Here’s what I mean by truth. Self-knowledge. It’s a willingness to open yourself up to the things that cause you fear and anxiety and to give them the understanding, nurturing and healing they deserve. If you don’t or more accurately, won’t, you’ll never be able to develop the inner resources you need to accept your past and move on.
This type of personal work is essential if you want to stop getting into the same old conflicts, relationships, dramas and disagreements time and time again. If you won’t confront those old ghosts from the past, you’ll carry on subconsciously being drawn to events or people that bring them to your attention until you finally learn your lesson.
This is crucial for conflict because it’s an aspect of how we relate to ourselves, others and our world. Many of our disagreements are made more potent by our emotions. They colour our experiences of other people and guide our preferences about them. But what we may not be aware of is that those emotions are actually linked to childhood hurts that we haven’t healed and that’s why we feel anxious, angry or uncomfortable. It’s not really about the person you are in conflict with, they’ve just become a symbol for the pain you haven’t yet discovered, understood or made peace with.
When we feel anxious or fearful, we may react in anger to a person about to end a relationship with us. We may have the same reaction to somebody criticising us or even to something that on the face of it, isn’t confrontational. In a former job, I did some work for John, a more senior colleague of mine in a different department. He was much more experienced than I was and had a wealth of knowledge. When I presented him with the completed task, he pointed out some areas that were incorrect. He wasn’t rude, aggressive or arrogant, he just wanted the work to be as best as it could be. I snapped angrily at him a response. It just reflected how painful this experience was. I couldn’t pinpoint what had made me so angry at the time but I did realise sometime later. As I write, I’m remembering the wounds I have healed since this point. Many of my reactions were similar to this with any kind of men before I dealt with those demons.
Once you have identified what those inner emotional knots are, you need to grieve what you didn’t have as a child or what was lost. This is the only route to healing no matter how hard, how challenging, how destabilising this is. Compassionate honesty is the only way.
Here are some of our main fears and what you need to grieve to let them go. It might help to pause and reflect after you have read them to see how they relate to your own life.
- Risk taking or doing something new can bring up a fear of failure or change. If you aren’t successful, what you really fear is the pain of failing. You may have to grieve a childhood that didn’t have supportive, loving, accepting parents who nurtured your growth but instead made you feel unworthy in some way.
- Revealing something about your identity. You fear that if you show somebody your vulnerability, needs, wants, thoughts, they may not like you anymore. This could manifest as trying hard to please people or a lack of confidence in social situations and few truly meaningful relationships. You may have to grieve the lack of praise, acceptance and approval in your childhood.
- Being lonely. This fear is about being on your own which may feel sad and could relate to feelings of rejection and abandonment. You could distract yourself from that through work, endless social activities and hobbies or being constantly in relationships just because you need human contact. Your grief work here may be linked to an isolated, lonely childhood in which either one of your parents or neither of them were able to bond with you profoundly. This too may have felt like rejection.
- Intimate relationships. If you fear being abandoned or being deprived of your freedom, failure or betrayal, you’re unlikely to commit to a loving partner or even to a friend. Dominating parents have this effect or parents who were emotionally or physically absent as well as events linked to betrayal or a lack of approval and acceptance.
In many cases, these fears are linked to each other. Ideally, you will get to a point where talking about them does not feel shameful, sad, overwhelming or any other emotional responses that are difficult to contain. When you are in this space, your willingness to engage or react to drama will decrease significantly. You may even find that you no longer have anything in common with certain people, old hobbies become uninteresting and unnecessary and you become your new best friend.
This is a powerful and painful journey but one that is necessary if you want to progress emotionally and in any other way.
David Richo is a personal hero of mine and writes extensively on this topic. Find out more about his work here.
What are you most afraid of and how have you overcome them? How did this impact upon your life? Feel free to leave a comment!