Why Do People Fight?

Remember the phrase ‘And they lived happily ever after’? Of course you do, because you heard and read it hundreds of times in your childhood. The sad thing is, you didn’t read it in a newspaper, but in a fairy tale. Reality is different, and it doesn’t even come close to fairy tales.

I’d like to reflect in this article a little bit about human reality, the way life really is, and how we can deal with it. To me it seems that wherever there is a group of people that live or work together, you will find arguments and fights. 

Fights are not that common in a team that works together on a project in a major corporation. But that’s only because it would look bad to the other departments, here a lot of politics are involved. But that doesn’t apply to a marriage or a family, where most of the time is spent outside the limelight.

I believe that first of all we have to accept the fact that fighting is the norm; it’s the normal thing that happens between a couple or in a family. Look at your own situation, your own marriage. Look around you, listen to the stories your friends and relatives tell you about their lives.

And it just doesn’t seem right. But the fact that we don’t like what we see or experience doesn’t take away the reality of it.

One way of escaping this situation is to live alone and, if possible, work alone. That’s definitely a solution to the problem. The drawback here is that we don’t like that, either. Many people who have tried it prefer to argue and fight with other people than to put up with this miserable loneliness that comes with living alone. As humans we need contact with other humans, we need to inter-act, talk and listen. It’s like catch22, you just can’t win.

It might help to realize that we are on this earth in order to learn how to solve problems. It might seem unfair, but as soon as we’ve learned to deal with and solve one problem, another one comes up. That might be by design, some higher power having a ball with us, or by accident, it doesn’t really matter. Life, at least as I see it, consists of a series of problems to be solved in order to make space for new problems. Agree with it or disagree with it, but just look around you and count the number of people you know who are truly happy and live in harmonious families. Life is meant to be difficult.

But once we accept that life is difficult, that this is a universal fact, that it’s not something that’s only happening to us, that basically everybody is unhappy and striving for happiness, then, in a certain sense, life ceases to be difficult. At least it becomes more bearable.

Another fallacy inherent in human nature, besides the belief that life should be easy, is that on some deep, unconscious level we believe ourselves to be the center of the universe, the axis around which everything moves. And if we don’t believe that, then we believe that it at least should be that way. It’s the human ego that continuously cries out ‘My Will Be Done’. But you see the difficulty arising from this, since everybody believes it.......

Fights, particularly within a marriage or in a family, do always have a very strong emotional component. And our emotions range from fear on one end of the spectrum to love on the other end. All other emotions we find within this range. And I can tell you, the louder a fight is, the more aggressive or violent, the more fear is involved.

It might help to find out first of all where our fears are situated. Remember, fear used to be a very helpful tool for survival in pre-historic times. But in modern times we find that most of our fears are simply irrational. Finding a couple of spare minutes to be with yourself and reflecting on your own personal fears might show you just that – that they are grounded not in reality, but in some perceived threat that doesn’t exist.

In a quiet talk find out what your partner fears most. You will find that that will open up a whole new dimension. It will show you the motivating factor, why your spouse is acting the way he or she is acting. Try to allay these fears, but don’t be too pushy, these attempts of getting to understand your partner better are easily misunderstood.

It’s extremely difficult to show strength of character when in the midst of a fight. But that is precisely what we need in a situation like that. We have to make the attempt to understand our opponent. ‘Opponent’ might be a strong word for your spouse or one of your kids, but that is at least how we feel about that person when arguing, don´t we?

Try to find the strength and put yourself in the shoes of your opponent, try to really understand him or her. It’s difficult, I know, and it gets worse. Because intellectually you probably understand him/her, but have you ever tried to emphatically feel with that person? It is one of the main reasons for fights getting out of hand or even violent – it’s not the disagreement, but the simple fact that one party feels that he/she doesn’t even get his/her point across. He/she doesn’t feel understood on some deep, emotional level. Never mind of not winning the argument, first things first.

I have to try to understand what the other one FEELS about the subject at hand, and through my feedback either let that person correct my perception, or, and that’s the trick, make him/her understand that I get the point he/she is making and, most importantly, what it’s doing to him/her emotionally.

When we are emotionally charged it’s like our reason gets clouded. We might on a rational level even be able to agree with the other one, but our emotions make us literally blind. Once I feel myself really understood, that emotional constipation more often than not just dissipates, and we can get back to a rational level. Be strong.

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