Family Conflict – how to Thrive through arguments

The picture postcard view of family life is always roses round the door, laughing together in mutual admiration. But we all know that family life can usually be a hotbed of simmering anger and resentment. Relationship dynamics – husband/wife/partner, parents/children, step-relations, best friends, housemates – whatever the connections, arguing is a situation where we all find ourselves sooner or later – and it’s not pleasant.
How often do we get frustrated and angry at someone because we want to get our point across and they are simply not ‘getting it!’ Similarly, the converse is true, when someone wants us to do something, or be someone that we are not, and we do not want to change the way we are. Our desire for control is strong, yet we feel powerless to be able to change their opinions in any way – therefore we get angry.
The trouble is, when these arguments happen again and again, they soon begin to erode our own sense of self, and just make us feel paranoid, belittled, attacked. The lower our self esteem, the more these interpersonal conflicts can affect our emotional well being, our stress levels. We question ourselves, even if we don’t want to!
Equally we fear being judged by the very people who are meant to love and support us no matter what. This fear of being judged puts us on the defensive, makes us paranoid.
Thrive is a perfect programme for all the family to go through if there are issues of conflict and control. It helps families to rediscover a more natural and harmonious sense of growing together, in which limiting belief systems are quickly identified and deconstructed, to be replaced with more empowering, constructive and forward looking belief systems. However, even if your family unit was resistant to the thought of ‘Thriving’, it absolutely gives the individual a greater grasp on their own thinking and cognitive abilities, developing greater strength and power in overcoming conflict.
Look at this quote from the research paper ‘Paranoia and the Structure of Powerlessness’, Mirowsky & Ross, 1983.
“Belief in an external locus of control is a learned, generalised world view that encompasses a sense of powerlessness, strain and self-estrangement. It is learned in the course of everyday life and is the first step in the descent to paranoia. The individual who believes in external control is readily moved by events and experiences to the next step: mistrust.”
“In the case of paranoia the person senses a negative relationship with a set of persons in the social environment. The perception may be correct or it may be a delusion, although it seems likely that such a delusion has self-fulfilling tendencies (Kohn, 1973: Lemert, 1962). In either case, the perception itself is real and represents a deep alienation of the person from at least some of the people in his or her social world.”
Coming through any conflict intact is down to you creating an internal locus of control, increasing your self esteem and lowering your social anxiety.
These arguments tend to be with your nearest and dearest. Those closest to you can sometimes be your worst enemies – not in the way that they want to hurt you, but because 99% of the time they are having their own battles with limiting belief systems, distorted thinking and increasing anxiety, and we tend not to pretend all is well with those nearest to us.
When you are badly managing your thinking, your stress levels can go through the roof. The more stressed you get, the less perspective you get on a situation. You have the snow globe effect with thoughts spinning uncontrollably round and round in your mind, you get angry and frustrated. The more stressed you are, the more in the red you are, the quicker you’re going to get angry. And we all know that being angry is the worst possible state to be in when having a difficult ‘discussion’ with someone you love.
And as the research says above, your (negative) relationship becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You become hypervigilant about all the negative things that ‘could’ be said – regardless of whether or not they are said. (We’ve all had the feeling that words are put into our mouths, or the person we’re arguing with only see what he/she wants to see).
So, other than raising your self esteem, lowering your social anxiety, and developing an internal locus of control, what else can we be doing to effectively manage our thoughts during times of stress?
1. Recognise these limiting traits in the person you are arguing with, and realise that what they are saying are more a result of their own limiting beliefs, desire for control and mismanaged thinking.
2. Don’t confuse your desire for control with gaining a sense of powerfulness – they are two completely different things. Recognise that you cannot control another’s thoughts, words or actions, in the same way that they cannot control yours. However, you CAN control the way you react to others.
3. Get a copy of the Thrive Programme workbook and read the chapter on stress and anxiety to understand not just how to control yours, but rather how not to create it in the first place! The less stressed you are, the less likely a simple discussion will escalate into a full blown argument.
4. Recognise the paranoia and hypervigilance in your thinking. Remember, the more your focus on the negative, the less perspective you’ll have overall.
5. Don’t turn into a ‘significant other’. Use positive, empowering language.
6. Finally, DON’T OBSESS about what has been said in an argument. Don’t turn it over and over in the mind, ‘chewing the arse off it’. Choose to move on, and not dwell. And if the attacks on your own self esteem have been particularly virulent, then go straight back to processing your positives, to recharge that self esteem battery. This is all about building psychological resilience, and the more recharging you do, the stronger you’ll be (and ultimately less recharging will be needed in the future!).
If you feel that your relationships and family life is suffering through emotional conflict, stress and anxiety, then a course of Thrive will help the whole family to feel more in control and powerful about resolving conflict without the need for arguments. Call me (Kate) anytime on (00 9)0 544 3298466 to talk through in more detail how.