Photo by Melissa Farlow
Those three phrases (or some variation of) are:
- That hurt my feelings
- I’m terrified
- I don’t know.
Here’s my theory:
All wars are conflicts — between people or within yourself. Wars or conflicts begin when we suppress or deny:
Denying pain, fear, and/or ignorance means we are denying reality; we’re denying the truth.
Scan your life. Think about all the fights you’ve been in, the beefs, the misunderstandings, the areas where you’re stuck, your addictions and self-destructive patterns. Wouldn’t they be resolved or be resolved more quickly if you just admitted how much pain you’re in? How frightened you are? How you don’t know something or are confused or need more information?
What did you do instead? You probably denied your pain, fear and ignorance or uncertainty. You probably got defensive and attacked someone or yourself and created a bigger problem.
A lot of time and money spent on therapy and self-help products could be saved, grudges avoided, think pieces and op-eds and diary entries not written, holes not dug, and meaningless wars not waged if we all admitted the three things we’re all conditioned not to admit. So simple and so difficult at the same time.
It’s hard, which is why no one does it. But so is war. War is so wearying.
You don’t even have to say these things to another person, although I do recommend it. Say them to yourself. Sit with the discomfort. Start there and if you’re brave, say it to someone else. Notice their reaction.
At the very least, notice the wars other people are in. Read the subtext, the feelings, underneath what they say or write or do. Notice how the tension and heat of the situation ratchets up because they haven’t said one of those phrases. Notice how out of control it gets because of it. Imagine how different the situation would have played out if they had.
Case study: The Nicki Minaj/Taylor Swift “Twitter feud”. It’s so ridiculous and I care so little about it that I don’t want to waste too much space on it, but here’s a summary with subtext in italics:
Nicki Minaj: My video should have been nominated for a video music award for various reasons! (That hurt my feelings.)
Taylor Swift: Whaat?? Why you gotta attack me? Girl Power! (I don’t have enough information but my feelings are hurt anyway.)
Thus begins TwitterWar2015. And not just between them. Between their fans, between races, between feminists. Read more here if you’re interested.
All wars, including this ridiculous one, can be avoided altogether by not saying anything at all.
You don’t have to write that email, text or tweet. You don’t have to have the confrontation. You don’t have to let someone know how you feel or what you think. You don’t have to defend yourself. You don’t even have to say anything to yourself.
Sometimes the best thing to do is be still and be silent. Sometimes knowing you have a choice is enough. Sometimes knowing that your peace and safety lie in your defencelessness is enough.
I know it’s hard. Believe me, I know. But,
“Making peace is harder than making war.” — Adlai Stevenson