A lot of people I know struggle with allowing conflict because they are so afraid of contention. It causes them to not show up as their true self, which can lead to trauma and just cause a lot of other secondary effects in their lives. On this episode, we talk about the difference between conflict and contention, why it’s helpful to understand it, and how to stay in healthy conflict. You’re gonna wanna listen to this one!
So let’s talk about the differences between these two. Let’s define them. Let’s talk about why we even want to know. So, first off, many of my clients are Enneagram Nines. This is the peacemaker personality type. And so they are often afraid of contention. And so afraid of contention because they have learned that contention is of the devil, avoid contention in all things, right?
Those kinds of messages that come to us from church leaders and, you know, scripture and things like that. And so they’re so afraid of contention that they avoid conflict altogether, which then leads them to shrinking and dishonoring themselves, their essential selves. And that’s a problem. This idea that we can’t be our full selves is the crux of the problem as I see it.
I think we have a need, inherently as humans, to be seen and heard and to be able to express ourselves. This is one of the reasons I have a podcast, because I love expressing myself. All of my thoughts and feelings about different things I’m learning about, about ways that I’m helping my clients, aha moments that I’ve had for myself.
I still have a very long list and I would love it if you would email me or come over to my social media. I’m on Instagram at Denita Bremer and tell me what you would love to hear more about. My email is Denita@denitabremer.com. I would genuinely love to know what you personally are struggling with that I can address here on the podcast because I have so many ideas that sometimes it’s really hard to narrow it down and I end up thinking about my clients or my family or myself.
Or just people that I have had conversations with to choose topics. But if you’re out there and there’s something that you really want me to talk about, please reach out. And I would be happy to do that. That, okay, back to what I was saying. I love having a podcast because it is a way that I get to express myself.
And I think that that is a need we all have. It doesn’t have to be that you express yourself verbally. Sometimes maybe you’re a musician or an artist of some kind, but we all have the need to express our essential selves. And when we don’t or can’t do this, that actually creates trauma in us or it can create trauma in us.
It doesn’t necessarily create trauma, but it can, it can be one of kind of the precursors or the perfect recipe for trauma. And the other thing is that if we don’t or can’t express ourselves or be our full selves in the world, we become more and more afraid of the things that we perceive coming from others that keep us small and quiet and our lives get smaller and smaller.
And that is not what I want for you. I want you to live a big, beautiful life. I think that is. where we have a fullness of joy. Okay. So we are encouraged to avoid contention. At least if you are a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints, that is a strong theme of teachings in our church.
Probably my guess is that it’s also strong in other Christian traditions. And I believe that if the Lord commands it, if it’s in scripture, if it comes from our prophets as an admonition or a commandment, then that means that there is a way to accomplish it. That’s just the definition. That’s just how it is.
And so. Inherent in that is the idea that contention is a choice. It’s something that we can all avoid when we learn how to do so. But I think it’s difficult to be able to follow through with that when we don’t understand. What contention actually is, and when we don’t have models, when we don’t have people who model a way to be with conflict without it turning into contention.
So that’s my story. I had parents that did not know how to be in conflict other than basically violence. I’m sure that’s not 100 percent sure. I’m sure there were times when they disagreed and they came to an agreement without violence. But there certainly was also a lot of violence in my household growing up.
And so it really just wasn’t modeled to me. How do you, how do you disagree? Well, right. And so if this, if you fall into that bucket, then please don’t blame yourself. This is a time for forgiveness and for learning and moving on from that. And I do also want to say here that That’s only one end, right? One end is conflict turns into contention with anger and frustration and violence.
The other end of the spectrum is where we avoid conflict at all costs. And maybe like you have parents that never fought in front of you. Maybe they kept it all behind bedroom doors or something like that. And that’s not healthy either because we need. To know how to deal in situations where someone disagrees with us, um, where we have a difference of opinion and we feel strongly, we know we need those models.
Okay. So let’s talk about definitions here. I define conflict as a difference with friction. And the reason I say with friction is because. For example, as parents, we can have a different point of view, but if there’s no friction, if there’s no, like. Well, we have to come to, we must come to an agreement on this or else, if it’s just like the example that my husband used when we were talking about this topic, as I was trying to figure out exactly, you know, what I wanted to say, um, he used the example that I don’t like blueberries and he loves blueberries.
So there’s a difference there. But there’s no friction because it doesn’t matter if he wants blueberries, then he can go get blueberries and eat them and I’ll just opt out, right? He doesn’t like try to force me to eat blueberries. And so there’s no friction. There’s no like I have to give or you have to give in this.
So there’s this element of conflict where there has to be sort of a coming to heads with it. Otherwise, it’s just like a difference of opinion. It’s just, it’s just a difference. And there are all kinds of differences in the world that don’t lead to conflict. I think contention the way I would define contention is dealing with conflict with anger or frustration or violence.
So it’s kind of like conflict. escalated where we infuse a lot of this anger emotion. It’s kind of how we resolve conflict. So conflict, as I’ve said before, is a normal part of life because we’re all human and we all have individual life experiences that form our worldview, our opinions. our desires, right?
And so inherent in all relationships is conflict. But contention is a choice. Like I’ve said, contention has this element of like this, this emotion, this emotionality, um, in a negative way, right? If we have conflict and then there’s joy infused into that conflict, I don’t think any of us would call that contention.
The way I’m seeing it. Is it sort of like a continuum with a difference on one end and then conflict, which is sort of like this, this turning point conflict can lead to creative solutions or it can lead to contention. So conflict is sort of where the fork in the road happens, where you have a choice of what kind of emotion you’re going to introduce into this difference.
in order to get to a resolution. Now, I think that what leads us to contention is when a division happens when it’s like me versus you or us versus them. And we’re no longer like on the same team. So that’s one, one difference between conflict and contention in my mind is that we can have conflict, but if we’re all on the same team working toward the same goal, then it’s not contention.
But if as soon as we kind of split into separate teams, like I said, this like me versus you, us versus them type of mentality, then we’re on the path to contention. And I think another thing that happens. Really frequently, I don’t want to say a hundred percent of the time is that we assign morality to yourself or to the other person, right?
So like I’m on the right team. And so I am better than you as a person because you’re wrong. So you’re not as good as me as a person. And this is what we see with racism and sexism and all the isms is where. We start to believe that the other is somehow morally not as good. And that’s where it’s really easy to introduce contention into this equation.
Okay. Let me just, where are we here? I wanted to talk about this continuum a little bit more, um, maybe even, I, I was, I was mentioning this continuum of difference to conflict to contention, but kind of erase that in your mind and think of a new continuum. And on one end, there’s violence and anger to resolve conflict.
And on the other end, there’s passivity and like almost like giving up our power or ourselves to avoid conflict. And we don’t want either one. We want to be in the middle to balance the paradox with what I’m calling healthy conflict. And I don’t know if that’s like an official term anywhere, but that’s just my term for it for this conversation.
We don’t want to. Overpower someone else. Um, like being in a position where we’re trying to force something on someone else, but we also don’t want to be underpowered. And we don’t talk about that a lot. We talk a lot about this idea of overpowering or being overpowered, like in politics or in a marriage relationship, having a one up or a one down position.
But we don’t really focus too often on the underpower part of that. And we don’t really want to be overpowered or underpowered. We want to see ourselves and have a mindset where we are equal, right? Where we are equally valid and honored and respected. So the paradox is in holding two seemingly opposite things together.
And I think this just happens a lot. I bring this up right here in this conversation because I think it happens a lot when we’re in conflict or contention with people. It’s really easy. The human in us, our egos want to be right and we want to be better and we want to have more power. So. To kind of ride that middle line where we’re neither overpowered nor underpowered and we see everyone as equal in power and on the same team, that is a really difficult thing to do sometimes.
And I will say it’s especially difficult if you have experienced trauma because it’s going to be very triggering. It’s going to bring up situations where you felt like you had no power. Where you felt hopeless or helpless and you were never able to like fully come out of that. We’re never able to fully resolve those feelings.
That’s why I’m talking about it here on this podcast because it’s such a common thing for people that have a history of trauma to struggle in this area, but I just want to say that there are paradoxes within each of us. We all have opposites like I am very introverted and yet I love talking to people on the surface.
You would think that those are opposites. And it would be difficult to be both, but I’m a living example of how this paradox can be held together within me. So I hope that makes sense about this idea of the continuum between like resolving conflict with violence or anger and then on the other side, resolving conflict by, you know, deferring or avoiding.
Neither one of those is a healthy way to resolve conflict. In fact, I would say neither one of those things actually resolves conflict. It just. sets the conflict aside for a while. And in order to truly resolve conflict in a creative way, we have to ride that middle line of honoring everyone in the situation, being on the same team, working toward the same goal.
And. Thinking creatively, believing that there is a solution available. It’s not black and white. Either I have to yield to you or you have to yield to me. There’s somewhere in the middle where we can both get a little bit of what we want and it can be for the best, highest good. Okay. So how can you be yourself?
and find a creative solution. Cause I think that’s what I notice in my clients is they’re sort of on the end of the continuum where they have to be quiet and small and they can’t be their full selves because they’re so scared of this idea of creating conflict or contention. So if that is you, I want to encourage you and give you permission to be in conflict because it is healthy and good.
And now you’ll know a little bit about. How to be careful to not allow that conflict to turn into contention, but now it becomes about, okay, I have this permission to be my full self and to even be in conflict, even though that’s going to be scary is going to maybe feel not great, but how do we do that?
How do we be a full expression of ourselves and find creative solutions? First of all, I want to just say the fuller. The more of yourself, the easier it is to find creative solutions. And then I will also add that sometimes this includes yielding. Sometimes as you converse and wrestle with whatever the conflict is with the other person, I’m thinking, I typically see this for myself in like marriage or with my kids.
Um, but it could be in a work situation. It could be with God. I’ve had lots of wrestles with God. Sometimes it includes yielding. Sometimes you start to hear the other person’s point of view and they have really valid points and you start to feel like, hmm, that is a really good point. Maybe we should try it your way.
It doesn’t mean that you’re, you are wrong for doing that. It just means that you have gained more information and you are experimenting in this direction. I just really want to reiterate this point that when we lose ourselves, when we lose our identities or choose to give them up for the sake of quote unquote, keeping the peace, we lose our agency.
We can’t have choice when we extract ourselves from. The equation. And when we try to overpower, cause I do see this as well in some of my clients where they really, really feel like they’re right. And they’re the one up and they try to overpower or force or control a situation. That’s when we tend to lose our connection with love.
And so we don’t want to give up either of those things. We want to hold this paradox of being our full selves. in love or from love in order to find creative solutions to conflicts. When we can return what is needed instead of what is deserved, or instead of Giving someone back what they gave to you.
That is when we are being true peacemakers. And the way I think of this is, for example, I have a 15 year old son and he can get really snippy, especially with his mama who loves him a lot, but he’s learning to be his own person, especially without his mom. And I will just be honest and tell you that sometimes it’s painful.
I, he’s always been kind of my little boy. He’s not little by any means. Um, but it’s, it’s a learning curve for me to, to allow that relationship to morph into something new. And I can sometimes get frustrated by his attitude toward me. And I can. Kind of give him the snippy back, right? I can be, I can be like, well, if you’re just gonna be all rude to me, then I’m gonna be rude back to you.
But a few weeks ago I heard myself saying something to a client and it has been ringing in my head ever since, which is when. Someone can give us some negativity. I’m just going to couch it as negativity and we return to them love. That is when we are true peacemakers, right? We take in the negative, we metabolize it, we can withstand it and we decide that’s not who I am and I give back love anyway.
This makes me think of when Christ says to turn the other cheek. It’s like, if they’re going to do that to you, then you just take it, but you stay in love and in peace and in confidence of who you are. And I just, I love that idea so much. It is much harder in practice, of course, like everything, but I love that.
Thinking of peacemaking in that way, where we can take a negative and just rude or whatever you want to think of that from other people. And we don’t give it back because that’s not who we want to be. Okay. I wanted to mention one last thing. And by the way, in my preparation for this episode, I came across three different sites.
That I thought were really, really useful. One of them includes a podcast episode on the all in podcast. It was super good, super compelling, and I will link to all of those in the show notes. Highly recommend that you go and read these links if this is something that you struggle with or something that you just want to learn more about.
Um, And I found in one of these sites, it’s an article on the church site, church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints and articles by Holly Hudson about like, how do we do this? How do we stay in conflict and move toward creative solutions instead of sliding into contention? And there were four points that I thought were really good.
I’m there’s much more on the site. So please, if you’re interested. Go look at the show notes and click over to that site. But here are the four points, um, summarized and a little bit of my thoughts with them. The first one is don’t avoid conflict. So if you are conflict averse, I just want to encourage you to move toward conflict in little ways to start to believe that conflict is not bad unless remember, unless you.
create divisions or unless anger, frustration, violence is introduced, right? You can be in conflict and it’s necessary and good. And that’s how we grow. And that’s where we find creative solutions. So don’t avoid it. Number two is remember that there are always two sides to every conflict, or I would add.
oftentimes more than two sides. Your opinion, your point of view is not the only one. Number three is to explain your position, but stay kind and loving. And one thing I want to add to this is to just notice when you’re in discussion, how your body is reacting. And it’s really difficult for someone to argue with.
When you say that I tense up and I want to push you away. They can’t say, no, you don’t. Right. Because they’re not in your body. And so kind of being matter of fact is really, really helpful. And I like to just encourage you to, um, vocalize or express what’s happening in your body, right? Even if it’s like, when you say that, I feel excitement.
I think just a little side note here, this is what I do with bearing testimony. If someone say it says, you can’t prove that there’s a God, I’m like, I agree with them. No, you’re right. I cannot prove that there’s a God. But when I think about God, I feel peace and love and warmth and relaxation. And it’s really hard to argue with telling someone how they feel and how they don’t feel.
So I like using that as a really concrete tip is to explain your position, but stay kind and loving and vocalize your feelings. And then the last number four is consider your end goal. Why does this conflict matter to you? What are you working toward? Are you just trying to be right? Are you trying to prove a point?
Maybe those aren’t the best reasons to be in conflict. Or are you wanting to speak up for people that don’t have a voice? Are you Um, coming from love and compassion for someone, those maybe are a little bit better reasons. And there are going to be reasons that you like and reasons that you don’t like, and it will make the biggest difference if you are actively in a conflict and you realize.
This is going nowhere and I don’t actually really care about it. It’s super easy to just be like, you know what? I don’t want to talk about this anymore. Or you’re right. Or we will just agree to disagree kind of thing that it’s just a way to kind of take our ego out, out of the situation. All right. That is what I have for you.
Um, just a quick little recap here. If you. If you are scared of conflict because it’s next door neighbors to contention in your head, I want to give you permission to move toward conflict. You can still avoid contention when you refuse to go toward anger and frustration and violence when you refuse to make moral judgments about other people.
And when you refuse to create divisions, if you stay on the same team, it’s going to be really hard to create contention. Um, conflict is a normal part of life. Contention is a choice. Yeah, just really good stuff, right? I would love to hear from you. If you have any questions, I’m happy to answer them or just be in conversation with you as, as you hash this out and you know, this is, these are just my opinions about these words and how to live them.
So Thank If there’s anything here that doesn’t feel right to you or doesn’t work for you, then full permission to just ignore that. Uh, like I mentioned earlier, uh, there will be some links in the show notes from some of the articles and a podcast that I listened to in preparation that I thought were really, really useful, uh, resources.
So I encourage you to check those out. Okay, can I just take a moment to talk to you about my current invitations? I am doing another workshop. I’m calling it Parenting with Presence, Friday, October 13th. So that’s this coming Friday after this podcast drops, and it’s going to be at 10 a. m. Mountain Time.
And we’re going to talk about something I hear from so many people is I just want to be a more present parent. But I don’t hear a lot of people talking about how they do that. So I have five. Tips for you, like practical practices for you to increase your presence as a parent. Honestly, this applies to all relationships, but I’m just gearing this presentation, this workshop toward parenting.
And I would love, love, love for you to join me Friday, October 13th, 10 AM. This will also be in the show notes and I will. Leave a link there for you to sign up and I’ll, as soon as you sign up, you’ll get an email with the zoom information and all of that. Everything you need to know. There will be a replay if you can’t make it because I understand it’s not super long notice here.
Um, and I just would love for you to come and learn. I will be talking about my program presence. The doors to presence are open right now. So I want to invite you in. If you love this podcast, I think that you would love being involved in presence. And then lastly. Slingshot. Last week, I talked about slingshot, which is a new little group that I’m putting together for brand new coaches who want to learn how to coach in a holistic way and want coaching mentorship and business mentorship.
This is specifically for newer coaches because I don’t consider myself an expert marketer or business person in any means. But in my five years of coaching, I have learned some things. I have some experience with different technologies and what has worked for people and all of that. So my. My hope for those that joined slingshot, and there’s only five spots and three of them are taken.
So I only have two spots left for slingshot. We start November 1st. So please, if this interests you at all, if you like my style here on the podcast, and you are a coach or you want to be a coach, this is for you. So come reach out. I’ll put the link in the show notes for that as well. And then I just lastly want to say, because I realized the other day, I only have four one on one coaching spots between now and the end of the year.
So if you want one of those spots, I would encourage you to sign up for a free session. Again, link in the show notes, lots of links this week. I am just feeling so on fire and excited about my business and the work that I do in the world in helping people to regulate their nervous system, to heal from trauma, to be more present in their lives.
And if that is what you want, I invite you to come check out what I have for you. That’s enough for now. And so are you.