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We are the sum of our life experiences to date, and as we get older our experiences become redundant. Same you, perhaps different people, perhaps different places but the story remains the same. If you struggle to hold your ground when dealing with difficult or high conflict people, it’s because you were unintentionally conditioned to be someone who is easily pushed over.
How you address conflicts stems from your early life experiences, whether you were bullied by a parent, an older sibling, a classmate or classmates. If you were bullied during your formative years in the absence of intervention, forces around unintentionally shaped you to become docile towards conflicts.
This is difficult to see, because most conflicts we experience are usually us dealing with one particular person. So when revisiting the situation, we often fall for the fallacy of what one particular person did to us, rather than the role we played in inviting the person to bring suffering on ourselves.
There are a number of ways by which we adopt a timid mindset throughout our lives, and they are genetics, parenting and socio-economics.
Really this comes down to your personality. I have become a solid believer in the correlation between genetics and personality as a father of three children. After from the first day, the personality of this child starts to show and becomes more consistent after about a month. Now a personality by itself does not predispose you to being the target of bulling. However, your personality mixed with your interpretation of your experiences plays a huge role in how you address conflicts.
People with easy going personalities are more susceptible to being bullied, if they are raised by parents who bully them, or who assist in feeding them messages that they are not supposed to stand up for themselves.
Emotional and physical abuse coupled with neglect is a common reason people become timid during conflicts. The reason for this is because the child having no other options resorts to developing coping strategies for dealing with an abusive experience. The child becomes hypervigilant towards predicting the temperament of the abuser and often times the child ends up internalizing his experiences with the abuse and engaging in self-blaming. Children engage in solipsism when thinking about themselves in relation to the world around them. The child believes that he or she is the only true mind that exists and that the world evolves around him or her. This leads to children believing that they are responsible for everything that they experience and in error, blaming themselves for abuse inflicted upon them.
The neglectful parent is just as bad, in that he or she fails to advocate for his or her child when the situation calls for. It could be an incident with being bullied in school or being treated unfairly by another adult. The same phenomenon is observed when the child, adopts a passive persona and becomes increasingly conflict avoidant.
Socio-economic circumstances play a big role in certain types of children adopting an attitude of timidity, who grow up to be timid adults. Put simply, most people who are poor tend to feel inferior to people who are economically well off. A child who is raised by improvised parents, who have adopted a sense of low self-worth in relation to their wealthier peers, will likely adopt his or her parent’s attitudes. This plays out in quality of education received, certain circles the family can afford to be a part of and disputes regulated by the state institution. Even those raised at an economic disadvantage, who grow up to be wealthy, find themselves with strong lingering feelings of timidity when it comes to addressing conflicts with others. Particular others who they perceive as more well off and educated than they are.
In truth, learning to address conflicts with others is easier than most people realize. Perhaps the most difficult step is learning to become reactive to difficult feelings which arise when provoked or triggered. After that the next step is utilizing cognitive strategies to firmly convey your message of disagreement. Most people who struggle with issues of timidity, strongly believe that the difficult feelings they experience during times of conflicts with others are caused by those who seek conflict with them. In truth these feelings are simply natural and are experienced by everyone who experiences conflicts. The difference with people who are timid, is that they have been conditioned throughout their lives to become reactive and flee from these feelings.
Without proper treatment, people who never learn to be assertive during conflicts experience chronic relationship problems at work, with their spouses and with their children. They tend to develop a pessimistic attitude towards people and may struggle to connect with anyone.
With proper treatment, primarily through cognitive behavioral therapy, people in this position can discover just how competent they are at resolving recurring conflicts in their lives.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and owner of Road 2 Resolutions PLLC