I was out for a walk this morning, and had what felt like a confrontation. It went well, but I felt awful afterwards, and that got me thinking…
My confrontation this morning was with a stranger, it went well – in the sense we both understood each other and reached a kind of agreement, and I was clear about what my opinion was without being rude. While it was happening, I felt calm and was able to make eye contact and smile, and to listen to them.
But as I walked away from this conversation, I was aware that I felt bad: heavy and uncomfortable physically, a bit tearful, a bit panicky, a childlike feeling of wanting to just go home and hide. And at the same time, I was curious about all this. Intellectually, I knew the conversation had gone well, I hadn’t said or done anything to feel ashamed of, and I didn’t have a sense that I had enraged or upset the other person. But physically and emotionally, it certainly didn’t feel like it had gone well.
I carried on my walk, feeling around these feelings and wondering what was going on. And part of that wondering was around how typical this experience is. I know confrontation is very difficult for a lot of us, and some of us will prioritise avoiding confrontation in a way we really rather wouldn’t. So I’m thinking about the experience of unpleasant confrontations, and also about the experience of having feelings take me by surprise.
We can explore what’s around for us about confrontation – you can do this yourself journalling, or in conversation with friends, or in counselling with a therapist. Thus we might know why we don’t like it – are we reminded of confrontations in the past? have we learnt some rules around who is allowed to speak up and who isn’t? do we struggle with self confidence? is it all confrontations we don’t like, or only particular ones?Exploring what is going on and gaining a better understanding of ourselves can be really helpful intellectually, and can give us insight into our feelings. We might then be able to pay attention to those feelings, and understand what’s going on.
But then what to do with those sometimes horrible feelings? Maybe we don’t have to do anything with them but acknowledge them, and speak to ourselves kindly about them. Working with a therapist in counselling can be a good place to share these feelings, and to practice that internal self compassion.
Perhaps something I can take from my experience with confrontation today is that, while I can handle them in the moment, I might also expect to feel some feelings afterwards. The best thing for me to do then is to approach myself gently and kindly. I wonder if we all have certain soft spots inside. We can do a lot of personal development work on these soft spots, and get to know them really well, but this won’t necessarily protect us from feeling tender when our soft spots are touched.
If you are thinking about a soft spot you would like to explore in a safe place, seeking out a counsellor might be something worth doing. Good luck.