A prospective client asked me an interesting question during a recent Get Acquainted Call. She wanted to know, if we worked together and she changed all the things she wanted to change about herself, how that would affect her relationship with other people (especially her husband)? As a conflict avoider (her words), the idea of creating more conflict was not something that she relished.
I can feel every bit of struggle behind that question – in large part because I’ve been there too. Here’s what I’ve learned in response:
By working on yourself, you not only help yourself change – you help others around you change without even trying.
How is this true? We form our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors through on interactions between us and our outside world, including the people in it. Our brains are designed to work in response to the world around us, which supports the spiritual idea that we came here to interact with others, not be isolated.
Just as this is true for you, it’s also true for the other people around you. Therefore, as you heal or grow in some way that changes your behavior, it forces them to create new responses.
Let’s play with a scenario to see this in action:
Original scenario, before healing: Person A and Person B live together. Person A likes to sit down and watch TV after getting home from work; it’s how Person A unwinds from a long day of hard work. But this habit is upsetting to Person B, who knows that there’s dinner to make and a house to maintain and wants some help with it all. This repeating pattern builds up resentment that causes Person B to lash out or complain as soon as Person A grabs the remote. In response, Person A angrily takes a stand for having a little bit of downtime after a full day before hitting the grind again at home. Every time this argument happens, it adds one more brick to a wall of resentment that stands before them and blocks the love that flows between them.
Post-healing Scenario: Let’s say that Person B, at wit’s end and about ready to leave the relationship, chooses instead to read a book, take a class, or work with a healer. This work helps Person B let go of the resentment that had built between them.
The next time that Person A comes home and flops on the couch, Person B not only doesn’t lash out but feels inspired to prepare a snack for Person A to enjoy while couch-surfing.
Even though Person A’s initial behavior was exactly the same, Person B responded quite differently – both inwardly and outwardly. Because Person B didn’t get angry, that also avoided Person A’s usual defensive response. Think for a moment about how that impacts the present moment and has ripple effects forward in the relationship: This time they didn’t add a brick to the wall of resentment, plus Person B’s generous gesture created positive feelings that removed one or two of the existing bricks.
The key to this scenario is that Person B changed in a positive way. In your real-life healing work you’ll also be making positive changes, e.g., holding less resentment toward your Person A, or feeling fewer negative obligations toward others. As you heal you will automatically stop feeding as much negative energy into your relationships; this inevitably will force all the Person A’s in your life to create new responses (i.e., thoughts, feelings, and behaviors).
In full disclosure, there may be an interim period of conflict with others in your life. Some people don’t deal well with change and cling to routines, even if they’re unpleasant ones. Tiny changes rock their world, and being treated nicely after feeling resented for so long might make them suspicious. If you have one of these people your life you may experience a rocky period – but keep in mind that because you’ll have already started your healing, the new conflict is going to be much easier for you to handle than what’s coming up currently in your life. You’ll have less attachment to the conflict and more inner tools to deal with it.
But in the end, if you are bringing more positive behaviors to a relationship, then the end result of the changes must be positive. As long as you keep in mind that you can’t control how the other person responds or whether that person follows your path with you, you’ll find that conflict can’t exist where you are no longer contributing to it.