How often have we ended up arguing with someone we care about only to feel badly about it later? This article will offer some food for thought on how to look at conflict and turn it around to build stronger relationships. I encourage you to share this article with those you are having difficulty with and hope that together, you find ways to communicate that fulfill you.
Old Memories, Current Conflicts
What if I told you one of the main reasons that you argue with people is that they do something or say something that reminds you unconsciously of something that happened in the past. Something that your unconscious mind created a belief about.
Let's look at an example. I worked with a couple recently that was having problems. The husband, we'll call him Joe, believed his spouse, we'll call her Jesse, was cheating in the relationship and it was causing great distress to both of them. The accused partner, Jesse, couldn't believe that the topic was even on the table as she believed there was no reason for it. They had been married for over 14 years and never had they had issues of this nature come up. It was really out of her realm of consciousness to even consider this.
The husband, Joe, had come from a family where his mother at one point in his teens began to work late often. Eventually they found out that she was cheating on his father and the two divorced (not amicably). This was the situation that was coming up for him unconsciously when arguing now with his spouse.
The wife's parents were and had always been happily married. Adultery had never been a topic brought up in her home and she had never considered it, ever.
Recently the wife had been working late and forgetting to call home due to stress at her office. When this began her partner feared she was now cheating (ie. the old memories came into his consciousness and affected current thinking patterns - causing him to make connections where they weren't valid).
The arguments went like this. Jesse would have a problem at work and have to work late. She would call home at around 3 to let Joe know. (Joe's mom used to call Joe after school on evenings she would work late so this fed his underlying insecurities by being around the same time.) Joe would pace around when he got home from work waiting for the 6:00 call they had agreed on. Jesse would forget to call until 6:45 or 7 and when she would call, Joe would be furious and accusatory. Jesse was already under great amounts of stress at work and couldn't understand how he could be so angry over only 45 minutes to an hour, especially when there was nothing on hold (such as dinner, etc.) and then would be angry with Joe. By the time she got home later that night, tired and frustrated, they weren't speaking and would just go to bed angry. Jesse would feel unsupported with all of her stress at work and Joe would feel scared he was losing his wife to another man and at the same time mad that she didn't understand him. Both misunderstanding the other's deeper feelings, and both hurting and loving each other.
Once the reality of why he was fearing adultery came up in session, we were able to release the old event from Joe's unconscious and take the current event on it's own merit. Then he realized there really was no reason to be fearful because Jesse loved him dearly and she was just feeling overwhelmed the few times she forgot to call at their scheduled time. Once the old situation was released from the unconscious there was no underlying belief to cloud his judgment and more rational thinking came into play. Joe realized how much Jesse needed him right now and Jesse was able to see how her forgetting to call was causing him distress. Joe decided to do more around the house to help Jesse out and, now that it made sense to her why he was so mad, Jesse made a commitment to always call when she said she would.
This sort of situation comes up all the time and creates much of the conflict I see in session with couples and individuals. We need to realize that our past affects our present and future, unless we consciously choose to be present to our emotions and take the time to release limiting beliefs.
I also think it's important to take the time to see other's points of view as we can all learn new options from each other. That is part of why we are here, isn't it?
I hope you found value from this article and find it assists you in creating stronger, more fruitful relationships.