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Why I don't always trust my gut...

I was raised in a house where there was "no conflict".

If you're rolling your eyes or thinking "yeah, right" - you're right.

What I mean is - I was raised in a house where conflict was not welcome. That has had profound consequences for how I view it, how I respond to it, and my "gut" reactions in its presence. It might also have something to do with the fact that I spent years researching conflict.

So when I hear my children raising voices at one another, when I notice tension rising, when I see facial expressions I experience as upset, angry, furious - my "gut" doesn't tell me we can get through this, conflict is a relational issue, it is an opportunity. My nervous system instead brings up multiple past experiences of conflicts (also those I tried very hard to avoid), and likely responds from there. It has been an ongoing journey to respond to my children's conflict from a place of confidence and love, rather than react to it in panic.

"[...] our emotions are not always reliable. In some situations, they help us [...] working as a kind of internal radar to give us the most accurate and insightful read into what's really going on in a situation. [...] But in other situations, emotions dredge up old business, confusing what's happening in the moment with painful, past experiences." (Susan David, "Emotional Agility)

My past experiences of conflict and the narrative about conflict in my house, has led me to hold particular beliefs about conflict: 1. There is no conflict in happy relationships 2. The "good guy" doesn't always "win"

So, when my children got into conflict, my instinct was to stop them immediately (and later also worry about their relationship), as well as make sure we come to some version of "justice" (though my version of justice was not necessarily my children's version).

There are so many problematic assumptions in these beliefs, that it would take a book to unpack them. But understanding that I hold these beliefs, has allowed me to see that this is the place from which I responded to my children's fights. And, with three children, life provides a lot of practice

Knowing what your own history is with conflict (in the family, at school, in many many experiences) is the first step to be able to respond to our children's conflicts with trust and love. To be able to support them - knowing what our "gut reaction" is to our children's conflict is the first step to being able to supporting them through it in a healthy way.

And if you think "my children don't have conflicts..."... think again.

Here is one way to start his exploration - sit down and finish these sentences for yourself: - When I think of conflict, I ... - Conflict is ...

You might be surprised. It might be a beginning of a wonderful journey of discovery. And as always, we start with ourselves. Keen to hear your thoughts. With care, Anna

*** Some resources:

Janet Lansbury' post on toddlers in conflict, but really applies to all of us:

Susan David's "Emotional Agility" book is a great resource for getting comfortable with discomfort

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