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Stop Running From Conflict – Emotionally/Conflict Avoidant Personality

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to discuss the Emotionally/Conflict Avoidant personality and the dangers of running away from conflict in a relationship, and how that leads to resentment and ruins relationships and marriages.

First a quick update:

“Lady Gaga y Madonna: ¿cuál es la reina?”
For Spanish speaking people, read my quotes and insights in the Colombian magazine “Semana” about Lady Gaga and Madonna. En noviembre Colombia se convertirá en el campo de batalla de Lady Gaga y Madonna, quienes se disputan por el mundo entero la corona del pop. Click here to read.

“Anger shortens your life and can kill you – oxidative stress”
Read the series of five articles on the effects of anger on the body, part of the conversation and interview between myself and Dr. Michael Bauerschmidt, Medical Director of Full Potential Health Care revealing how anger seriously impacts your body, aging you and causing death via strokes, coronary artery disease and heart attacks. Click here.

Now, let’s talk about the Emotionally/Conflict Avoidant personality and the dangers of running away from conflict in a relationship, and how that leads to resentment and ruins relationships and marriages.

When a person commits to a relationship there will always be some form of conflict or disagreement – opposing or clashing ideas, values, beliefs, perceptions, interpretations, desires and needs. Of course, all relationships – business, social and romantic are susceptible to experiencing conflict.

And regardless of how similar or complementary two people might appear to be (values, beliefs, ideals, hobbies, personalities and temperaments) or how much they profess their love for one another, there will still be clashes as two people interact and ultimately, as the each person triggers issues and emotional pain and hurt in each other – albeit unknowingly, unconsciously or unintentionally.

One woman wrote: My husband and I ran away from one another after twelve years of marriage – we weren’t listening to one another because we were too busy yelling at one another and we both now admit that we’re miserable…

Conflict holds the potential of strengthening or weakening the relationship. And the frequency of the conflict is not nearly as critical or as relevant as the response and outcome of the conflict. As I will explain in a moment, a couple that rarely argues or has conflicts may still crumble because they avoid conflict, fail to resolve the cause of it and eventually resentment, bitterness and contempt infect and disintegrate the relationship and love.

Although, it is believed that there are five core conflict styles or behaviors, in this article I will focus on one – Emotionally/Conflict Avoidant personality.

In some cases there is good reason to avoid conflict – the relationship is short-term, the issue is not important or the situation has a potential for violence. However, the Emotional/Conflict Avoidant personality is recognized by behaviors and attachment styles where the person is unable or unwilling to be vulnerable, express intimacy, express emotion or to speak up for him/herself. This person lacks trust, tends to be shy, unassertive, seeks approval, is a people pleaser and fears criticism or large displays of emotion.

The root cause of the Emotional/Conflict Avoidant personality is childhood upbringing where the child was raised in a home where emotion was criticized, condemned or withheld; where expressing one’s thoughts and opinions was also condemned or where abuse was prevalent and one of the parents and child were never allowed to have a voice and; where tension, anxiety and fear of making a mistake were common. On the flip side, if the child experienced or witnessed extreme unresolved conflict and verbal/emotional abuse, he or she may also become shut down and fear expressing herself as an adult or experience fear, anxiety or even panic attacks when conflict or emotions occur.

For example, one client grew up in a home where shouting, fighting and arguing were common. She often experienced anxiety; feeling extremely frightened and alone, she would cry herself to sleep. Now in her marriage, anytime her husband raises his voice, she experiences anxiety again, cries and runs away from the conversation; her husband complains that they can never resolve the conflict or disagreement because they never speak or communicate effectively.

And this leads to the next point: most of the pain and hurt we feel when conflict arises are actually old pains which have little to do with the actual conflict. In other words, you are not hurt for the reasons you thought you were: the other person is triggering within you, old pain and unresolved issues, insecurities and programmed responses and reactions – anger, sadness, rejection, hurt, defensiveness, blame, shame, guilt, humiliation, fear, confusion, powerlessness, victimization, helplessness, anxiety, feeling of being out of control, overwhelmed, and so forth.

Step one to healing is to become aware of the old pain, the unresolved hurt, repressed emotions and negative beliefs.

Step two is to find the source of those things including the instigator and;

Step three is to release those emotions, forgive and reprogram the beliefs.

(If you need one-on-one help, consider a private consultation )

Running away from the conflict or living in denial does not heal the problem in the relationship and it does not heal the past. Conscious denial leads to subconscious resentment. The key is to focus on the solution – resolve the differences, heal the pain & hurt and beware of it turning into resentment.

Resentment is “Indignation or ill will felt as a result of a real or imagined grievance.” In other words, resentment is that bad, hostile or evil feeling towards someone whom you believe wronged you.

Unresolved resentment begins to permeate and infect all of your future interactions with that person. Resentment seeps into every area of the relationship as the person feeling the resentment looks for ways to express that resentment such as heightened criticism, sarcasm, condemnation and constant fault-finding. Read my article: “Overcoming Resentment”.

The greatest danger of running away from conflict which then turns into resentment is that it very quickly transforms your perception of the other person. Very soon, like a disease spreading throughout your being, you begin to associate pain, hurt and other negative emotions with the person that you once used to associate pleasure with – the person who used to make you smile, excite you and make you feel special. As the resentment continues to spread and multiply, it eventually turns to bitterness, hatred and contempt – the love and relationship is now ruined.

But also, beware of superficial forgiveness which can be equivalent to denial. Real forgiveness comes from understanding the issue, emotion, your partner and yourself.

Finally, look in your heart and you will notice that the real cause behind most conflicts and disagreements is actually a longing for closeness, intimacy and love. And when you approach each conflict centered in your heart, you will also notice a change in you, your partner and the outcome!

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist

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