I speak of fear a lot because I am accepting the universes challenge to me to understand my fears and learn to love myself and others. I am learning that to get to the reasons I fear I need to face the emotions that I am feeling while I am caught in a cycle of fear. To do this is to understand that it is necessary to know that we naturally have emotions. It is also important to understand the causes for them and that we are often not taught how to deal with extremes of emotions. Understanding relationships and basic communication skills along with conflict resolution can get us through many fear driven conflicts. We are taught that too much of any emotion is not good. However, no one seems to really know how to truly fix these issues. We are simply taught to avoid them all together. I believe that some people think I am giving out a message that I am a victim because I talk openly about my fears and my emotions. I am the type of person that talks through things. I am not attempting to say that I feel that I am a victim. It would be dishonest of me to say that I have never felt like I was a victim. I am learning a new perspective on an old issue. I am simply working through the complexities of the lessons being learned.
I am learning that we each have systems in place to cope with adversity even if we do not understand exactly what they are. We just do not often critically think about it. As children, we are taught to cry less, sleep on a schedule, stop our temper tantrums, walk in line, and to respectfully fear our parents, teachers, God and law enforcement officials. These lessons are necessary for us to learn how to function within the parameters of our societies. Leaders in the community understand the necessity of actively teaching certain standards of acceptance from the beginning of a person’s life. Parents are taught that they are the first line in teaching these skills whether they understand them themselves or not. I too understood the necessity of teaching these parameters to my children. I also did not fully understand them either. It is why parents so often defer to “because I said so.” Those responsible for teaching these fears did not do so because they were being mean and wanted to be in control. That does not mean that there were not some that misused their roles. For the most part, I believe they taught this simply because it is what they were taught. That does not however mean that we are not capable of understanding this, it just means that we do not understand it. And, if you have gotten this far in this reading then you are probably on a similar fact finding mission.
It is important to understand that fear is not all bad. Teaching our children the dangers of running out in front of a car or standing on the edge of a cliff can save their lives. Teaching them about laws will help them understand that some behaviors while natural are not always acceptable. We really cannot be allowed to just go around in fits of rage all the time. It is simply dangerous. Most of us do not face our deep emotions like fear. We really are taught to avoid them intentionally or we will be considered as outcasts from society. At the same time, going in completely the opposite direction and denying our darker emotions is also not an effective way to deal with them.
How do we come to separate our understandings of a fear that helps us from harmful fear? While teaching us to fear in order to keep us safe is not a bad thing, it is, at this point, important to realize that there are situations in which abuses of power do take place that set us up for unnecessary and harmful fears. Some people, parents, politicians, teachers, preachers, judges, job managers, etc. become highly skilled at manipulating situations and circumstances using them to make others see things their own way. This is an abuse of power. Most of us were and are aware of these situation. We do not know how to properly cope with them. Most people simply avoid them or walk away from good jobs and chose to move to escape people that abuse their authority. Most of us are afraid to face the deep emotions we feel because of harmful fear. We really are also taught to avoid them intentionally to fit into humanity. In doing this, we end up going in a completely opposite direction. We develop darker fears because we see the injustice in them.
Avoidance is not an effective way to deal with them. Realizing that by not coping properly with an intense emotion like harmful fear can lead to other damaging emotions that continue to escalate out of control in our lives as we learn to cope through other deeper feelings of anger, depression, and guilt. Anger is a natural coping mechanism. Justly, it can take the form of hatred, aggression, contempt, sadness, shame, and apathy which can also be expressed through boredom, frustration , embarrassment, and guilt. Thus, building up to feeling of hostility, hysteria, loneliness, paranoia, rage, regret, remorse, and shame manifesting as physical as well as mental suffering. By being taught to avoid these feelings we end up in negative cycles leading to depression, self doubt, self disgust, as well as a sense of a loss of joy, trust, hope, love, empathy, envy, gratitude, pride, hope, pleasure, and sympathy.
Seeing them listed together allows us see how important it is to learn to identify a key emotion like destructive fear and stop it before it can take hold of other areas of our lives and negatively impact us. In some situations in which there is an abuse of power, walking away might be the best choice. However, when we can turn and face it without fear of being harmed physically or emotionally we should do this. While this seems too hard of a task to tackle, there is hope. Believe it or not compassion and understanding is the key to dealing with hurtful anger caused by fear. They are the opposite of Fear.
Awareness and an understanding how we deal with our own fears will help us learn to skillfully recognize the reactions given by those around us whether we are in a position of power or not. It is important to try to realize what we are feeling when we feel harmful fear as listed above. Consider that someone along the way has probably done something to teach the one abusing power that it is an effective way of gaining control of situations. Considering this does not mean that it should be allowed. Chose actions carefully. Make sure that you will not be harmed physically and that you are ready for emotional manipulations as they develop. Recognize that your reactions will continually dispel or drive the situation. Fear of retaliation can make it hard to get others to back us when we are dealing with those highly skilled at manipulation.
Recognize what you do when you feel fear. Do you tend to internalize fear and go quiet and not speak for days to the point of denial or do you rage and yell and demand to be heard at all costs? If you go silent, do you do this to avoid conflict or to think about your reaction before you react? How do you feel when someone else responds to you with their fears? Do you get upset that they avoid all talk of harmful topics or rage and stomp and demand attention? Consider that both of these are extremes. There are other more effective ways to deal with fears. Taking defense or offense are both coping skills. In reality, most of us are take a stance of defense because we are offended and vice versa. By going into withdrawal or tantrums, we are protecting ourselves, but at the same time we are not allowing the other person involved to resolve their feelings. This is ineffective communication and it is an important key to understanding how to resolve conflicts.
Interpersonal Communication is important to understand when learning how to deal with our emotions when we are caught up in storms of reactions to tumultuous emotions that are fueled by an intense emotions like fear. It is more than just the words said. As humans, we are able to tell more about how other people connect with us by picking up on other signals that we put out like body language, passive or aggressive attention, facial expressions, and tone of voice give us additional clues about the intention of the person speaking to us. We react to all these elements when we respond within a conversation. These cues tell us how to receive the information, and they help us understand our role within the discussion, what type of emotion to respond with and what decisions we need to make to carry the conversation to the next level as well as how the response will be received. All of this is instantaneously taken into consideration and applied or ignored. We learn these skills very quickly. We adapt our style of communication depending on who we are talking to without even thinking about it. Problems and abuses in power usually arise in this stage of communication. At this point, we can decide how we will react to the conversation. If someone is displaying defensive posturing and tone of voice along with a mad facial expression, we immediately decide if we will avoid the conversation and/or temper our responses accordingly. We can chose to walk away and not engage in any negativity or abuses of power displayed at this point if we are properly trained in how to read actions and reactions. If we decide to continue the conflict consider protecting ourselves by calling in a few impartial witnesses. This protects both parties in the conflict. It may be necessary to put off the conflict until someone can be contacted that fits this position. In a major workplace like those within corporate settings, there is usually a person whose responsibility it is to handle these situations.
Understanding the basic premises for conflict resolution will help us learn how to deal with harmful abuses of power that feed our fears. If your goal is to be right, then it will be difficult to stand against a power manipulator. They expect this reaction and are skilled at putting people in their place and fast. Consider avoiding the conflict at all if you only want to be proven right. Be willing to chin up and be wrong. Wow, that is hard to hear isn’t it. But, we are at times wrong in our actions. Keep the conversation in the moment. Bringing up past examples to reinforce your point can inevitably be matched by counterpoints from the other person’s experience even if it does not apply directly to the situation at hand. Understand that the person abusing the power has feelings too. I am not saying we are responsible for them or that we need to apologize for them. Just be aware that there is a history behind the action for all parties in the conflict. Understand that keeping our own emotions in check is very important. It can cause things to get out of control and realize that walking away might be the next best choice. Do not get caught up in a pattern of right and wrong. It will only feed the conflict. Be willing to agree to disagree with or without explanation and know that there may not be time for explanations during the confrontation. Try to find a way to bring compassion and understanding of the other person’s feelings into the discussion by saying something to the effect of “I understand that you have dealt with situations in the past that have made you react in a certain way, but consider that this situation is separate from those experiences.” Try to keep sarcasm out of the situation. It only fuels the fire. Try to end with good humor not sarcasm. This will probably be the hardest part of the entire situation. I am still working on this one.
Be aware that typing on a computer and communicating through social media often leads to misunderstandings because of a lack of signals from the person on the other end of the communication. Reactions stated are generally based solely on the emotions and feeling of the one reading the message. They have no other signals from the person on the other end. It is why emoji’s have become an important tool to use when communicating with someone that we cannot see. If we could throw up a dancing Minion emoji’s or gif in the middle of an interpersonal conflict then it would probably be a good idea. 😄 However, it could also get us punched 👊 if misunderstood. It is harder to punch someone on the other side of the computer screen. 😏
Psychologist often talk about fight or flight personality types. If I have to choose one for me it is fight. However, I do feel that flight is at times the right choice and that a third option of neutrality is most often forced into play. I do not see this neutrality of choosing to blend as flight. We are taught to remain neutral to cope and to fit into society. I am beginning to see that in trying so hard to internalize the feelings that I feel because I cannot just be all hair trigger all the time have caused myself physical discomfort. Yet, I still feel my fight.
Learning to fight more fairly is important to me. I have been on a lifelong mission to better understand communication in general. I have studied and taught interpersonal communication on a professional level. I have incorporated conflict resolution skills into my life in the way I raised my children and I have had to use it in the workplace both successfully and unsuccessfully. Awareness is a most important first step for all of us in learning how to face our fears and other conflicts as they arise. I continue to try to improve and be thoughtful that others do not have the same understanding of the world as I do. It was hard to learn to just walk away because the person that I was attempting conflict resolution with was just too immature to even try to understand what was going on. We can only do so much. Facing my fears and the fact that they are guided by lessons learned from others does not mean that I live as a victim. To me, it means that I just have to try harder to do better or simply to know when to respectfully just walk away.
Stock Image, My Thoughts, My Compilation