“Your perspective on life comes from the cage you were held captive in.” Shannon L. Alder
I was chatting the other day with my friend, Dena Crowder. We were talking about the causes of “conflict” when she told me a most enlightening quote by a therapist friend: “It’s not about what you feel in conflict; it’s more about when you feel in conflict.”
This is not “the sound of one hand clapping” Zen talk. This is about real life everyday stuff.
Where is Your “Cage?”
The meaning of the quote has to do with the times of your life you feel when you are in the midst of a quarrel. In other words, which you is actually involved in the conflict? Is it your wounded child? If so, which one? Is it the teenager, the spurned lover or divorcee, the upset businessperson, or is it the mature you that has worked through your many difficult situations?
Times of great hurt or suffering or despair generally lead to wounds yet to be operated on. That’s why I like Shannon Alder’s quote above. What “cage” still captivates you? Whatever it is will always impact the you you are today, and the you you are especially in conflict.
A personal example: Until I was seven years old I was moved from family home to different family home several times because my mother could not care for me… supposedly because she worked the graveyard shift. From the eyes of that child I felt abandoned, disliked, and unwanted because each move only strengthened my belief that I was not worthy to loved.
As a result, in my adult life I would experience times when I felt offended, defensive, and I sometimes I felt unworthy of the respect of others. Then I met Jamie Lerner (just recently) who encouraged me to look at those times through the eyes of an adult, not through the eyes of “My child.”
I discovered an amazing perspective. I realized that those difficult times instilled within me:
- The ability to easily adapt to change. In fact, I am a change maven. I love change.
- A gift of generally giving a good “first impression.” For me, a good first impression was a matter of survival.
- The confidence to be decisive. I was forced to make my own decisions about how I would lead my life, as a result of having no real parent to guide me. To illustrate, I decided to run away from home (forever from an alcoholic father). And with the aid of an older sister I did so, successfully finding the ideal parents to raise me.
However, even now I still suffer from those feeling of abandonment. But at least I am aware of it when it pops up.
So, back to you. You too have had experiences and wounds that drive you to some wrong conclusion or reactive behavior in conflict. How do those experiences impact you when you are not treated as you wish by another person?
The way in which you respond is more a matter of choice than you think. Ponder, not only the anger of a conflicting person pissing you off, but why not take a moment to evaluate which YOU is responding.
Look at Your Pain Through the Eyes of an Adult
Photo courtesy of Golden_Brown at istockphoto
One thought on “How Old Are You in Conflict?”
This perspective is so helpful. We can get “caught” at a certain age – in terms of how we see and deal with relationships. I’m so glad you wrote about this.