DEALING WITH CONFLICT THROUGH MINDFULNESS by Kathryn Lovewell
Yesterday, 18th October, was National Conflict Resolution day. I’ve never been very good at dealing with my personal conflicts. I’ve always done my best to smooth things over with friends or colleagues and avoid conflict at home or work, even if it wasn’t necessarily in my own best interest.
I have worked in many volatile places – a failing secondary boy’s school where fights broke out regularly; a juvenile women’s prison where violent verbal outbursts were prevalent and a high security men’s prison where the tension between prison officers, education staff and inmates was often excruciatingly strained. Curiously, in all instances I always successfully created peaceful environments to ‘hold’ the difficult situations, support those in conflict and assist anyone involved with kindness and empathy.
However, it has been an entirely different story when it came to me and my big, bad Self! The incessant arguments in my own head about how I shouldhave done something, didn’t do something, shouldhave done it better. The crippling critical sniping at myself as to how I shouldbe smarter, not be such a clumsy oaf, stop being so stupid; that I shouldtry harder, do better and stop making excuses… The internal racket in my head was often so violent, it would often stop me in my tracks or knock me sideways, as if I had literally been punched, slapped and beaten up.
Do you beat yourself up? Do you berate yourself for being weak, lazy or irritable? Do you have a critical voice that tells you are no good, not good enough and should be different? Are you kind and patient, supportive and loving to your friends, but mean to yourself? Well, you’re not alone. Research by Kristin Neff, world leading expert on Mindful Self-Compassion, demonstrates that over three quarters of the population are significantly kinder to others than they are themselves!
Up until I learnt Mindful Self-Compassion I was undoubtedly one of the 78%. I was (and still am) a generous, warm-hearted, kind and compassionate person; supportive of my friends, clients and colleagues. Sadly I had not allowed myself to receive this innate kindness for myself. Somewhere along the way I was seeking permission and I didn’t know how to receive it. So any difficult emotions; frustration, anger, resentment, that I didn’t want to express outwardly got stuffed inside. Needless to say, it wasn’t very pleasant. The prolonged internal conflict made me physically sick and left me mentally chaotic and emotionally depleted.
Mindful Self-Compassion showed me a new way. MSC gave me practical, self-resiliency tools to soothe my critical voice and taught me to cultivate a compassionate voice. MSC is a gentle, tender resource that guides each willing heart to a kinder way of being. It encourages slow learning, so that we can gradually melt the critical voice with kindness and compassion. We move toward difficult emotions with patience and tenderness. We learn to let go of judgement about these ‘hard’ emotions and become curious as to what is beneath – usually many softer emotions like sadness and disappointment and unmet needs. The need to belong, the need to be loved, the need to feel safe may all underlie these painful harsh emotions showing up on the surface. MSC guides us gently to befriend whatever arises and to meet it with the same kindness we would a best friend who was suffering in the same way.
I believe, at the heart of conflict resolution is the ability to ‘be with’, to accept and have compassion for what is. The best place to start is with oneself. With gentle heart-opening willingness; appreciation of suffering and the ability to bring a little self-kindness to one’s human imperfections, one can move more easily towards others and soften around the edges of theirhuman flaws and reactive behaviours.
If you are facing a battle – be it internal or external – Mindful Self-Compassion can help you cultivate life-changing skills to meet the perceived ‘war’ with kindness, patience and compassion so that you can melt the difficulty with a friendly, mindful approach and a balanced awareness. If you would like to radically change your inner landscape, MSC, (with regular practice) will provide the transformation you are seeking. And my experience is, that over time, it will also guide you to befriend even the most difficult situations and help meet conflict with kindness and strength; embodying both the Yin and Yang of Mindful Self-Compassion.
Certified Mindful Self-Compassion Teacher
Mindful Self-Compassion Teacher for Teens and Young Adults
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