Friday, April 2, 2010

Fighting Is Not An Option

Fighting Is Not An Option

In my capacity as an outpatient psychologist I deal with
eight issues everyday. They range from addictions, to child
problems, to ADHD, learning disabilities, lack of assertiveness,
anxiety, depression, self-esteem, and so on. The big one is
relationships. This aspect of our lives seems to plague
everyone, and not coincidentally, relationships are THE
experience that make or break most people in the real world.
This applies to our business world and especially to our
personal lives.
It should come as no surprise that personal relationships
start out with a bang and then fade in intensity as time passes.
Novelty yields to routine and excitement give in to acceptance
of increasing regularity. While this is normal, the deeper
personalities we all carry surface more and more along this
time and experience continuum. The longer we are with someone,
the more our real selves surface, often in direct proportion to
diminishing enchantment.
It is during the very beginning and then later stages that
interpersonal fights are more likely to occur. In the beginning,
there is less investment in our partner, because being new, the
relationship is still expendable. This raises the potential for
fighting because there is diminished bonding coupled with greater
contrast-both heighten potential for conflict. Novelty is fun but
is essentially unstable. As we bond, this changes and there occurs
more bonding with proportionally increasing threat of loss if the
relationship terminates. Again, this is proportional to the amount
of cathexis (investment of emotional energy, in the broadest use of
the term).
The likelihood of fighting actually decreases during this
"latency" period. However, if the relationship doesn't stabilize;
that is, develop with both partners contributing equal skills in
areas like conflict resolution, tensions begin to mount.
Eventually, latency fades and chronic tensions emerge, even reign,
influencing behaviors like communication skills (or lack of),
cooperation and the projection of empathy vs. self-oriented impulses.
When conflict resolution skills are not present, this post-latency
behavior pattern foments decompensation, in this case through
"stock-piling" or vicarious acting out.
If couples fail to grapple with these very natural relationship
patterns, conflict will sooner or later surface (more likely
"take over") and contaminate what was once a very enjoyable experience
together. If one understands this dynamic, steps can be taken to
head off trouble. This is the major way the tendency to fight is
The other way is more local; that is, specific to circumstance,
and has to do with conflict resolution skills as they are applied to
any given disagreement. Fighting is more likely to happen when
either party is immature, impulsive, emotionally constricted or mood
disordered, involved in activities that compromise judgment (too much
alcohol or drug use, extreme fatigue) or when one of the partners
chooses (consciously or unconsciously) to NOT utilize effective
communication. In short, the most impaired partner is more likely
to set off a fight. Conversely, it takes two to fight, so the most psychologically intact partner is most likely to control if and when
the fight occurs, if at all.
The more conscious and motivated either partner is, the more
fighting becomes an option, not a default experience, one that can be
chosen if one of the partners really wants to fight, or worked around,
employing communication and others skills if one or more partners
chooses otherwise. Most people fight because they abdicate insight,
personal choice, interpersonal recognition of differences and/or
empathy. Maturity compensates for some of this, but without
interpersonal communication skills and some basic knowledge about
how our partners function and their needs and underlying intentions,
fights still occur.

-Dr. Griggs

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