Dealing with Conflict in Recovery

Conflict is Unavoidable

Every human has to deal with conflict in life. This is unavoidable, as people have competing needs and desires. This means that it will be wise for people to learn how to cope with conflict as well as learn how to avoid it. Sometimes, avoiding this type of interaction can be negative, because it means the individual is refusing to face their problems. Dealing with conflict is an important skill for people in recovery from addiction to learn.

Conflict Defined

A conflict refers to a situation where there is a competition of opposing actions or incompatibles. Conflicts arise among humans because of competing desires and expectations. These conflicts may be based on real issues or, in many cases, they will be due to misunderstanding.

Causes of Conflict in Recovery

Giving up alcohol and drugs does not mean that life will be perfect afterwards. Conflict is a part of life, and there is probably no way to avoid it completely without living like a hermit.
These are some of the reasons people in recovery find themselves dealing with conflict:

* An addiction to alcohol or drugs usually focuses a person on their own desires. They can carry this self-obsession with them into recovery and continue to put their own needs above everyone else’s. This can make life difficult for family and friends who have their own needs. When people in recovery fail to get beyond their own self-absorption, it can lead to a great deal of conflict.
* When people first become sober, they will have plenty to learn. Their previous strategies for coping with life were faulty, so they need to learn new strategies. While finding their footing, they may occasionally fall back on maladaptive coping strategies. For example, they may be prone to defensiveness, and this will bring them into conflict with other people.
* For those in recovery, feeling that others are interfering in their life can lead to resentment and anger.
* Addicts can be highly opinionated and may refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of opposing views. One reason for addicts fall into addiction in the first place is that they suffer from low self-esteem. Not valuing themselves leads to a black-and-white worldview. Everything is either right or wrong. Being too opinionated in recovery is likely to get them into trouble.
* Poor communication is probably the most common of all causes of unnecessary conflict. People who are recovering from an addiction may struggle with communication due to low self-esteem.
* Personality clashes are another common contributor to conflict. Everyone has their own unique characteristics. Sometimes, the characteristics of one person will not mix very well with those of another. This is referred to as a personality clash. For example, if one person approaches life from a highly logical point of view, while another relies more on their emotions, the two may find themselves in routine conflict.
* Friends and family may still be recovering from the damage caused by their relative in the midst of addiction. Emotions can still be raw, and it can be easy to open up old wounds.
* Early recovery can be an intensely challenging time. It is sometimes described as an emotional rollercoaster. High emotions lead to conflict with others.

How to Avoid Conflict

Conflict can be upsetting, so avoiding it can be a good strategy. Avoidance will only be a good option some of the time, because some problems that need to be faced. Attempts to avoid conflict can make the situation worse. These are the most common ways to avoid conflict:

* One of the main reasons for why conflict occurs is misinformation due to poor communication. In order to avoid later conflicts it is necessary to clear up any misunderstandings before they become an issue. This can be achieved by asking questions and seeking clarification.
* Spending more time thinking about the needs of other people can prevent a great deal of conflict from arising in the first place. Loved ones may become resentful when they feel that their needs are being ignored. Eventually, this boils over into open conflict. Taking other people for granted leads to trouble down the road.
* Avoid office politics as much as possible.
* The willingness to listen is crucial to avoiding later problems. Just allowing the other person to express their feelings can be the way to defuse something that could later escalate into hostilities.
* Everyone is different, and it is important to respect these differences. Always trying to change others is sure to lead to conflict.
* Seeing everything in black and white brings people into conflict with others. This is because very little in life can be boiled down to just right or wrong. There are too many gray areas. Being more open-minded about issues allows people to rise above conflict in many instances.
* People need their own space and privacy. It is necessary to respect this and not do things that the other individual may perceive as a threat to their personal space.
* It is not necessary for people to get their own way all the time. Even when the individual is in the right there, may be times when it is wise to just to leave things unmentioned. A wise general knows which battles to choose and which to ignore. If an issue is not really that important to the individual, there is no point in getting into conflict over it. In other words they need to choose their battles wisely.

The Dangers of Conflict Avoidance

Conflict avoidance refers to a situation in which people avoid facing issues even when these issues need to be faced. These types of avoidance tactics can include:

* Changing the subject when the other person says something that the listener is not prepared to deal with
* Swallowing feelings even when the individual feels upset about something
* Avoiding necessary action to escape facing conflict

It may be appropriate for people to use avoidance tactics if they need to buy time. If the individual is constantly relying on these tactics, then there is a good chance that they are not coping with life very well.

How to Deal with Conflict

There are strategies that will help people more effectively deal with conflict. These include:

* Being too angry can cause the situation to deteriorate rapidly. In order for the individual to be able to successfully deal with an issue, they need to be in control. Excessive anger indicates a lack of control. People can use techniques such as slow, deep breathing to reduce the intensity of their emotions. Those who practice mindfulness meditation will find that this technique can be highly effective in situation like this. It allows the individual to take a mental step back from the action.
* Conflict often occurs because people have expectations that were unmet. It can be helpful to examine these expectations. It may be that the individual had unrealistic expectations to begin with.
* People should avoid overreacting. They just need to put forward their side of things without any embellishments or hysteria. Overstating their case damages their credibility with the listener.
* Each individual will have their own perspective on any situation. It is therefore necessary to allow the other person to give their side of the story. Understanding the other person’s perspective may be enough to defuse the situation.
* Learning to be assertive can be of substantial benefit. It allows the person to get their needs met without stepping on too many toes. Assertiveness means clear and honest communication, so there is less risk of misunderstandings.
* Ignoring the other person is not a good way to deal with conflict. This type of passive-aggressive behavior just makes everyone feel bad, including the person who is doing the ignoring. One of the real worries with this type of strategy is that once one person begins ignoring someone else, the other person may do the same. The cycle goes on indefinitely, with both parties feeling bad but neither willing to back down.
* It is usually best to have these confrontations sitting down rather than standing up. People are less likely to become physically aggressive when they are seated.
* Sometimes, both sides in an argument can be in the right and this needs to be acknowledged.

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