When avoiding external conflict, we are not always removing the concern so much as absorbing it internally. It can feel safer to bring it inward when we consider that others’ reactions or comments are out of our control, which makes us feel vulnerable. But by not disturbing the outer peace, we are at times risking our inner peace.
Consider conflict and safety as a see-saw balance between our internal and external settings. Avoiding conflict in our external environments may result in increasing conflict and decreasing safety internally, and can manifest as negative self talk, guilt, shame, anxiety, and more. When we appropriately keep external conflict external, we are reinforcing our internal safety and building trust within ourselves.
Imagine the conflict we may experience when another person’s actions bother us—do we tell them, do we ignore it? What are the consequences of each choice? By having a balanced understanding of our internal/external see-saw, we are able to navigate difficult situations by adjusting our see-saw to compensate where there is more or less conflict or safety.
There isn’t a simple rule for when to address or strategically avoid a concern, but consider checking your balance when weighing your options on your see-saw.
My Nguyen Nguyen, LMHC, is a licensed mental health counselor, specializing in work related to intimate partner violence and multiculturalism. My received her master's degree in counseling from Boston College, where she continues to contribute to publications and add to her now seven years of experience working with survivors of domestic and sexual violence. My's social justice values inform her intersectional work, particularly around systemic oppression and for clients identifying with minority backgrounds.
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