Over the past several years I have become keenly aware of my dislike of confrontations of any sort and the extreme lengths I have taken to avoid them. I believe that it may stem from my childhood where confrontations ended in screaming, fighting, fists and once, even gunshots. Certainly there was violence and tears and broken hearts. One mistaken word or action in my father’s presence when he was drunk ended, without doubt, in a guilt trip at the least harmful and violence when it was really bad. I remember telling my little sisters to cry quietly, be careful of the things they said when that certain tension was in the air. Don’t do anything to set him off, don’t say anything to draw his attention to you. If you do draw his attention, just lower your eyes, don’t smart off… don’t say anything to make it worse and pray that someone else will come along to draw his attention off of you. It was bad, but it was my life. I didn’t know any other way. I just did what I could to keep the peace, avoid the violence.
When I was 13 I stopped going to see my dad because of a particularly bad weekend. My life became peaceful. In the wake of the chaos that my life had been I found that I didn’t start arguments, I didn’t start fights. When I felt confrontation coming, I walked away — stuck my head in the sand so to speak.
When finances get tight and bills start piling up, I just don’t open them. I don’t answer the phone if I think a confrontation is waiting on the other end. I’ll leave emails unopened and text messages unread. I don’t get involved in political or religious debates, don’t offer my opinion or thoughts on topics of controversy and prefer to keep parts of my life secret from those who I don’t think will accept them. All in the name of avoiding confrontation. I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings and I HATE to argue. Avoidance at all costs.
Over the past few years I’ve noticed my dislike of confrontation growing into fear of confrontation. I have always been fearless, sometimes to the point of stupid. I hate to be ruled by fear of anything. To be ruled by fear of confrontation to the point of avoiding it at ALL costs was an idea that I just could not stand.
The problem with that sort of avoidance is that putting your head in the sand does not fix whatever caused the confrontation in the first place. Avoidance only makes it worse. Bills don’t get paid, things get shut off, fees get added, things get worse. Feelings go unacknowledged, hurts grow irreparable, thoughts become monsters that eat us alive on both sides of the situation. Something had to be done. I couldn’t go on living my life with this avoidance behavior attitude.
So for the past couple of years, I have been trying to dissect this irrational fear of confrontation to figure out where it comes from, how I can overcome it and just what I can do about it. I don’t want to swing the complete other way and become a mouthy, mean bitch. Not that there is anything wrong with that. I love mouthy bitches 😉 I just don’t see myself as one. I believe in being careful with other’s feelings and egos, that we are treated the way we treat others and I don’t like it when people are careless with my feelings so I don’t want to become careless with theirs.
I figured the only way to overcome the fear is to face it, even if only in small doses. I have started making myself read emails or messages that I know might contain or lead to a confrontation. I’ve also gone to people when I believe a situation has gone in a negative direction or become something that needs to be talked about. I feel good about the way those situations have turned out and I am glad that I didn’t bury my head in the sand and just let those people slip away.
But I find that I still don’t like debates or heated conversations about… well, anything. I don’t like to have them, I don’t like to listen to them, I don’t like to be witness to them. I still don’t like to argue… not with Don or family, not with friends, not with bill collectors or bosses. I will argue but only if the person I’m arguing with is the type to be aware of the things they are saying and the lasting ramification of heated words. Usually that type of person will argue in such a way that the argument quickly simmers down into a discussion and produces good things instead of the other way around. If the person on the other end of the argument is just mouthy and loud and pushy, I will just walk away and find some sand to stick my head in. The only exception to this is when it comes to my kids. I will beat you down verbally and physically over my kids. You’d be wise not to mess with this peacekeeper’s kids. There is a bitch in there and nothing brings her out faster and with more force than my five sons.
Even with all this self awareness floating around, I still don’t like confrontations. I don’t think I ever will, but I am learning to handle them better. I still find myself playing peacekeeper even when caught up in a confrontation, being careful of the other person’s feelings and ego and encouraging those whose confrontations I get a front row seat to, to do the same.
Still if I feel attacked or overwhelmed you’ll likely find me in a closet somewhere eating cookies and pretending that all is right with the world. Not the best way to be, I get that. But it is what it is. I can only be me.