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
In this blog, I often discuss how to use logic in addressing and solving problems we encounter in our daily lives, however no amount of logic or rational can deliver you from your emotional wounds.
Emotional wounds are wounds inflicted on us during our early childhood years, which we suppressed as a defense mechanism due to fear of abandonment and our instinctual need to bond with our families of origin. Our suppression of our wounds were understandably used as defense mechanisms until they outlasted their usefulness once we came out of childhood.
Everyone has a different emotional wound, and a common one I encounter in my practice is not feeling loved enough, if at all. For people who endured emotional and physical abuse from their guardians, not feeling loved enough became the theme of their lives.
For people who felt unloved during their childhood, they tended to suppress their true feelings and worked harder at bonding with their target oppressor or antagonist guardian or rebel frequently and lash out at their target oppressor or antagonist guardian. This manifests itself in adulthood in two primary ways. The first way is through the habitual and sometimes failed attempts to bond with someone who is emotional unavailable and/or abusive. The other way, on the other end of the spectrum are people who isolate from meaningful social contact and habitually seek out confrontations.
In both cases you have people who habitually play out the roles they played in their childhood to survive abuse, which doesn’t work in their adulthood, because they have the ability to place themselves in abusive relationships and subsequently remove themselves from such relationships.
So how do people heal from emotional wounds? The first step is recognizing your emotional wounds. While most people have developed a blind spot towards recognizing their emotional wounds, the reality is that, emotional wounds can easily be detected by looking at the difficulties you frequently experience in your life, particularly in relationships. If you simply started writing down all the types of difficulties you experience, you will notice a pattern, and that pattern is usually a reflection of the difficulty you endured during your childhood years.
The next step is to imagine yourself as having overcome your emotional wounds. Specifically, what life would be like if scabs of your emotional wounds are no longer reopened by the triggers. Heck, imagine if there are no more scabs to open, hence no more emotional wounds, what would that look like? For example, if your emotional wounds involves you experiencing a fear of rejection, what would it feel like if you took a risk that involved the possibility of experiencing rejection, and then you got rejected and you did not mind? What would life feel like in the absence of your emotional wounds?
By visualizing your feelings, you now have a good idea of what steps to take towards realizing the life you deserve where you are happy and thriving. Using a narrative, to document what your life would be like, is a very effective method, as you inevitably stumble upon specific actions to realize with your new life.
This is not an easy process, and certainly not a one time deal. It is a practice that must be done on a daily basis. If you find addressing your emotional wounds on your own to be significantly overwhelming, establishing a relationship with a good therapist is be a good investment, as it increases and speeds up the likelihood of your recovery.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.