If you were to ask my family and friends to describe me I think that most of them would have some pretty nice things to say, but a few of them would also tell you about my sassy mouth that I often cram both feet into, my eagerness to offer unsolicited advice — way too often, and the big one, my incessant compulsion to engage in conflicts that arise. We can all live with the first two attributes though I should work on them, but right now all of my energy is focused on the last one. Conflict is heavy and inviting it into my life is so unhealthy.
From the time I was a small child I have been very opinionated. I had a relentless need to always be right, even when I knew that I was wrong. I would argue anything and everything that I could, logical or not and I think this actually served me well (wait for it) to a point. Though it wasn’t ideal it did build my confidence, gave me exceptional debate skills and as I grew older and understood how communication and courtesy worked eventually these skills allowed me to see and appreciate the opinions and beliefs of others. However, even now when I see something — usually on my TLC Facebook page, Twitter, or on my friends’ remarkable essays where people choose to leave comments that I perceive to be completely asinine, I am instantly on the defense and ready to go toe-to-toe. This is a problem. I know that this has to do with control issues, but did it develop with the help from mental illness or is it just an innate part of my character that has nothing to do with bipolar disorder? I really have no idea all I know for certain is that I have to get a handle on it.
Back in May on my personal blog I featured Mental Health Warriors and I had the privilege of interviewing Psych Central Blogger, Gabe Howard and he gave me some great advice when he talked to me about educating rather than instigating when it came to conflict or personal attacks. You can read the full interview here. One day I hope to get to the stage where I can educate rather than instigate in situations of conflict but first I need to work on the basics and this is how I’m doing just that:
- Accepting the fact that what people think of me is absolutely none of my business.
- Realizing that some people just like to stir the pot and get me riled up. Giving in and playing games will only bring me down to their level. I can choose to be the bigger person.
- Understanding that my behaviour during conflict can quickly turn hurtful and personal and I ultimately do not want to do that to someone, nor do I want to feel that negative all-consuming feeling.
- Asking myself, “is this the kind of persona I want to project?” “What kind of an example does this teach my children?”
Those examples are great for putting conflict into perspective, but the hard part for me is regulating my actions and reactions, and these are some of the tools that I have been using:
- In my advocacy work I’m online — a lot. When conflict arises I have to shut the laptop, unplug and when I return I hit the block or ban button.
- Stop getting emotionally invested in things that don’t concern me. I am not equipped nor required to take on everyone’s problems or issues.
- Breathe. Ten minutes of breathing exercises take away any urge to engage. Breathing calms me down.
- Call a friend and vent about it. This usually ends up in a conversation where we’re both laughing at the end and we both feel better.
- Move around. I like to kitchen dance, it gets the endorphins pumping through your brain, which make you feel happier.
- When all else fails, visualize engaging then put it to rest in your head and move on.
In some instances conflict will follow you and it will need to be addressed, whether you’ve brought it on yourself or someone else has. There are much deeper issues than something silly that happened on social media, but there are very healthy and diplomatic ways in which you can resolve that conflict:
- Realize what I didn’t for so long, you do not always have to be right.
- Take feelings into consideration. Try to see things from the other person’s point of view. Practice empathy.
- Do not attack verbally and obviously not physically either. Get your point across using “I” statements rather than “you” statements.
- Take responsibility for yourself and your actions.
- Seek compromise if it’s a situation that will benefit from it.
- Counseling is always an option
- If the conflict is between others, resist the urge to fix their problems and solve the conflict. But, if it’s affecting you and not getting resolved you can offer to have them sit down and both be heard in a polite way.
In the grand scheme of things you have to pick your battles. Silly little drama builds into bigger drama and just eats away at us. I’m well aware of where I fall short here and I’m making an active effort to change all of it. It’s hard work but I feel better for it. I don’t want to be bitter and angry because it’s a terrible feeling. I’m still opinionated, loud, sassy and full of that unsolicited advice and I’m okay with that, but it’s peace that I’m looking for. I will always have the backs of the people that I love and unfortunately one of them is about to go through a storm very soon and I know that they have to deal with this on their own, but there is a mature and diplomatic way for the situation to be handled, and it’s not my job to step in and try to handle it, no matter how consuming that urge is. This is just another step to helping me embrace balance.