Managing Conflict | Individual Therapy

Managing Conflict | Individual Therapy

For most of us being in conflict is an uncomfortable experience that can quickly escalate once our fight, flight or freeze instinct is triggered.  Conflict can trigger our fear and in the heightened state of physiological arousal we can say and do things we later regret.

As our clients examine this topic with us, many find that there are a great deal of emotions that stem from memories and feelings from the past.  These old emotions may be fueling the intensity of the current argument without you being aware of it.  Examining the emotions that are present during conflict, and better understanding where they are coming from, can shift how you deal with conflict dramatically.

The fight, flight or freeze responses are key physiological responses to be aware of when managing conflict.  If we were living in the wild and confronted by a tiger, the body would produce stress hormones and increase our heart rate to distribute blood to muscles in order to maximize our physical response, while taking blood away from other vital organs, including the brain.  Once this fear response has been triggered, our brain therefore has a much lower capacity to process thoughts and feelings, and as such our ability to deal with conflict is greatly diminished.

While we are unlikely to be facing a tiger, the level of threat can be perceived as being equivalent, from a physiological standpoint, when another person is angry with us or we are angry with them.  When considering the heightened sense of arousal, which is most often disproportionate to the level of danger being encountered, we can also understand why small arguments can become all out wars.

Research has shown that once the fight, flight or freeze response has kicked in, it takes an average of 20 minutes for the body to return to normal levels of functioning, and we once again have restored our brains normal ability.  This is of course provided that the source of the danger has dissipated, or the danger is perceived differently.

If we accept that conflict is going to happen, we need to learn new skills that can change the nature of conflict.  There are ways to fight that help keep you from going into the physiological state of fight, flight or freeze, and you can learn to avoid the common pitfalls that will keep repeating the same response and behavior.

We can help you uncover and understand what is triggered during a conflict so you can transform conflict into constructive dialogue and creative collaboration.

We encourage you to also read the Communication section.

Questions for Thought

Below are a few questions that are intended to help you consider your personal situation more closely.  If your responses cause concern and you want to make changes, we encourage you to contact us to discuss how we can best help.

  • How do you deal with differences of opinion?
  • Are you interested in understanding the other person or do you just want to be right?
  • Is there a compromise possible here?
  • How was conflict handled in your family when you were growing up?
  • What have you learned from past mistakes you have made?
  • Do you feel intimidated when you disagree with someone?
  • Do you think it is easier to just give in and not really let the other person know how you feel?