There is a difference between conflict resolution and Caring Communication. This distinction turns out to be a key for unlocking resentment, the destroyer of intimacy.
Most of us carry within our hearts some resentments about other people – especially about our closest friends and colleagues – and almost none of us rid ourselves of these resentments. Either we don’t know how to get rid of resentments, or we don’t want to.
If you do not want to get rid of a resentment, that is understandable. Resentment comes from an unfulfilled expectation. The Box’s displeasure at having its expectation unfulfilled is justification enough to protect itself against having another expectation ignored by the same person again; therefore, the resentment.
It is logical to think that your resentment will never dissolve until the other person changes their behavior. But the other person’s behavior is measured against your own expectation of how they should have behaved. So your resentment can actually only dissolve when you dismantle yourown expectation.
But your resentment is justified! The conflict is the other person’s fault. After all, they disrespected your expectation. To you there is a conflict between what you expected and what they did. Wishing to resolve your resentment you might first think of using conflict resolution techniques: things like mediation, discussion, compromise, negotiation. Or, if you are avant-garde, you might try some form of brainstorming. But neither conflict resolution nor brainstorming techniques will create satisfactory results. This is because dissolving resentment is neither cerebral nor strategic; it is visceral and happens through surrendering the Box’s entire game. No negotiations are possible. Dissolving resentment is total capitulation.
From the Box’s perspective, dissolving resentment is certain death. The Box / Gremlin loves resentment because then it can square off against a clearly identified enemy. All of your Box’s familiar defense mechanisms jump into active mode and have permission to do whatever it takes to protect you from this evil adversary. Bye, bye relationship. Hello war.
Dissolving resentment involves you taking radical responsibility for creating the resentment in the first place. How did you do that?
Your resentment comes after feeling betrayed. Your resentment’s contains fear about being betrayed by this same person again. Your resentment contains emotional anger so as to 'protect' you from ever being betrayed by this person again. Does the resentment accomplish these objectives? No. What objective does resentment fulfill? Providing Gremlin food.
You felt betrayed when your expectation was unfulfilled.
Your expectation was based on an assumption.
You assumed that your assumption was correct.
But that was merely another assumption you made.
Anybody can assume anything about anything.
You assumed something about this other person that was obviously not true, or they would have behaved differently and you would not have been offended.
It is possible to interact using Caring Communication in which you make no assumptions.
Start by identifying the assumption(s) you made. For example, I assumed they would / would not do that. I assumed they would keep their promise. I assumed that by now they would know this about me. I assumed that they sense how I feel. I assumed they were aware of this already.
Now assume that your assumptions are wrong. Assume that what you thought was true is not actually true.
Take it one step further. Find the purpose behind why you made your assumptions.
Find out if your Box made assumptions in order to build resentments with the other person so as to block the possibility of intimacy with them. Consider that your Box strategically concocts such conflicts in order to retain its unquestioned authority in your life.
Through taking radical responsibility for having created your assumptions and expectations you find perhaps the only effective way to vanish your resentment: to admit your woundedness through Caring Communication.
Caring Communication is the procedure whereby you step sideways, away from your resentment and you admit your woundedness. You get off your position of being right. You dive down towards hitting bottom through vulnerably revealing your innermost feelings of fear, sadness, and anger, whatever is driving you to try to avoid intimacy.
Caring Communication means you tell these stories even if you look unprofessional, immature, stupid, silly, weak or childish; even if it proves you are a failure or an idiot.
While you tell your stories, the other person listens to you and says nothing except to deliver a few Completion Loops to show that they have heard and compassionately understand how it is for you. The listener asks no questions and gives no justifications, analysis, rescuing or suggestions. There is listening, acceptance, and respect.
Carrying a resentment is like carrying a stinking bucket full of shit rotting you from the inside out. There is no defense for this. If you have resentment, you have no dignity.
It would have been easier to share your feelings, lose face, be liquid, and look bad when your feelings were fresh. Now they old and infecting your whole system. Through your own weakness you still carry them with you. You have sacrificed intimacy in order to carry resentment. It is time to admit this.
If someone wants to be with you, what they get instead is this bucket of festering emotions. You cover it over with a show of being offended, an intellectual concept of being right. Clearing your resentment starts with letting your mask fall off and standing with both feet in your self-made bucket of emotional shit. Start with: “I don’t know…”
Your intellect is impervious to almost everything but you. Between you and life is your intellect. To get some air you can drill holes through the brick wall of your intellect by revealing confusions. By drilling enough holes the wall can crumble from the inside and life can gush in. It is not that the intellectual construct is negative or bad – it is simply false. Someone actually wants to be with you and you only offer them reasons and concepts from your mind?
That’s the great thing with relationships – there is a living human being who wants to be with the you that is alive and true, no matter what the thing you call ‘you’ knows! The living part does not fit into your intellect – it is to fluidic and volatile. Almost no part of relationship happens in the intellect. If you want closeness, learn to put your intellect aside. To do this, you need the courage to not know who you are. Again, start with: “I don’t know…”
Your mind has learned to think your feelings away. Now learn to stop doing that. Let your mind be completely overwhelmed with the swirling abundance of feelings that is present in your body. Then admit that you are so wounded that you would rather be in resentment than in vulnerable contact with another human being.
Your task is to keep going deeper and to share how that is for you. Communicate just as it is, making no sense, in full embarrassment, without explanation, without trying to package your communication to make it understandable. It does not have to be understandable. Admit defeat; crumble into the Liquid State; hit bottom and stay there without knowing how. Share your pain; unmask your mechanicality and your helplessness; permit yourself to be known.
When the other person lets in what you have revealed about your wounded state, the original communication that you had previously imprisoned behind your resentment is finally expressed, heard, and completed. The message has been received. There is no more energetic charge between the two of you. In this moment a miracle happens. What had only a few moments before seemed to be a solid conflict, mysteriously resolves itself without the actual conflict being addressed at all. This is the transformational power of awareness. Respect this moment. Notice the shift. Do not rush through it. The true cause of the conflict has been dissipated through re-establishing intimacy with ‘Caring Communication’. Often the listener says nothing at all to complete the process. The quality of being with and spacious listening are alone sufficient.