The conflict and the resolution

by Carolyn on July 28, 2009

Rope bridge

Rope bridge

Most of us don’t seek out conflict.  Although there are a few who seem to revel in it’s flurry and rush, the majority desire only peace.  But being fallibly human and wielding our free will; conflict is undoubtedly inevitable.  We hurt each other’s feelings.  We make each other angry.  And we certainly don’t always agree.  The occasional strife is unavoidable; we have no choice in that matter.  What we do get to choose, is the manner in which we engage and resolve our personal conflicts.

The response can be overwhelming when we sense the fight coming.  Pulse racing, blood coursing, emotions rising and adrenaline flowing.  Logic can suddenly be elusive.  And in those moments we instinctively reach into our virtual toolboxes using whatever techniques we’ve lived and learned to defend ourselves in battle.  In my family, a common tool for dealing with conflict has been the ‘shun’.  I’ve watched both my parents do it and I’ve seen it done to them.  I’ve even used it myself (and fairly prolifically, too) as a young adult.

When I think of the word shun, I always partner it with the Amish.  The people who cut off close loved ones for not embracing their faith.  But I’m not sure why I tend to assign the term to them.  For as I look around I see it being used by many outside of that culture.  The Amish may have popularized the term, but it’s a technique that has been widespread for ages.  Sometimes I sit and wonder how far back it’s use goes in my own family.  Who did it first?  How high up my family tree does it go?  What great great great grandparent found their power through dissociation?

And it does seem to be such a powerful thing, doesn’t it?  Taking your knife edged sword and severing the threads of a relationship.  To me it brings images of someone standing on one side of a rope bridge cutting the bonds one by one whilst someone else is forced to retreat; running to the safety of land. The swordsman turning his back on the chasm between them, appearing not to care as the other person aches to connect.  As if they weren’t lucky for having someone want to connect with them at all.  No.  That’s not considered.  It’s the power that is craved and displayed.

And yet I realize there are times when shunning is necessary.  Some people are too unhealthy or abusive to those around them.  Victims may find the shun to be an effective and completely understandable means of protection.  But that’s not what I’m writing about here.  I’m referring to it’s use as a means of conflict resolution.  And yet, what conflict does it really resolve?  It’s efforts are fruitless, with no real benefits to gain.  That is the lesson I learned from it’s practice.  I came out empty handed.  I gained no sense of control.  All I ended up with was long road of rope weaving needing to be redone.

I realize now that the one who shuns has no power at all.  They give it away with the act that they choose.  When you look up the word ‘shun’ in the Mirriam Webster Dictionary, it’s synonym is listed as ‘escape’.  To run away.  All the physiological responses I described; an increased pulse and adrenalin rush  are indicative of our natural instinct of fight or flight.  And the shunner chooses flight. Like an ostrich choosing to bury their head instead of courageously facing the uncertain outcome of the row.  It’s cowardly, not powerful.  Strength characterizing only the one left behind.  The one brave enough to stand firm, show pain and face that chasm.

I try to be the strong one now.  When I’m scared and reaching to my toolbox I still see the shun there, but I try to select something with more fortitude.  I’ve lived and I’ve learned and I know avoidance is weak.  Now I choose fight.  Standing at the chasm; my feet firmly planted and my sword firmly sheathed.  Knowing I care too much for my bridge to damage any of it’s threads.

This doesn’t mean I never find myself in the midst of a dispute or that I always come out on top.  But I’ve also learned that victory isn’t only defined by convincing someone to walk that rope bridge and come over to my ledge.  Sometimes it’s walking onto the bridge together and admiring the depth and breadth of the crevasse between us.  Together respecting, together understanding and together maintaining our bonds.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 hayley July 28, 2009 at 9:45 pm

hi carolyn, you have a beautiful blog. i’m also a child of divorce and now i have a blended family of my own. i related to what you wrote about shunning and resolution – especially when it comes to co-parenting. i really had no choice in the matter when it came to my ex-husband. i guess i could have shunned him – but since he was my son’s father, i chose not to. he was going to be in my life forever whether i liked it or not! we have a great relationship now.

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2 Carolyn July 29, 2009 at 9:53 am

Thank you Hayley. And welcome! I’m so glad to hear that you and your ex husband have been able to forge through your difficulties. My mom and I were talking just the other night about the difficulties of co-parenting. And how to do it well, one has to just do the right thing even if they don’t feel like doing it at the time. And that there is no place for being the martyr there. Just doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do. Pretty thankless, but as I’m sure you’re seeing, it reaps huge rewards as well…in your children. Thanks for commenting Hayley! With your experience, your input is quite valuable.

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3 Linda May 23, 2010 at 9:50 am

My step daughter uses the Shun method of NOT dealing with me, and I notice she has done it in the past whenever she doesn’t want to get involved an a conversation which could potentially bring up ANY feelings within her. She is doing it to her dad right now, because she doesn’t like me. And she is doing it to me AGAIN because of something I said (true statement of fact) in regards to a behavior of her mothers. She really has hurt both my husband and I. My husband raised her and her brother and pretty much since my husband married me, she has run to her mother with every little issue in our home, real or imagined. I am thinking of sending her this article. What do you think? I have always told her, I am here to talk, bring it and lets get it all out and move on.

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4 Linda May 23, 2010 at 1:40 pm

I should say, I wasn’t planning on sending it in a derogatory way. But with a note that says I am ready to talk things out whenever she is ready.

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5 Carolyn May 25, 2010 at 1:03 am

Hi Linda and welcome. My immediate answer to you is that I would love for you to send your stepdaughter this link. As a fellow child of divorce, I would love to read her thoughts and opinions about what she reads as well as read about her experiences and feelings. I try in everything that I do to make this place a safe haven for ACOD’s (adult children of divorce).

But since you asked for my opinion as well, I will get a little more in depth into your comment. But as I was writing my response, the comment was taking on monstrous proportions and I realized that it really was more of a post than a comment.

So what I’m going to do is write a post including your comment and my response. I’ll try to have it up in the next day or two. Thanks again for taking the time to comment Linda. I’m looking forward to completing your post.

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6 Linda May 25, 2010 at 7:25 am

Thank you for your response. Let me tell you about me. I am an adult child of divorced parents. I also brought a child to my marriage. I met my husband 9 years before we married. We waited until the tow oldest, my step daughter and my daughter were in college before we married. We still had my stepson for two years before he went to college. I am a very sensitive woman and can relate to many of the feelings that the kids have. My stepkids mom was pretty scarce to them and to my husband and I before we married. She only decided to be a mom when I moved in with them all. I was always very good to my step daughter. And of course I have been accused of trying to be their mom when they already have one. To that I say, I am a mom, and if I treat them any different than I treat my own daughter, then I am a bitch. So no way I can win. The mother has filled their minds with all kinds of poison…..things like I never did anything for them, that everything I ever did was to impress their dad. I am lost. I feel sick and depressed all the time as I have no way to defend myself and tell them that I am not at all what they have been told. The worst part is that their mother has a master’s degree in psychology and has done nothing to make their lives happy and safe and secure. She hurts them any time they have anything to do with my husband and I. And again, my husband raised them with me right by his side. Its really been hard on our marriage. Neither child will sit and talk with me about anything. I am at the end of my rope. My husband and I have been in marrige therapy over all the problems and I am in personal therapy. The flip side here, is, my daughter has a stepmom and because I want my daughter to be happy and secure in all her relationships, I promote respect for step mother. I get along fine with them. I want my daughter to be comfortable. Sorry…..I thought maybe you could offer me some advice on what if anything I could try to do here. Thanks so much.

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7 Carolyn May 25, 2010 at 9:20 pm

Thank you again Linda for sharing so much of yourself and for trusting me enough to ask my opinion. I promise that you won’t be vilified or judged here. We all have so much to learn from each other. I’m not sure I’ll have anything to add that’s more useful than the professional help you’ve already been seeking but I’ll do my best. The one thing I am sure of is that your openness *will* help others.

You see, your situation is more common than any of us would like to believe. In fact, although there are many stark contrasts, there are also many parallels between your situation and my own. I’ll even admit that until I got to the part in your original comment about your step daughter having a brother, I wondered if you were my own step mother leaving a comment about me. It will actually be nice for me to be able to look at your situation (one which I’m not embedded personally in) and give my thoughts. Being objective with regards to you and your step children may help me to see my own situation more objectively too.

Unfortunately Linda, I’m not going to be able to post tonight. I didn’t get much sleep last night and since I have to work tomorrow and Thursday, I’m going to venture that it will be Thurs night before it’s up. Sorry for the delay. As I’m sure you know all too well, being a working mom with two small children is so demanding at times! :)

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