My nephew and niece love Halloween. They prefer it to Christmas because you get more sweets and you get to pretend you are a zombie, vampire or a witch for the day. I’ve never really liked the concept of pretending to be something or someone tormented, hurtful and wicked but in conflict terms, we do this all the time. Sometimes, we’re not pretending ! It’s even more scary to think that we’re good at causing harm to others when we feel hurt ourselves.
When it comes to conflict, we often respond to it as if we were zombies. We might not have the green make-up or the fake blood but we do make several mistakes which prevent us from resolving conflict or even engaging with it in a constructive or appropriate manner.
Zombies are not real but their behavioural traits can be seen everywhere. They’re not conscious of their actions nor aware of the pain they are causing. They just see you as a target. They don’t feel the emotion of others and they are probably not in touch with their own feelings which may explain why they act as they do. It’s very much the same behaviour, day in day out, repeating the same routine without being aware of the possibility that life could be different.
Sound familiar? Here’s how to tell whether you are a conflict zombie and how to break the spell of destructive behaviour which holds you back.
Conflict Zombie Behaviour
Conflict zombies don’t recognise the other person as human. This justifies the harm they cause. You might not recognise that the person you are in conflict with has a point of view and may have had their motives for what they did. Like you, we all suffer and experience love and joy. You have more in common with your enemy then you think.
Conflict zombies aren’t in touch with their feelings. Their excuse is that they are the undead but you’re alive! Many of us fear our emotions because they make us feel out of control, uncomfortable and they are often painful. We can feel ashamed bout anger or loneliness and so it’s not surprising that we repress what we feel. This is a normal human reaction to difficult events that cause us to feel negative emotions. Emotional intelligence helps us to live more fulfilling lives and have more intimate, more connected relationships. It also helps us to apply our emotions to problem solving and that’s why it’s so important to get to grips with yours in times of conflict.
Conflict zombies repeat their behaviour. Maybe you always feel like people take advantage of you. Perhaps you often suffer betrayal and disappointment or you choose the wrong romantic partners, leaving them before they can reject you. If you are unaware of your behavioural patterns, start by examining the relationships you have had in the past and track any similarities, especially in your emotional reaction. This is important because your own patterns might be leading you into conflict and causing you suffering. Once you become conscious of them, every area of your life will improve, as will your self-esteem.
Conflict zombies don’t communicate effectively. Instead of having a constructive conversation about a disagreement or a problem, they deny there is one, they use the silent treatment as a punishment or a way of avoiding conflict or they use non-assertive or aggressive ways to communicate their feelings. Learning to be assertive in how you complain, give feedback and express your needs and wishes ,will prevent conflict before it starts.
Conflict zombies, like vampires, drain people. Since they are unable to communicate constructively, their aggressive or non-assertive style drains people of their energy. They make people feel defensive, attacked, guarded, confused, blamed or irritated.
Conflict zombies only want to harm the person they are in conflict with. It is natural to feel the need for revenge but it becomes destructive when you take steps to physically or emotionally harm the other person. This is especially true when other people are affected by your conflict. If you can recognise this tendency in yourself, then try to understand and recognise the emotion that you feel and consider whether the conflict is really worth continuing.
Zombies are not real but you, your emotions and your conflicts are. The scariest thing about them is that they can destroy your mental well-being, cause you to suffer and drain your resources. They can come into a life of their own and escalate beyond control but you do have the power to stop this by taking a healthier, more considered approach to conflict.
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