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  • Shannon Johnson

Moving Through Relationship Conflict to Find the Sunshine

I know, I know. I can never seem to write a blog without visuals. You may be wondering what I mean by sunshine. It is my personal belief that nothing feels more healing than the sun. I have even gone as far as buying a hard top convertible in Idaho Falls, Idaho in order to try and capture as many rays as possible. When my neighbor was helping me push Ruby, yes, my car has a name, through a snowdrift in February, he asked if I was in denial about where I live.....lol! So, for this topic, I want you to envision the sun as a source of healing. Under all conflict, there is meaning, and once we understand the meaning, we can move towards greater connection.


For the last couple of years, I have been pondering on a quote by Rumi. “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” So many of us go out and seek love, when in actuality as individuals we have a difficult time truly giving and receiving love. Then, we tend to blame others and the outside world for not being able to experience the kind of love we are looking for.


So what are these barriers that Rumi speaks about? As a child, we are a sponge. During our first 10 or so years of life, we are developing our sense of self, and the sense of the world around us. If we are in a safe and healthy environment, we tend to come out of childhood fairly confident and trusting of others. However, because we all live in an imperfect world, no one leaves childhood without fear of being unworthy of love.


If there is trauma in childhood, or the adults in your life were not able to show up like you needed, or you felt the world was unsafe, or you lost trust in others, you will enter adult relationships with significant internal barriers. Maybe you fear abandonment or rejection. Maybe you don't truly trust others and will not let people get too close. Maybe you feel no one ever really sees or hears you. Maybe you believe the world is a dangerous place. These fears come in all different shapes and sizes.


All of these underlying fears tend to be what trigger conflict in our relationships. On the surface, we may be fighting over the garbage. But underneath, we fear that no one really sees our need for support. And let’s be real, if you are parenting a teen, that is probably a valid fear. However, in healthy adult relationships, we need to learn to trust that our person does want to support us. They just may not cue into the garbage overflowing.


The interesting part of these underlying beliefs and fears is many of them must be healed individually. If someone truly believes they are not worthy of love, their person can try many avenues of showing affection, and that person won’t feel it. Instead, he or she spends a lot of time data collecting on all the negative. Often, this person will leave a relationship to look for something better. If a person does not trust that people stay, fear of abandonment, they will unknowingly push people away. He or she will threaten to leave or accuse their person of leaving. This pattern often leads to abandonment.


In order to have a thriving relationship, we, as individuals, must gain insight into our underlying belief system, and work to shift them. So much of the work we do with couples is targeting some of the individual underlying beliefs that are causing dysfunction in the relationship.


Are you wondering what some of your underlying beliefs might be? Think back to a time where you felt really triggered by your person. You were in a fight, and you ended up in stress response. What do you feel and fear in those moments? And I am not just talking about anger....lol! I am talking about the fear underneath. Do you fear they will leave? Do you fear you will never be seen? Do you fear that you will lose your independence? My personal favorite is failure. If I get really upset in any realm of my life, I tend to start thinking about how I am a failure.


Once you have identified your theme, you have the power to heal that barrier. I have worked a lot on my fear of failure over the last few years. Normalizing that no one is perfect. Understanding why I hold myself to unrelenting standards. Learning breathing practices that help me calm when it starts to bubble up. This has helped me to not push away loved ones when my fear starts to rise.


Absolutely all of us have built barriers to love, and it is amazing when we are able to identify and work on healing those beliefs, we start to let in the sunshine.


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