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The Art of Creative Conflict Resolution



By Dr. Brenda Shoshanna December 2007


Conflict is a lethal force that undermines our lives in all kinds of ways. Sometimes it erupts openly and other times it camouflages itself and covertly undermines relationships. Some expect conflict to arise. They feel it is necessary in order to get what they want out of a situation. Others feel it is always necessary to fight for what is important to them. These individuals feel they have a right to express anger, that it provides them a sense of strength and power.

However, the sense of strength that anger provides is false and temporary. When it passes, the individual often feels weaker and more confused than before. When we think only of our own welfare in a situation, our ability to see the large picture is diminished and our responses are partial and faulty. It's time to look at conflict in a new way and understand what it really is. Then we can take new steps that lead to creative holistic, solutions, where all are the beneficiaries. Every time conflict is resolved for the good of all, real growth and integration become available.

Step 1: Realize that conflict is a choice you make.

Conflict is not a form of power, strength, or control. It is a toxin, which creates confusion, narrowed focus, and defensiveness. When conflict arises, stop, breathe deeply, and immediately look at the larger perspective. Put the incident in context. For a moment, allow the other person to be "right". Tell yourself you have plenty of time to be right later. Your main goal is to have the conflict subside so you can be see what is best for all.


Step 2: Pinpoint the 24 forms of anger.

Anger camouflages itself and manifests in many ways. Unrecognized anger turns into all kinds of unwanted behavior that become impossible to stop. We have to become aware that this behavior is just another form of anger and pull it out at the root.

Some of the 24 forms of anger are: depression, hypocrisy, self-sabotage, low self- esteem, burnout, passive aggressive behavior, compulsions, perfectionism, gossiping, lying, and various addictions. When we realize that these behaviors are being fueled by anger, it is easier to take appropriate steps to handle them.


Step 3: Give Up Being A Martyr - Stop Giving and Taking Guilt

Most martyrs do not think of themselves as martyrs. They may describe themselves as long- suffering, giving much more than they get. There's a huge difference between giving and manipulation. Martyrs manipulate with guilt. But guilt is a lethal toxic. When we make someone feel guilty, we are harming them. When people feel guilty they find some way to punish themselves and others.

Give up giving guilt and also give up taking it. Recognize this as toxic behavior, which has no constructive outcome.


Step 4: Stop Casting Blame

Blaming others (and ourselves) is an expression of hurt, disappointment and helplessness and never leads to a constructive solution. Stop casting blame. By blaming others you are disempowering yourself. By taking responsibility you are taking back control. Stop a moment and see the situation through your opponent's eyes. When you do this blame dissolves on the spot.

The best defense against being hurt is to feel good about yourself, to remember that the way a person responds to you says more about them, than about you. As you stop casting blame you will be letting go of all kinds of resentments. Resentment inevitably affects our well- being and constricts our lives. Look for and find what is positive in each individual and situation. Focus on that.


Step 5 - Create Realistic Expectations

There is nothing that makes us more angry and hurt than expectations we've been holding onto that have not been met. It is important to become aware of our expectations. Are they realistic? Does the other person hold similar expectations in the relationship? Once we let go of unrealistic fantasies, clarity about what to do in present time is greatly increased. As this happens, spontaneous, healing solutions become available on the spot.


Step 6 - Develop An Attitude of Gratitude

See what the person you are in conflict with has given to you. We often take many things for granted and are even unaware of all that we are receiving day by day. Take time to make a list of all that you received from this person, and may even be receiving today. Take time to feel grateful. Make a point of giving thanks. Acknowledging the benefits you have received from your adversary, will not weaken you, it will strengthen the entire relationship, and ease the process of making peace.


In this vein, it is also very helpful to write down all you have given to that person as well. Conflict can often be unconsciously escalated by guilt a party feels. We often think we are giving so much and receiving so little. This is a great cause of anger and feelings of deprivation. However, when we take time daily to look carefully, we are often surprised and how much we have received and how little given in return. As we see how much we receive daily, anger naturally subsides. If each person feels satisfied with what they have given, self respect increases, and they can then more easily assess what is suitable for all.

Discover the surprising truths about love that will save your relationships, in Dr. Shoshanna’s new e-book Save Your Relationship (21 Basic Laws of Successful Relationships).

Dr. Shoshanna is a psychologist, relationships expert on, speaker, and author of many books, including The Anger Diet, (30 Days To Stress Free Living), Zen And The Art of Falling In Love, (Simon and Schuster), Why Men Leave (Putnam), and many others.  You can contact her, or visit her personal website.


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