In this last section, we will be talking about positive emotions. These are emotional experiences that we usually enjoy having or aim to be in. As the label implies, it’s easy for us to feel positive about these. But often, an over-abundance of positivity towards them must be tempered with a more balanced understanding. Otherwise, our desire for positivity can upset our ability to stay connected to the reality of our situation. In interpersonal conflict, this can result in things like: allowing others to walk all over us, clinginess, refusing to acknowledge another person’s reality, avoiding confrontation, and making excuses for a bad situation. These kinds of consequences highlight the importance of, again, treating all emotions with care and respect. If each emotion gets a chance to be heard and understood, then each can be part of the resolution.
(If you want to go back, here are the links to part 1 and part 2)
With that said, let’s get into it.
These feelings often point us towards a mutually beneficial result, both for one’s self and the other person. We can want what’s best for ourselves and someone else at the same time – they aren’t mutually exclusive. This love can sustain us and help us keep harmony while we work on more self-focused feelings, like anger.
Now, while it can feel righteous to be as loving as possible, there are definitely a few pitfalls here. Let’s go over them.
Fear and appeasement
First, it’s important to recognize that sometimes fear, in a conflict, can masquerade as love. Fear thinks that by avoiding a conflict, we’re bringing harmony to a relationship. Like was said in the fear section, this avoidance ultimately causes isolation. It breaks down the connection instead of bringing stability to it. This is because there is no authenticity in fear. Genuine connection must come from a fearless and authentic place, or else it will not stand the test of time. That is because we grow into our fearless selves. We shed falseness as we grow. And with that, we’ll also shed connections that were based in falsehood.
Second, attachment can also appear like love. It seeks control, instead of altruism. If another person’s autonomy threatens you, you’re likely in attachment, not love. People are outside of our control, and times of conflict can call our sense of control into question. It’s good to have your control checked, because by seeking control you can induce trauma and violate boundaries. The “accidental betrayals”, that control-seeking causes you to commit, can end relationships.
Instead, it’s important to approach a conflict in good faith, and with a sense of openness. That means you have to show a willingness to hear what the other person wants, and honor their autonomy. To connect with someone is to stand beside them freely, not to stand over them. Ultimately, you have to accept that the honorable outcome might not be the one you’re hoping for. Can you walk that road?
It’s important to acknowledge and understand their side, while acknowledging the way your side differs from theirs. You have to understand the whole story for what it is, rather than preferring your version of it. Only then can you be respectful towards the feelings of all involved, and thus move forward respectfully. To this end, allow your anger and negative emotions to hold your love accountable, and to make sure that you are being as loving towards yourself as you might want to be towards the other person.
Ultimately, love is not merely a dream of a no-conflict, harmonious state with those around us. It is action taken to sustain what is good and worthwhile. It is to have an investment in the benefit of all, and to put forward effort towards that end.
Love and Ego
Love, also, cannot be from ego. There is the temptation that by acting loving, we can gain special status and favors from others. After all, who would argue with a truly loving and giving person? Who would ask more of them, when they’re already so giving?
If we’re high and mighty in interpersonal conflicts, it can interrupt our ability to be truly there for people. We’ll ignore their needs in the conflict, and only tend to our own. Any claim that we’re not thinking of them is taken as a slight, an offense! Yet, the fruits of love, and the fruits of ego are both evident. Make sure you love in your actions, and not just for show. Don’t just convince yourself you’re loving. Otherwise you’ll sabotage relationships, all in the name of love.
The Delusion of Self-Sacrifice
When you’re trying to stay true to love, you can go too far and become self-sacrificing. A conflict is not always your fault, or yours to fix alone. Sometimes, you need to assert yourself. Moreover, you can’t stay true to love and not be caring towards yourself, too. You must listen to your feelings, take your hurt into consideration, and consider options that keep yourself in your priorities. Love is not to be lost in ideals, but to remain grounded enough to affect positive change.
Finding Your Authentic Love
Given all the pitfalls, how do you find the power of your own love? Ultimately, you need to connect with the feeling of being loving. One technique to try is to imagine what someone loving and trustworthy would advise you to do in the conflict. Would they say to give yourself some space and time away from the conflict? Would they tell you it’s important to assert yourself against behavior that denies love or creates harm? Consider their opinions. Just make sure you connect to that feeling.
Overall, love is an incredible power, coming from deep within you, that allows you to move towards conflict resolution. It inspires you to even want a resolution in the first place. It heals the world, takes a broken situation and mends it. But it must be real. It must come without attachment, fear, or ego, even as you acknowledge those forces too.
Detach from Outcomes
We might think, “oh, because we love this person, the situation must end up in a nice way.” But what is a “nice way”? This is an idea of a fixed reality. Thus to think this way is anxiety, and control – an attachment to the appearance of love. Take a dip into the energy of being loving, and check your ideas against it. Be willing to hear love out.
Our hoped-for ideas of an outcome may not happen, but that’s okay! Surrendering to love’s sense of how to handle things can guide us towards unexpected wonder. To love is to heal towards something more than what we know. Love’s healing is not merely a band-aid as a cut returns to normal skin. It is the sprouting of new flowers, and life that was never witnessed in long-dead places.
But all this comes back to the practical. What could really help out two people in conflict? That’s how you get to the beauty: by tending to the practical, raw, and real. You can’t wish a flower to grow. You must bring water, dirt, and seeds. And you must tend it diligently.
What is comfortable? Sometimes, it seems like inaction is comfortable. But if one is lying on a bed of nails, is it truly comfortable to remain there?
An interpersonal conflict can be very uncomfortable, and even ask us to do a lot of uncomfortable things. Our desire for comfort can then prompt us to avoid and prolong the conflict. “If we don’t bring up the conflict, we’ll be comfortable!”, “Eh, maybe this situation will fix itself”. These kinds of thoughts can often go by unnoticed. After all, being aware of them might lead to discomfort. Truthfully though, these kinds of excuses cause more harm than good. Bad situations need to get faced. To turn away limits our access to sensitivity, intuition, honesty with ourselves, integrity, and responsibility. We’re less at peace with ourselves, and ultimately disempowered.
Facing Discomfort through healthy comfort
To face discomfort, we can’t blindly run away from comfort, either. Taking on too much pain and suffering all at once is going to backfire. We need to take what’s healthy in comfort, release the rest, and move forward.
So what is the good in comfort? Comfort can teach us the valuable lesson of where we’d like to get to. Our comfort always has a destination in mind.
Example: Imagine comfort says: “eh, let’s just not do anything, this’ll go away on its own”. What’s the destination? In this case, it’s an unworried state. This means we probably have some pretty serious worries that need looking at. And by addressing those worries, either through plans or reassurance, you address the discomfort.
Real comfort values a life that we feel good existing in, and seeks to change circumstances. Do not take the powerless path by saying things will just come to you. If you really want things to improve, acknowledge it and do the work required to bring improvement. Ultimately, we’ll feel more satisfied with that than merely waiting for satisfying things to appear.
Remember: It is okay to seek comfort, but when we’re attached to it, we disempower ourselves. Attachment destabilizes us on the inside, and distorts our priorities. By observing and honoring all sides of an issue, we can find satisfaction with our choices. Such satisfaction is a deep part of stability.
Example: Trouble at work
Let’s say you’re having a disagreement with someone at work, around how a task should be done. You’ve talked about it a few times, but they seem pretty stubborn in how they want to do it.
You might make excuses: “oh, it’s fine, I’ll just let them do it their way”. But you still see the negative consequences of their actions. Maybe they create unnecessary work for others through their inefficiency.
You feel anger deep down, but you make excuses and brush it aside, returning to that comfortable place of inaction. Next, you start to feel animosity towards your co-worker. Others tell you about how this person’s behavior is affecting them, too. It’s making the work environment less comfortable overall. You tell yourself it’s “not that bad”, but things keep getting worse and worse from there.
Let’s say that, instead, you decide to take action, first by fully acknowledging your anger. You feel what they’re doing is wrong and you can see a better way for all involved. This is a starting point. From there, you might need to investigate what’s causing the situation to continue. Things like the co-worker’s motives, or perhaps your own communication hang-ups. By actively studying the situation, you’re moving out of avoidant comfort and into one of pro-active problem solving.
Remember, your comfort carries your sense of where you want to get to. If you feel uncomfortable, rather than running away, consider what you need to do. And yes, it’s hard to admit you’re not where you want to be. But the first step towards finding a better place is to first admit you need to. It can feel like a bitter pill to swallow, but it is an honest path that can give you contentment. Where there is no denial or self-deceit, there is greater freedom. You can choose to put aside your mere wishes, and work to live freely in the world as it is.
One of the feelings we can have towards the person with whom we have a conflict is admiration. We might think the world of them. We could probably think of a million reasons why this person isn’t wrong, why they’re so good, and even perfect. They couldn’t be in the wrong! No no, it has to be us.
While admiration is good at inspiring us to acknowledge another’s viewpoint, it can also cause us to downplay our own. When we only take the blame, admit defeat, and conform, we put ourselves in a disempowered position. It’s important to balance the value we attribute to the other and to ourselves. Otherwise, we’re not going to adequately recognize what we need in a conflict.
And even perfect people can’t mind-read. We need to communicate for another person to know about us. In conflict, things like our feelings, interests, sensitivities, troubles, and boundaries can all be important to share. You need to be willing to participate too. And anyone can make a relationship mistake, because no one is always going to know everything about themselves and you.
Conflicts happen, and that’s okay. What matters is figuring out what you need, where you can communicate, and how you can make things better. To rely too much on the other person’s (perceived) perfection is to also give away your own power. You need self-respect, too. You need to have a sense of your own personal power and responsibility.
One of the aspects of working on a conflict is our outlook towards the future. Are we looking forward to the direction we’re headed? This kind of excited optimism can spur us towards taking action on a resolution, with positive goals in mind.
Remember though, you want to be wary of when that hopefulness leads to powerlessness. If we’re only hopeful that the other person will take action for us, then we’re abandoning our power. We’ll be anxiously waiting, wondering when we can be saved, rather than putting in the work ourselves.
If you’re caught in that kind of disempowered hope, think about the kinds of things you’re hoping for. What can you do to find those outcomes yourself? If it’s impossible on the surface to do anything, look deeper. Why do you want what you do? What underlying needs do you have? How else can you find them? There are always deeper needs that you can achieve yourself.
And even when working on the conflict itself, you can utilize your hope. You can ask: What hopeful outcomes could my conscious choice create in this conflict? What’s keeping me from being optimistic here? Is there anything I could understand better in this conflict in order to find a better outcome overall? What are my options? Optimism is persistent, so you can use it to brainstorm!
Optimism’s Fear of Negative Emotions
Try not to let a desire for hopefulness turn you away from your negative emotions. All emotions need to be part of the discussion, because the solution is often found through your negative emotions. They’re the ones crying out for something to change. They’re the ones showing you the situation isn’t right.
If you can find hope in tending to and healing the darkness, you can find lasting, truthful answers. You don’t have to cling to the light. You can work with the dark. This article, indeed, is largely about helping you find hope in conflicts that seem without answer. You have to find these answers inside yourself, and what feels wrong can often lead you towards what feels correct.
These negative and positive emotions are just some that can come up in a relation to a conflict. And as you can see, “positive” and “negative” are largely labels. Each emotion can be positive or negative depending on the context and how one responds to that emotion.
Looking for takeaways, here’s what you want to look for when working with your emotions:
- Empowering answers to the issues you face
- Wisdom and guidance in your negative emotions
- Sustained support from your positive emotions
- Understanding for yourself and others
Once you’ve really felt out an issue, it’s time to make a plan. What set of actions do you feel good about as a way of addressing the issue in front of you? If you’re having trouble with this, ask yourself: what are some reactive, unproductive things I could try? What doesn’t work about these ideas? Use this negative example to feel out the positive space, and to construct what would work.
You want to give yourself a chance to reflect and feel things out honestly. Often, the best place of action might be something we’re avoiding, but know we need to do. And to leave things unresolved is to cause harm in the conflict, often to ourselves.
So what are you going to do? Divide it into steps if you need to, and plan a time. Maybe it’s communicating a few key points about how you feel to someone, and suggesting a solution. Maybe it’s asking to hear their side of the story, then asking for time to reflect further.
Whatever you decide, make sure it feels right, and that it’s something you’re optimistic about as well. Then, go and try it. Maybe it doesn’t work out on a first try, but chances are it will move the conflict forward. You’ll have learned something about yourself and the other person. You can always return, reconsider your feelings, and make a new plan. It doesn’t have to be a big dramatic event. You can put in effort to make sure both you and the other person feel safe and secure. If you do the work of feeling it out, you’ll be able to affect positive outcomes more consistently.
Finding Growth Through Conflict Resolution
I hope this helps you with your interpersonal conflicts. Just remember: your solutions don’t have to be perfect, but they can still honor what you care about. As much as it can hurt to go through a conflict with someone, it can teach you many things. You can find greater compassion, patience, and understanding. And it can teach you how to finding harmony, both with other people, and within yourself.