" (Name-calling)
"Pay attention to me for once!" (Pursuit)
"Give me space! Get off my back." (Distance)
"How was your day?" met with silence or a short answer. (Avoidance)
"I haven't been home in years."
"I quit my job! I won't have to put up with this crap anymore!" (Breaking connection)
"You don't know what you're doing.
I'll have to do it myself." (Overfunctioning)
"Get a haircut and a real job. What you really need is a girlfriend!" met with:
"Give me a break, I just want to do my own thing." (Giving advice, having goals for someone which they don't share)
Whenever it's time to take out the trash:
"I'm going out for the night." (Underfunctioning)
"Let me tell you about Tina's bad attitude!" (Talking about others rather than talking with them directly)
"I thought she was alright, but now I see how it is. We'd better teach her a lesson!"
(Getting hooked into someone else's problem)
"Yeh, I know what you're saying. Nobody likes her." (Getting everyone involved)
Resorting to these dynamics can be healthy, or at least they ease our tension momentarily! Consider the usefulness of stepping away to calm down (distancing). Getting out of an abusive relationship (cutoff). Involving a wise third party to help you gain perspective (triangling). Even conflict itself holds opportunity for getting issues into the light and addressing them. It's not that these patterns are inherently bad, but they can sure get us stuck!
I've enjoyed conversations with people about how to transform these dynamics once we recognize them. How do we bridge cutoff? Grow through conflict? Share the load when tempted to just take care of everything instead of talking? Read our ideas for transforming relationships on this week's blog Transforming Conflicted, Anxious Relationships.
Wisdom for the day: The conflict equivalent to the proverb: If life gives you lemons, make lemonade! When conflict heats up, bake apple pie!
When we are under stress, we pass our anxiety along to other in predictable patterns. Want a better way? Consider attending our upcoming workshop, Thriving Through Conflict.