A Simple 5-Step Process for Finding Peace in Times of Conflict

Relaxation

“Practice the pause. Pause before judging. Pause before assuming. Pause before accusing. Pause whenever you’re about to react harshly and you’ll avoid doing and saying things you’ll later regret.” ~Lori Deschene

Ever feel like you are living a life of chaos? Are you feeling overwhelmed and frustrated over these crazy past two years? When difficult things happen or conflict arises, it can be hard to feel peace. Our primitive brain’s fight-or-flight system may sense fear, anger, hurt, or embarrassment. All those emotions may cause our brain to want to automatically respond by fighting, saying mean, hurtful things; or fleeing, escaping by turning inward and blaming ourselves for the whole situation.

Either coping strategy has its consequences. Fighting may cause hurt and harm to a relationship that is important to us, and fleeing can cause damage to our own heart and soul.

Let’s talk about a better way.

I’ve created a five-step process that can help you manage your mind, master your emotions, and feel more peace in the midst of conflict. When you feel overwhelming emotion and you’re tempted to react impulsively:

  1. Stop and pause.
  2. Label the emotion.
  3. Lean in with curiosity.
  4. Practice compassion.
  5. Practice acceptance.

Stop and Pause

We can learn to respond to conflict and hard times in a way that contributes to harmony, connection, and peace.

When we react immediately with volatile emotions of anger, hurt, or frustration, we are reacting from our primitive brain. This is the part of the brain in charge of taking care of us and keeping us safe. The primitive brain triggers the fight-or-flight response in situations where we may feel hurt, upset, or threatened.

When we stop and pause, we allow those thoughts and feelings to catch up to our frontal brain, or our rational brain. Our rational brain is more logical and sound.

Pausing allows us to feel the emotion and then interpret it. It also allows our logical brain to determine how we are perceiving the information or situation. This pause allows us to show up in a situation with calmness.

During the pause, our rational brain can do a couple of things.

1. Label the emotion.

Breathe and allow yourself to feel the emotions triggered by your primitive brain. Then label or name the emotion. I’m feeling angry. I’m feeling anxious. I’m feeling impatient. This helps you to investigate the emotion more objectively and takes away some of its power.

Labeling and naming the emotions also allows acceptance and gives you time and space to feel the emotion.

2. Lean in with curiosity.

Next, investigate the emotions. Lean in with curiosity and non-judgment.

What is causing the most pain?

Ask yourself:

  • What are my thoughts about what is happening and why?
  • Could there be another explanation?

When we sit in a place of wonder and curiosity, we learn more about ourselves.

Here is an example from a time this week when my emotions came out fighting and I had to sit in wonder and curiosity.

My husband and I were meeting friends for brunch at 10:15. At 9:45 I was ready to go, and my husband still wanted to take a shower. I automatically got that panicky feeling and started yelling at him.

I really hate to be late for things, it actually makes me feel physically ill. If it is my choice, I am going to arrive at least fifteen minutes early. I turn in assignments for work or school early. I arrive at work early. If I am meeting a friend for lunch, I get there a little early.

When I feel like I am going to be late, my chest gets tight, I get sick to my stomach, my respiratory and heart rates increase, and I can get really nasty to my loved ones if I feel they are making me late.

My primitive brain is definitely in fight-or-flight mode and is working out of fear, overwhelm, and frustration.

My husband is the exact opposite. He believes that getting somewhere early is a waste of time. He literally counts his minutes, and if he has tracked it to be a ten-minute drive, he is only going to give himself ten minutes. He does not like to sit at the airport, he would prefer to time it just right so he almost walks on the plane. He feels he works best under pressure and will never start an assignment for work or school early, because he feels he does better work at the last minute.

When my husband told me at 9:45 he wanted to take a shower before we left, I went into panic mode, and the emotions came flooding out with nasty words and harshness. The familiar response or pathway in my brain, that I have used for so long, fired up in nothing flat.

I had to stop and pause so I could think.

I had to breathe.

While my husband was in the shower, I had a few minutes to be curious and sit without judgment. I recognized feelings of hurt, anger, fear, and frustration and labeled them. Then came the next step.

Practice Compassion

The story I was telling myself about being late was full of many “what if’s” and worst-case scenarios. These scenarios and stories did not bring me peace. I had to stop and take control of my thoughts and my emotions.

My brain was in judgment mode. I wanted to say my way is right, my way is better. But in reality, we both get things done. We both get to the places we need to be; we are both successful at our jobs.

I had to show compassion to myself and my husband.

I acknowledged feelings of suffering, frustration, hurt, and anger. I recognized that these feelings are unpleasant, and that is okay. I reminded myself that everyone has these feelings from time to time. These are human feelings, and we are all human.

I was able to show compassion and use some positive self-talk as I began to use my frontal rational brain. Research has shown that when you talk to yourself in the third person you actually trigger the pathways in your brain that help you feel cared for, loved, and accepted. After we do this, we can move on to the next step.

Practice Acceptance

Learning to accept the things that are out of your control can bring you peace. For me, that meant accepting my thoughts and feelings about being late and accepting that my husband does things differently.

When we fight against the things we cannot change, it’s frustrating. When we resist our circumstances or situations or events, we create suffering and grief.

If we want to feel peace, we have to practice managing our emotions. We have to train our brain to stop and pause for a minute, and let our rational brain take over so that we can show up how we want to show up in this world.

I don’t want to be that crazy lady who is always uptight, yelling at everyone to hurry up or we are going to be late. I don’t want to feel that anxiety and panic and react in a way that I will regret later.

I want to respond calmly and respectfully, but, this takes practice.

It means taking the time to:

  1. Stop and pause.
  2. Label the emotion.
  3. Lean in with curiosity.
  4. Practice compassion.
  5. Practice acceptance.

There are lots of ways I could have handled this situation, but first I had to recognize my own emotions, my own thought patterns, and focus on what I want most. And what I want most is a good relationship with my husband. I want to feel love and peace.

How about you?

About Peggy Moore

Peggy Moore has over twenty-five years’ experience in the healthcare industry, twenty years as a critical care nurse and five as a public health nurse. She has a bachelor’s in nursing and a master’s in psychology and addiction counseling.  She is a certified professional coach with Discover Your Personal Power Coaching.

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