I suffer from an affliction called Conflict Aversion, also known as the Ostrich Syndrome, though I believe it’s been scientifically proven that ostriches don’t really bury their head in the sand. It is an inherited gene which I received directly from my mother, who in all likelihood inherited it from her mother as well. A conflict averse person like myself will do almost anything to avoid a conflict, allowing the other person to get away with a great deal.
The nice thing about being conflict averse is that since I never start (or continue) any arguments people tend to like to spend time with me. I’m very non-threatening, you see. The bad thing about being conflict averse is that I hardly never stand up for myself. My favorite combination of words is: “Let it go. It’s not worth it.” They’re also my least favorite words.
I live uneasily with this condition. Part of me wishes to be able to stand up for myself, for the kids, or for something I believe in. Sometimes I can feel the words I’d like to say jammed in my throat like a garrulous plug. For a moment I allow myself to wonder what would happen if I got it unplugged, but no. Better not take the chance. Instead I say to myself, “Let it go. It’s not worth it.” And somehow I make the need to speak crumble, disappear, fly with the wind of no-mind. I’ve grown good at forgiving other people, but I always wonder if each of these moments of letting go doesn’t leave a bad taste of not forgiving myself behind.
I wonder if there is a Conflict Aversion Anonymous group somewhere with a twelve-step program to overcome this fear of The Fight. Step one could be “Stare conflict in the face for five seconds before blinking.” Step two might be, “Write down all the sentences you wish you’d said to that lady with the overflowing grocery cart who pushed ahead of you in the checkout line.” I mean, seriously, that would be a beginning!
If only I could come to terms with how I am and accept myself this way, forgive myself for these perceived infractions against my — against what, really? My honor? Dignity? No one complains about the deer running from the mountain lion, the deer least of all. Protecting oneself by escaping is perfectly acceptable for a deer. So why is it I feel that my personal boundaries are at risk of invasion because I avoid arguments? Am I making a big fuss over nothing? Keeping score against myself for a personality trait which is really perfectly fine?
I can’t say that I have an answer for any of these questions. Perhaps this is an issue I’ll struggle with till the day I die. Or maybe, in an effort to accept myself as I am, I’ll let go of the fear that being conflict averse equals passive aggressiveness and decide: me, I’m just nice.
I found a really cool blog post about lawyers and aversion to conflict. Check it out.