23 Tips for Turning Conflict into Peace

I hope your holidays are filled with love and laughter. I bless you with inner peace that glows from your heart.

Unfortunately, holidays are not merry and bright for everyone. I’ve written this article to help people who struggle at this time of the year. However, you can apply these skills 365 days a year.

• Have loved ones passed on? Has there been a divorce or a relationship break-up? Are you still grieving?

• Are there conflicts in your family? Do you try to put on a happy face, but inside you brace against the next insensitive comment?

• Do family members refuse to come together because there is too much pain?

• Is there sickness?

Many people experience one or more of these situations. I want to extend my compassion to those of you who suffer during the holidays. When everything is supposed to happy, we may experience even deeper pain because we are hurting.

Here are 23 suggestions to help you develop inner peace and manage conflict.

1. First, choose to develop inner peace. You don’t have to know how to do it or even be good at it. Just choose it. Ask God to help you. Make a commitment to develop personal mastery even if your mother criticizes you. As a metaphor, if you want to become a black belt karate master, you begin with a white belt. Over time and with lots of practice, you develop high level skills.

2. Notice when you first begin to get upset. Don’t wait for the pressure to build up. It will be more difficult to manage. Observe yourself. Does your voice get edgy? Do you want to fight back? Do you emotionally withdraw? Do you get heady instead of being heart-centered? Do you breathe shallowly? Do your muscles tighten up? That’s what happens when we feel threatened.

3. Take a time-out to center yourself. Soothe your nervous system. It needs help because it went into hyper-arousal when you felt threatened. Our natural reactions are fight, flight or freeze. You might want to excuse yourself and go to the bathroom for some privacy. Or, go for a walk. Take a few deep breaths. Inhale to the count of four. Hold your breath to the count of four, and exhale to the count of eight.

If you go for a walk, count 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 etc. with every step you take. Breathe into your heart center and imagine your favorite beautiful place in nature.

4. Focus your attention on the people who love you and support you. Breathe that love into your heart. Place an imaginary protective bubble around yourself that envelops you and all the people who support you.

5. Ask for spiritual guidance from God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit or however you conceptualize your spiritual support. Don’t just complain. Open your mind and listen to what God wants to communicate to you. Write it down if you can. It will sink in better. God will have a hard time getting through to you if you don’t ask for help. God gives you free will and waits to be invited into your heart and mind.

6. Have compassion for the part of you who struggles. If you try to be tough and stuff your emotions, you’re in effect telling a hurt part of yourself that it is unloved. I often think of this as my inner child. None of us like feeling unloved and neither do our inner family members.

Find the inner family member who feels hurt or angry or scared. Invite them to share their innermost feelings with you. You have a nurturing parent inside of you and the Holy Spirit who is compassionate. Listen to the pain of the inner child. Be empathetic. Ask your inner wise self and God for comfort. This process develops emotional and spiritual intimacy within your internal family. This will help you feel centered again.

You can experience inner peace no matter how others respond to you.

7. Remember, anger often covers up hurt, fear or a sense of rejection. If you lead with your anger or emotional distance, you’ll pull for defensiveness from others. If you lead with your softer feelings, you’ll pull for empathy. I know that’s challenging, but that’s what personal mastery looks like.

8. Take responsibility for your own emotional reactions. Don’t blame others. What arises from within you is the material from your own psyche. It’s your stuff. Own it.

I know it’s tempting to blame others and get angry with them when they don’t behave the way you want them to. You feel more powerful when you’re angry or stoic. But this is not the way to genuine empowerment, nor is it the way to inner peace. It perpetuates the cycle of suffering within yourself and your family.

9. You don’t have control over changing other’s reactions. Accept that. All you can do is take responsibility for returning yourself to inner peace.

10. When there’s a conflict, don’t get quiet or blow up. After you center yourself, apologize for anything you can take responsibility for.

11. Reach out to repair the relationship breach. Begin with a soft sincere voice and look directly into the other person’s eyes.

12. Tell your family member something positive … how much they mean to you … or give them a sincere compliment. Affirm them. That helps build an emotional attachment.

13. Tell them what is hurtful to you. Speak about your own emotions. Share the interpretations you made and check them out for accuracy. Don’t assume you are right. Get feedback and keep an open mind. Don’t analyze the other person and make them wrong. People tend to get defensive when you do that.

14. Invite them to share their feelings. Listen to understand.

15. Unless they have lots of training in communication skills, they may not take personal responsibility or listen well. Have compassion. They are doing the best they can. Listen for the heart of their pain.

16. Empathize and validate their feelings whenever you can. You don’t have to agree with them. Don’t argue about the facts and stay in your head. Express that you genuinely care about their pain.

17. After several interchanges, hopefully, your hearts will be more connected. Ask: “What can I do to support you right now?” Listen to understand.

18. Make a promise to help lessen their pain. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Do what you can.

19. Ask this question if you feel it is appropriate: “Would you like to know what you can do to support me right now?” Develop warmth and caring first.

20. Offer concrete specific suggestions. Focus on creating solutions rather than continuing to complain.

21. You may not do any of this perfectly. Do what you can. Start with one small step. Which suggestion do you want to start with? Practice that one thing.

22. Remind yourself of your goals. Put a post-it note on your bathroom mirror, your desk or your car dashboard. Set alarms on your smartphone. Choose a picture that symbolizes your goal and set it as wallpaper on your phone or computer. Make a sign and hang it on the door as you exit your house.

23. Be compassionate with yourself when you fail. Be compassionate with others. We all carry pain, and we don’t always know how to express it in the wisest way. Practice, practice, practice. That’s what it takes to move from a white belt to a black belt karate master.

Well, there you have it. I’ve given you two blueprints. One to manage your emotional reactivity and one to repair relationship breaches. I know it’s easier said than done. It takes practice just like anything else. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it.

Blessings to you for inner peace, wisdom and love.

Warmly,
Benita A Esposito, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor 

Would you like to improve your conflict management skills and experience more inner peace? Video and audio conferences are available worldwide. In-person visits and intensive retreats take place in Georgia, USA. Ask for a complimentary 10-minute phone interview to see if we are a good fit. Complete the contact form on either of my websites:

www.SensitiveIntrovert.com

www.Flourishing-Lives.com

Watch these videos:
Click here to watch the video about my bestselling book: The Gifted Highly Sensitive Introvert, Wisdom for Emotional Healing and Expressing Your Radiant Authentic Self.

Click here to learn about research by Dr. John Gottman on what makes masters and disasters of marriage.
“Four Horsemen: Don’t Let Them Ruin Your Marriage.”

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Why We Think We Shouldn’t Be Needy

by Benita A. Esposito, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor

“In insecure relationships, we disguise our vulnerabilities so our partner never really sees us.” ―Sue Johnson, Love Sense: The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships

 

Do you judge yourself for being needy? Well, I did for the longest time. Read more

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Attachment Styles: What predicts healthy romance?

We unconsciously act the way we do in romantic relationships for a good reason. Human beings have an innate drive to form emotional bonds with people who are precious to us. We suffer when we aren’t able to create secure bonds. The need for secure attachment is part of our inherited survival strategy. Historically, we survive better in packs than alone. Solitary confinement is one of the most devastating forms of punishment. Even though children in orphanages in war-torn countries have food, clothing and shelter, they frequently get sick and sometimes die without adequate loving attention. That’s how important emotional attachment is to us.

Healthy relationships are the number one predictor of our ability to heal from serious disease and maintain emotional and physical health. We live four years longer when we have healthy bonded relationships. (reference 7)

Psychological research shows that when we’re children, we develop one of four attachment styles based on the parenting style of our caregivers. According to Dr. Edward Tronick’s research, the attachment style of a one-year-old predicts the attachment style of a 25-year-old. (reference 3)

We develop our attachment style as babies. We instinctively figure out the best way to survive. Now as adults, our attachment style influences all of our thoughts, emotions and behaviors at an unconscious level.

Attachment styles have two categories: secure and insecure.
The insecure styles are divided into two sub-categories: (1) anxious and (2) avoidant. Some people have a third insecure style called anxious-avoidant.

1. Secure attachment style
Fifty percent of us enjoy a secure attachment style. Our parents were emotionally healthy, responsive and physically present. As children, we felt understood and cherished. We felt safe and secure. Our physical needs were met. There was no harsh discipline or emotional neglect or icy distance. Appropriate discipline was coupled with warmth and reassurance that we were loved and liked.  We were given the appropriate amount of freedom to explore the world in a safe way, and encouraged to develop our unique personality. As adults, we anticipate that people will like us and we will like them. We develop healthy relationships and set appropriate boundaries for self-care.

Insecure Attachment Styles

2. Anxious Attachment Style
Twenty percent of our population has an anxious attachment style. Our parents were inconsistent in meeting our emotional or physical needs. We became watchful, trying to figure out how to please our parents so they wouldn’t abandon us. As adults, we worry that our partner will leave us if there is conflict. We might feel jealous.

When we don’t get our needs met, we get angry because anger is easier to feel than the loneliness of separation.

When we feel misunderstood and unloved, we become stressed. We act in a manner that is critical, defensive or contemptuous. We’re trying to get our partner to connect with us, but inadvertently we push our partner away. We’re called “pursuers” in the language of Adult Attachment Theory.

An anxious attachment style isn’t right or wrong. The description helps us understand each other and ourselves. Don’t beat yourself up if you have this style. Anxious attachment style people often mate with avoidant styles who withdraw in the heat of conflict, leaving us feeling more anxious because we feel the pain of being left alone.

3. Avoidant Attachment Style
Twenty-three percent of us have an avoidant attachment style. Our parents were emotionally or physically unavailable, neglectful or downright abusive. Scared and tense in our bodies, we became hyper-vigilant trying to intuit our parents’ unpredictable behavior. We had a big dilemma. How could we protect ourselves from parents who emotionally or physically hurt us, while being dependent on them to meet our basic needs for food, shelter and clothing?  Without the much-needed emotional nurturance, our bodies didn’t feel safe, and we braced ourselves for potential threats. We emotionally distanced and tried to become as self-sufficient as possible. We tend to be loners as adults but that doesn’t mean we feel fulfilled. We experience physical pain, chronic fatigue, addictions and other diseases predictable from a lifetime of physiological hyper-arousal. We may fall into depression, or swing between anxiety and depression. Even when we want to form healthy relationships, we anticipate, “People won’t like me if they really know me, or I won’t like them.” We guard against getting too close. We may assume people will hurt us, or judge us, or try to control us. We’re called “withdrawers.”

4. Anxious/Avoidant Attachment Style
One percent of us have this combined style. We may jump into relationships quickly, feeling the endorphin high of romance, or we may hang back for a long time trying to determine if we’re safe with a potential partner. We’re often attracted to a person who also has an insecure attachment style. When conflicts arise, we try to work it out for a while. But if our partner doesn’t respond positively, we withdraw to protect ourselves. Then it’s difficult to open our hearts again, even when our partner begs us to connect, unless there’s a strong friendship already established.

The healthiest relationships contain at least one person with a secure attachment style. When conflicts arise, the secure attachment style partner provides a stable emotional base so the other partner still feels loved. To use an analogy, when the couple is dancing, and the insecure partner stumbles, the secure partner is grounded and warm-hearted enough to help the other regain their balance. (reference 6)

The good new is: People with insecure attachment styles can learn how to repair attachment injuries and connect in emotionally healthy ways. Couples can develop “earned secure attachment” so they both feel safe, understood and loved. Psychotherapy can help you make the changes you desire in your self and in your relationships.

The science of Adult Attachment Theory is relatively new. With the development of fMRI machines, neuroscience has been able to understand the interplay between our emotions, our physiological reactions and our behaviors, and what happens to make us feel safe or scared in our relationships. (reference 5)

Highly Sensitive People (HSP) and Attachment Styles

Research by Dr. Elaine Aron indicates that HSPs raised by parents who meet their emotional and physical needs develop secure attachment styles just like non-HSPs who have healthy parents. As these HSPs mature, they function well in relationships and they reach their life goals even better than many non-HSPs. They are creative, smart, compassionate, intuitive and innovative.

However, when the emotional and physical needs of HSP children are not met, they react stronger to the deprivation or abuse than non-HSPs. Their nervous systems respond with hyper-arousal (like pressing your foot on the car accelerator, driving at high speeds) or hypo-arousal (like having your foot at the brake), or vacillating between the two. HSPs are more prone to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) according to Dr. Elaine Aron’s research.

Conclusion

It’s challenging to form healthy bonded intimate relationships as an adult if we have an insecure attachment style. However, if we’re fortunate enough to mate with a secure attachment-style person, or we learn how to change our patterns in a course of successful psychotherapy, we can enjoy a flourishing life.  We can change our insecure attachment style to “earned secure attachment.”

If you’d like help to change your attachment style, contact the author: Benita A. Esposito, LPC. Complete the contact page to schedule a 10-minute complimentary phone interview to see if her services are a good fit for you. Click here to read Benita’s credentials.

Resources

1) Article: The Science Of Adult Attachment: Are You Anxious, Avoidant Or Secure? posted on Elite Daily
3) Video: “The Still Face Experiment.” Learn what happens to the nervous system of a baby when her mother no longer attunes to her. Edward Tronick youtube video
4) Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find—and Keep—Love. Amir Levine, M.D. and Rachel S. F. Heller, M.A. 2010
5. Love Sense: The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships. Sue Johnson. 2014
6. Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love. Sue Johnson. 2014
7. Love and Survival: 8 Pathways to Intimacy and Health. Dean Ornish, MD

Copyright. All rights reserved. The Esposito Institute, Inc.

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Can My Marriage Be Saved?

 

That’s one of the first questions people ask me when they call about marriage counseling.

The answer is: It depends. Can you both answer ‘yes’ to these questions? Read more

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Most people don’t realize that Marriage Counseling* is one of the most challenging specialties in our industry. That’s why many therapists don’t offer it.

Let’s consider this analogy. If you developed a heart condition, you would begin with a visit to your primary care physician who is a generalist. But you would not receive all the help you need there. You would need to see a cardiologist who has years of advanced training and experience in heart conditions. Read more

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Banana Nut Bread. Healing the Mother-Daughter Relationship

Banana-Walnut-BreadWho would think that banana nut bread could be a catalyst for healing a mother-daughter relationship?

For the past six years my mother has kept a tradition of baking banana nut bread which she includes in a gift bag for each of her children’s families for Christmas. We rant and rave over it, and fight over who gets to cut the first slice and eat it on Christmas day when we all gather at Mom’s. Read more

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Conflict Management in Marriage: 17 Do’s and Don’ts

Key Concept: Vulnerability + Authenticity => Safety + Intimacy

Introduction

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Couples Counseling FAQs

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Q: What’s the success rate of your Couples Counseling programs?

I use two proven research-based Couple Therapy programs: Emotionally Focused Therapy and Gottman Couple Therapy Method. Research proves these approaches help couples build (or rebuild) the bonds of love and connection. 70-75% of couples move from distress to recovery and approximately 90% show significant improvements. Read more

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Pre-Marital Counseling

WeddingDress GaborFromHungary Morguefile FreeAre you considering pre-marital counseling to get your marriage off to a healthy start? I am happy to help you learn research-based skills so you can become a master of marriage.

Why is pre-marital counseling so important? For marriages that end, half of them occur during the first seven years. Second marriages have an even higher divorce rate than first-time marriages. Third-time marriages have an even higher divorce rate than second-time marriages. You get the picture. The average couples waits six years before seeking marriage counseling. That’s way too long to suffer and let bad habits brew. Bottom line is: when you give yourselves the gift of pre-marital counseling, you will build a strong foundation so you can avoid a lot of potential misery. Read more

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