Conflict in relationship is often viewed as a bad thing. It’s uncomfortable. It’s tense. It makes us feel bad, and often makes our partners feel bad too. But what if you’re missing out on an opportunity? Like two tectonic plates rubbing against each other, two people butting heads in relationship might be just the moment where something new forms within that relationship. And within you. That’s the view of this week’s guest, Viola Neufeld. She’s a coach, educator, therapist and facilitator, and she works to help those stuck in conflict to work through their difficult conversations to a place of profound inner transformation. Viola is also the author of “Grateful For The Fight: Using inner conflict to transform yourself and your relationships.” Her motto? “Don’t waste your conflict.” And today you’ll get a taste of how you can turn your conflicts into building and rebuilding moments within relationship.
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Visit http://www.neilsattin.com/conflict to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Jeff Brown.
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Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. We’ve talked a lot on the show about how to communicate. And we’ve dipped our toes into the water of how to have conflict in a productive way with your partner. But deep down I don’t know about you, but I’ve always harbored this sense that conflict is best avoided or dealt with as quickly as possible. And yet despite that deep down held belief something in me knew that it wasn’t quite right. It wasn’t quite serving me. And I’ve had various attempts to put my finger on the reason why. And then good fortune brought today’s guest my way. Her name is Viola Neufeld and she is the author of “Grateful for the Fight: Using Inner Conflict to Transform Yourself and Your Relationships.” Her book is truly eye opening, in terms of helping you see how the conflicts that you have in your outer world, the conflicts with your partner, with your family, with your co-workers, or your boss, how all of those conflicts help point to the ways that you can grow within you, and transform your relationships. So it’s a very powerful generative way of looking at conflict that almost makes you welcome the chance to have conflict with someone else because you’re gonna be holding it in a completely different way. If you are interested in downloading a transcript for today’s episode you can visit NeilSattin.com/conflict, because that’s what we’re gonna be talking about today. Or as always you can text the word “passion” to the number 3-3-4-4-4 and follow the instructions Vi Neufeld. Thank you so much for being here with me today on Relationship Alive.
Viola Neufeld: I’m so happy to be here and I really love the name of our podcast Relationship Alive, because that’s what this whole thing is about. It’s about, what do you need to do to keep relationships alive over a very lengthy period of time and I know, you know, you were talking about how our natural tendency is to want to avoid conflict and you know that’s just makes all the sense in the world because think about each time you enter conflict. It’s like you’re on this teeter totter and you don’t know which way it’s going to go. Is it just going to keep getting worse? Or is there a chance that this time you’re going to turn around and do it differently and do it better? But we most of us have such a track record already with things going badly, that we’re frightened of starting it again, because we know what the chances are we’re realistic about the opponent that we have and our opponent gives us a real run for our money because they’re able to find those places within where we question yourself. You know I mean it’s funny. We often say to our partner you know, “you’re pushing my buttons,” as though they shouldn’t. But interestingly enough it’s when they push our buttons that they take us right to that part of ourselves where we find that really restless part. And of course it makes us feel terrible. We don’t want to stay there, because we’re uncomfortable there already. And yet if we continue to avoid it then it just remains there in a chronic state for many, many years. And we keep having fights over and over. Just on a little bit of a different stage. But the underlying fight is actually very much the same.
Neil Sattin: Right. You talk about it basically being this cycle where each of you is poking at the others sore spots and that there’s some way that we magically arrive at this dynamic in, in partnership around those perpetual fights where what they point to it hits us in our in our weakest most vulnerable places and then we in the way that we respond to them you call that “your M.O.,” it does the exact same thing for them. And so it creates this vicious cycle that just gets worse and worse or never gets any better.
Viola Neufeld: Yeah, I don’t know I was thinking about this yesterday I was thinking about the whole concept of chemistry and you know how we always talk about we, what is love and we have to have this, uh, thing that happens between us. They activate something inside us. And make us come alive. But then what I was really thinking about is like what is the chemistry. The very thing that draws you together. That gravitational pull often has something that also creates conflict between us. I mean we love somebody because they activate that part of us that somebody else doesn’t. And it gets us really, really excited but it also makes us just wild because we don’t know what to do and we end up trying to sort through, while we’re in the middle of it, this is where it gets really confusing what’s your stuff and what’s my stuff. But, Neil let me go back to that cycle that you were referring to because how I even came up with that and how I even started looking at things in relation to the book and writing things up was, at one point I had like about twenty 23….nah, it was even more than that. At least 30 different files that I had across my dining room table and I thought what are the similarities here? When do people get into such entanglements with each other that they just can’t get out and are there some similarities? What are those similarities where people get stuck and stay stuck for years. And then that’s when I started when I came up with that cycle, and you realized that somebody in terms of what they say or what they do, maybe, they’re critical maybe they’re passive maybe they’re withdrawn, but whatever it is they do, make you go back to the place where you question yourself. “Maybe I’m not enough. Or maybe I’m too controlling. Or maybe I’m too impatient or…” Whatever it is that either they’re withdrawing or their attack makes you question yourself and and doubt yourself at very significant levels in terms of who you are as a person. Then when you come out, so you come back out fighting, and whatever it is you do makes the other person now question themselves. And face the part of themselves that they don’t want. That unwanted self. And it’s looking at how we feed that cycle and keep that cycle going, that I was really intrigued by and wondering how do people get out of that cycle. Because I think that so many of us live with more pain in life than we need to. Like if we could figure this out sooner and face the part of ourselves that causes such discomfort and we’ll know, we’ll recognize that part because it’s always the part that makes us come out fighting. We have to defend ourselves. We have to protect ourselves because we think the other person said something that makes us look like an idiot or that we’re unreliable or that we’re not a contributor. All the things we don’t want to be and that’s when we come out fighting. And yet the interesting thing is that really the strange way out of that, is to face the very thing that you don’t want to be like for me for a long time. One of the things I had to face was, ‘I’m not enough,’ and I keep thinking “No, I am enough.” Well this is where the power of positive thinking doesn’t always work because it can’t wipe out truth. And so it’s like you almost have to do a back and forth and go, “Where I’m not… Where am I enough and where am I not enough?” Because there are places where I’m not enough and what am I going to do about that. So then the hope lies in kind of finding a bit of a manageable change program. And if I can do more today than I did yesterday or feel better today about myself than I did yesterday, because of what I’m doing differently then that’s already growth. I mean it’s one of the things I absolutely love about conflict. I never liked to be in the midst of conflict. There’s nothing easy about it. But if you can surrender to it and learn what you can then we learn so much more about ourselves. I think that we are all less self-aware than we really think we are. This is a wonderful way of getting to know who you are and who the other person is.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. There’s there’s so much here that I want to unpack. And I love how rich your book is with like really taking apart each of the dynamics that, that are at work there in conflict and as, um, as I was wrestling with this question of, “OK what is the truth about those sore spots in me?” You know when I look at… You know something I mentioned frequently on the podcast is how I’m maybe not the cleanest person. So what is the truth around when when someone approaches me, or when Chloe my partner approaches me and says like, you know, “This place is a disaster like you have to do something.” And for me like the natural tendency being you know all these things that I saw spelled out in your book like I would get defensive or I’d have I just have excuses maybe I wasn’t getting defensive, but I’d be like you know I was really busy recording that episode of the podcast and I didn’t get that chance to do the dishes like I said I was going to. And then there’s that uncomfortable place of recognizing, “OK there is some truth here. And one of the questions that comes up for me is how you arrive at the balance of when it when it’s actually healthy for you to look at, let’s say a criticism from your partner and to not like focus on the fact that they criticized you and they could have said it better, but just to say like alright, I’m going to take a step back and see what’s true here. What’s the balance between doing that, in a way that’s healthy, and then it becoming its own negative cycle and your relationship where you just get victimized by a partner who isn’t doing their part to shift?
Viola Neufeld: Yeah. That’s a really good question because you know I think it’s almost like the sequence that’s the most important. The natural tendency is to go back and start fighting immediately or protecting and defending self. Except that if you continue to do that it gets you nowhere. Okay. So the first step is always going in and looking at what did they say about me? So that’s true. Maybe I, you know I am messy or I am a control freak, or I’m a clean freak, or whatever it is. Whatever they have said about you, the first step, I mean this is a very courageous step right because you have to go inside and you go. How much of that is true. And once you start to look at that then you’re no longer fighting or like pushing it away because you’ve actually brought it close. And I don’t ever want to minimize the difficulty of this because the same way as a child balances down on heat and pulls their hand away we do the same thing with emotional responses. When something is uncomfortable we want to balance away but this is what is required is to actually stay there longer and go, “Is this true about me? Yeah you know what sometimes I am this way,” or “Sometimes I’m not this way.” So you’re going back, you have to do a bit of an assessment, all along recognizing that you don’t see everything about yourself, the other person is actually telling you something about how you are impacting them. And we’re not always aware of our full impact on the other. But then after you’ve gone in I think that it’s important to go up and you from a bird’s eye view, you look down, and you go wait a minute what do I know about the way that the two of us interact? What do I know about when my partner is feeling uncomfortable, what do they do? And if they get to a place where they’re blaming and I’m now feeling like a victim and this is I recognize this. This is, I easily fall into a victim. My partner usually blames that I go, Wait a minute what I’ve already looked at what’s going on inside of me and what I need to do differently but now I’m also from the bird’s eye view from way up top I’m looking down and going: I see this pattern between us and I know that my partner is doing that out of their own discomfort then because you’re not being just reactive you are much more equipped to stand up and say, you know what you’re going into a blamer, and you’re doing the very same thing again, you’re wanting to make it look like it’s my fault and you’re so, so it’s a matter then of holding onto yourself and you are not as reactive. So you have a clearer mind and you can see what the pattern is between the two of you and begin to shift your pattern.
Neil Sattin: Right. I loved in one of the chapters where you were talking about ways to shift the interactions like once you’ve done the inner work and I want to spend of course a little bit more time on that process of of the inner diagnosis. But you were talking about like once you’ve done that work and then you face into a conflict with your partner or anyone, really, you might ask a question like, Are you… it seems like you’re trying to blame me right now are you, is that true? Are you trying to blame me right now for what’s going on? And how asking the question invites them to take a deeper look at what they’re doing and they may say they may say, Yes. You know they may be like, “That’s exactly what I’m doing because this is your fault.” Or they may say, “Well I’m not trying to blame you. I’m trying to just show you the impact of…” And you get further than you would get if you were just like, you know, stop blaming me and you’re always blaming me. And then you’re off to the races with your typical relationship pattern or conflict pattern.
Viola Neufeld: Yeah, see, I love that because once you have looked at yourself and you’ve really seen it, when you go out now, because I think there’s three steps you go in, you go up, and then you go out. When you go out you grow up very differently. So, my husband and I, we had this cycle that went on for many, many years and and it would be that I would end up feeling like I was, you know, how did I have to raise another issue? I’m a malcontent. I’m a flake for what I’m saying. And then what I noticed and I would go into a blamer, because I didn’t want to be that person but once I got to see that it when I experienced his criticism I, would go to that very same place. It kind of just made me chuckle because I go, “Wait a minute. I’m here at the same place. And yes I realize that sometimes I caused trouble but I also don’t want to be the person who sees trouble and doesn’t do anything about it.” And so then I was equipped to just stand there and go, “No no. We do have an issue with this. But I gotta find a way of doing this and be lovable at the same time.” So going inside what it helps you do is, it equips you and you feel more confident to stand on your own. To speak from your truth. And the fight changes because it’s not like you’re just defending yourself. You’re actually talking about what goes on between the two of you and what you’d have to do to change that pattern so that it becomes a healthier pattern.
Neil Sattin: Yeah let’s go up even further for a minute and talk about differentiation, and the reason why conflict is so crucial for true intimacy.
Viola Neufeld: Yeah. Differentiation. I mean it sounds like a big concept but, but it’s so it’s what you have to do in conflict all the time, is that… And conflict takes you to a place where you have to be willing to stand on your own and for a little bit. I mean it’s almost like you disconnect with that other person, because you’re so connected with who you are, what’s important to you, and then you also have to hold the other at the same time. So it’s being detached and involved. Standing alone and standing together. Lot of people get that part confusing because they think that you know they’ll say, many couples will come in and one person will say, “No, I have to leave this marriage because I can’t be myself.” Well, if you have to leave a marriage to be yourself. That’s not differentiation. It’s individuation. That’s about you being able to hold on to yourself. Differentiation is much more difficult because how do you end up holding on to yourself, and being a full self when you’re connected to the other who is different than you, who thinks differently who wants different things. And that can be a big challenge. But ultimately I think it’s only when we bring our full selves to the marriage, and freely being who we are even when the other person doesn’t get who we are, that’s the best chance that we’ve got of having real intimacy and vitality. I think way too many people give up intimacy because intimacy is hard. Intimacy means that you have to be able to state what do you want. What’s important to you. What you value even when you think that the other person doesn’t get it. So one of the ways that I’ve described it over the years is that I think one of the hazards of a long term relationship is a, is a shrinking pie. And initially you came together and the two of you were you flowed freely and you were all you brought all of which you were what you are. And so when you bring the full pie it just feels really intoxicating because you’re free to be yourself the other person is free to be yourself. You don’t have the baggage. But then what happens over the years is that let’s say, there’s something that’s really important to you. Maybe it’s something that you value. Maybe it’s it’s what you want sexually or who you are spiritually or you know what you’re looking for, you need emotionally. And let’s say the other person isn’t there doesn’t meet your needs and so, or even they think you’re less than for some reason because you’re too emotional or not emotional enough or whatever. And so slowly we start pulling back pieces of the pie and we no longer bring them to the relationship. And if we don’t do that sure we’ve got less conflict. But you know what: we have a whole lot less vitality, a whole lot less intimacy. So the challenge is even when you don’t we don’t think the same. I got to tell you this is who I am. And remember that other person fell in love with you in the first place because you so freely flowed with of everything that you were. But just now you’ve got some challenges.
Neil Sattin: Yeah so the idea is that through this process you get to know yourself more. You get to grow yourself more. And then you get to bring that back to the conflict in a way that really it’s like having the same conflict, but from a completely different place. So it’s it’s not gonna be the same conflict at least on some level.
Viola Neufeld: Neil, and that’s true because you went once you’ve done all this inside work you go, and as soon as you get back out there with the same person you go, “Wow this is the same stuff.” But then you notice then it actually feels so differently when you’re in it because you’re not being triggered. So the same conflict. But now you’re responding differently within it which means that nothing can be exactly the same. You know how they tell you you can never change the other person and there’s a part of that that’s true but it really isn’t the whole truth. You know because how do we change the other person we change the other person by changing ourselves. If I change my pattern my husband could no longer do the same thing and that’s the way it is in all relationships. And therein lies a huge amount of hope.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. In fact I just released a communication course that is all focused on the things that one person can do, like, basically all the places where we alone have influence when we’re communicating with another person, since that’s really the only thing we can change in effect.
Viola Neufeld: Yeah. And also because like I think of, I don’t know if you can visualize steps, you know, like, let’s say you you enter at one level, but there was an action that came before. There’s always an action that comes after. So think about how you change things. Because if you respond differently then the other responds differently to you as well and you get out of the vicious cycle and into a more virtuous cycle. And the power lies in one.
Neil Sattin: Right. Right. I am I’m getting this image in my mind of you know someone kind of going to battle and over and over again, with the same opponent, the same foe and they have, I mean let’s just use Achilles right. So that we’ll take a myth. So this dude has a weakness in his heel, it’s the only place that he can be killed, because that was where you know he was held when he was dipped into the pool of immortality or whatever it was. And it’s like, imagine him going into battle again and again and he’s like fighting and all doing well. And then what do you know, like the person like, pinches his heel and he’s like down on the ground again. And thankfully the person isn’t actually trying to kill him. But no matter what, there he is helpless down on the ground and it’s like if all he focuses on is like, “How do I keep people away from my heel?” Then the heel is always going to be there as a weakness. And everyone’s going to keep going for it. Whereas if he gets to know that spot intimately well and you know, I’m talking about Achilles, but it could easily be “Achillia” – you know some women as well. You know like, then once they realize like oh this is my weakness and they really get to know it intimately. And then when, the other person goes for it, they actually have a way of responding that they never had before. That’s part of what changes the whole dynamic. So, I’m wondering if you can talk for a moment about that process of going in and and I love the way in your book you have these great questions that help you kind of peel away your self delusions and denial in a way that’s not destructive. You know that’s constructive. Maybe you can talk a little bit about that process of you know, asking yourself maybe you’ve asked yourself what’s true about this which is what you offered earlier. And then what’s the next step? Like where do you go when you when you realize like well you know what, it’s true that I don’t prioritize the dishes and that is just true about me or whatever it is.
Viola Neufeld: Yeah. You know to even to go one step further back, because it’s understanding. You know, I often think of that part of us that we don’t like the unwanted self. I often think of that more and I relate to it as I would to a little child or to me as a little child because we all make sense. And that part of us that still needs healing was wounded somewhere along the line. And what I actually love about conflict is that conflict gives us a method to heal those parts that are the most sensitive. So so when we come to the self to the unwanted self in that way, and we warmly try to understand where the hurts lie, where the woundedness first started to show up, then it’s a way of kind of… I don’t know… embracing it really it really is… I don’t know taking it on your lap and now you’re not, you’re not harsh with it which means you’re also not unrealistic in what you’re expecting of it. So I understand that, “OK. Why is cleanliness not important to me? Or why is uber cleanliness important to me?” For instance. And I come to understand things that have happened in my life that have made me come to that conclusion. And the thing is that many times what worked earlier in life doesn’t necessarily work anymore. So taking that cleanliness thing you know, before it was not a problem there are many other things that were more important. However if it becomes a problem, with your spouse, then yeah. Then it’s something that you start looking at and you go, “Well, maybe now I would actually feel better if I had things a little more cleaned up or if I contributed more by getting the dishes done or any of those things. So. So, it’s a matter of really first warming up to the unwanted self because you understand what role it played or how it came to be. And in facing that there is some healing and there is some freeing going forward.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. And I’m wondering when you look at yourself in that way like, what I’m hearing are these questions that help you get the underlying motivation. So if what you’re looking at is a specific behavior that you do or don’t do, what the motivations are beneath that to help you get more clarity on what, what’s really driving the way that you act. Am I getting you?
Viola Neufeld: Yes for sure. Because we always have… And making that connection is sometimes difficult. Because we have these behaviors that we do. But then you have to kind of go underneath and go, “Why is that important?” Now, the why question is always a bit dangerous right because it can take you into rationalization which is not where we’re going. It’s more of a question of what? What is it that’s actually driving that. So…
Neil Sattin: Yeah. And I’m thinking about your chapter on I think you call it “self tripping.” Maybe you can describe what that is before I say what I’m gonna say. So what’s self tripping?
Viola Neufeld: “Self tripping” is when you keep doing something that you know isn’t getting you where you want to go and yet you can’t leave. You can’t let it go. So, in the book it was Nadia and her negativity. And so she recognizes that even though she doesn’t like her negativity, that it also plays an important role in her life. It’s where she feels like she makes a valuable contribution. It’s part of her sense of identity. She thinks that people who just are always happy are people who just skate through life and don’t have enough grit to face reality as it is. And it’s so become woven into her sense of who she is that if she if she didn’t be negative some of the time or you know bring out the umbrella that she wouldn’t even know who she was anymore.
Neil Sattin: Right.
Viola Neufeld: Cuz of the roles. It was a role that she played growing up in her family and it’s how others have come to know her.
Neil Sattin: Right. So if it’s okay, I’m just gonna go through these questions that you ask.
Viola Neufeld: Sure. Yeah.
Neil Sattin: So just to give you listening a flavor for this kind of inquiry. So, you identified the behavior then you might ask yourself why do you dislike this behavior? Because after all we’re talking about the unwanted self, like this is a part of us that we don’t necessarily feel good about. But we’ve come to accept it as just maybe just the way we are. Or just the way we’re going to be. We haven’t figured out a way out of it. What do you like about this behavior? And why are you attached to it? If you tried to change it what would you lose? Or how would the change destabilise you internally or destabilise your relationship externally? And how is it working for you to repeat this pattern over and over again? Is there anything else that holds it in place. So, you’re really able to to look at it like almost a scientist would or at least an observer from another planet, who’s really trying to get more familiar with what’s, what’s going on here? And do you find that that process of creating that insight in itself is what generates change? Or are there other things that you think are required for people?
Viola Neufeld: Well for sure what it does, like, it’s the second step right? It’s of going up and looking at it. So what it does is, you see the patterns, it loosens it inside and then I think going out is actually that you have to end up implementing that and realize how different it feels, and actually be surprised by how good it feels. And it doesn’t mean, and like Nadia for instance might never give up all her negativity but she might be thinking differently about how often she’s going to use it or whether it’s going to be a comfortable blanket. She’s going to recognize when she’s using it illegitimately and she’ll open up options. That’s the whole beautiful thing about looking at, or engaging conflict differently is that you recognize that you have a whole lot more options than you believed you had earlier.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. It really frees you up in that way. And I’m just thinking about how once you’re in that place with a new like trying something new on, you talk about not necessarily going for the big shift. “Well, I’m just gonna be positive all the time.” Like, that’s not gonna be Nadia’s approach, right?
Viola Neufeld: No, no, no. I mean that has to be, it has to be, little, little steps. And I think you always measured today compared to yesterday. Are you happier with who you are today than yesterday? Oftentimes when I work with couples and I usually take the last 10 minutes to work on what kind of homework do they want to do and it’s about together we figure out the homework, or they figure out the homework on their own, but oftentimes after a session people will be pretty motivated and they’ll go, “Oh, I’m going to do this, this, this, and this.” And I’m like: “How about we think about one thing you’re going to do? So that you can be convinced, so that you know that you are going to actually succeed rather than setting yourself up for failure?”
Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. And I’m thinking now of that way of reflecting on changes in conflict with another person that you mentioned, where you might even say it’s like in Nadia’s case like, “Wow,, when’s the last I was just positive, like when’s the last time I was positive in the middle of a conflict that we were having?” As a way of helping your partner see that you are trying to make shifts in the dynamic. When you when you are trying to make those shifts, what are, what are the common obstacles that you find when someone brings kind of a renewed sense of who they are? They’ve gone, they’ve done the deep dive. They’ve gone up, they’ve gotten some perspective. They really want to shift this pattern for themselves and for the way that they have conflict and then, let’s talk about kind of taking it into the arena with their with their partner? And how do you do that in a way that’s most likely to be generative? And how would you know? Because we’re talking about stepping into conflict which by its nature is uncomfortable.
Viola Neufeld: Yeah, yeah. You know what I think, for one, being really realistic about change and how it happens. And know that the old is like a magnet and it just sucks you back, so quickly, and so powerfully and I think the important thing is not to get down on ourselves when that happens just to kind of look and kind of chuckle a little bit, and go, “Oh, my goodness, it’s happening. The same thing still has some power.” But even the fact that you can go up and recognize it, that means you’re not functioning totally from your alligator brain, your amygdala, you’re actually operating. You’ve invited your neocortex in and you’re recognizing it even if you catch it after the fact and you go, “You know what, I just did the same thing again.” But that’s more than you were doing previously, because previously you didn’t even see it. So kudos to you. And then the next time when it happens you’ll probably see it while you’re in the middle of it, and go, “OK, just wait a minute. I got to do something differently.” And when sometimes, when people get lost I’ll say to them just do something which is 180 degrees from what you normally do and see how different, it feels and see what the impact is. Because it’s all about experimenting and then recognizing that the person who got to you before, when you are making changes, whether it’s your spouse, whether it’s a colleague at work. If you make a change know that the other person is going to continue to do more of what they did before. So you’re actually going to up the ante. Be prepared for that. Not because they’re wanting you to still do what you did before, but just because that’s what they know. And so your commitment is to yourself, more than to the other person to stay the course. Just focus on who do I want to be so that I can sleep comfortably in my own skin. And what is another good thing is that life keeps giving us one opportunity after another. If we miss this one there’s another one right around the corner. And again just keep practicing on being the person we want to be.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. I like that image of your two brains learning how to work together because we have spoken a lot on the show about your limbic brain taking your neocortex off line basically for in favor of fight or flight. And so bringing your attunement, like your attunement within, to a conflict, that allows you to to bring them both online at the same time and to recognize your boundaries to recognize where you truly aren’t safe vs. the illusion of not being safe which is often what your amygdala is responding to, right?
Viola Neufeld: Yeah. And that’s what I love is because when you invite your brain back in, you can see that some of the things, cause conflict is all about your threats center going wild. And yet, when you bring your neocortex in then you can actually look at those fears and go, “Ok, they were real at one point. Are they still real? You know? I thought I couldn’t do this on my own. And back then I couldn’t. But can I do it now? Have I developed further? Or, I thought that you know I was not enough? Or, I thought that I spoke way too much. Do I still do that? I thought I was a drama queen. Am I still that or have I shifted? I thought people would reject me. But is that true?” So yeah it’s always a question of checking where you are now compared to where you were then. And the many of the fears that were there don’t need to be there any longer.
Neil Sattin: Let’s talk for a minute too about how we might… Because I agree with you that so often we we start changing and the whole thing shifts. But are there ways that you find with your clients that are particularly effective for inviting your partner to notice, along, apart from what I mentioned earlier, to notice like the dance is shifting here. Or, hey, like this is this is me stating my truth and you can make a choice about that but I’m really clear about what I believe in this moment or who I am in this moment. What are some ways to help invite your partner to change their steps in the dance? And maybe the last part of that question, is how would someone recognize if that wasn’t going to happen and whether or not that’s truly, you know, you talk a little bit about the times when it’s actually healthy to disengage.
Viola Neufeld: Yeah. Because you know I mean here’s the sobering thing, is that we only have in our life what we tolerate. And so at a certain point it is that we go: This is who I am or I want to be sexually active, and that’s really important to be in an intimate relationship. And if you’re not there if that’s not what you want, we’re in real difficulty and I don’t know what to do. Or let’s say, “I want to be in relationship with somebody when I know that I have reason to trust them and I can believe them. And you have shown me on numerous occasions that I don’t have evidence to trust you. And we are in a situation that I don’t know if we can continue to go forward because this is what I need in my life.” See, then you go back to differentiation where you really hold your own and you go. This is what I need from a partner. And if you’re not that person, then I don’t know where we’re going to be in the future. So then there are other ones where, let’s say you know, you know that the other person continues, regardless of how many times you say what’s important to you and what really matters, it actually seems like the other person, if they really if that really doesn’t matter to them then you are in a situation where you have to go, “OK. Am I going to continue on with this person or am I not?” Because you can’t continue… Or let’s say somebody continues to be hurtful and harmful in their actions towards you. And regardless of what you said they don’t make the changes. Well then the writing is on the wall as to your future. You have to make decisions for your own safekeeping and for your own health. Going forward.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, and I think one place where that can get tricky is: I think we can be too quick maybe to make that decision, if we’re in pain and that’s the interesting thing about what we’re talking about. Is like just because you’re having conflict and uncomfortable that that isn’t necessarily a sign that this isn’t a healthy environment for you to be in. It may be that there’s more healing for you to do or more growing for you to do. And I think that can be tricky to know, like, actually this isn’t about me growing or healing something this is just about kind of a core place where I stand.
Viola Neufeld: Yeah, I mean, that’s where it can get confusing for people to know whether it’s just that it’s theirs or if it has to do with the other person. I lost it there when I was going to say you and I’m sorry.
Neil Sattin: That’s OK. And I’m wondering if you have any hints for how someone can do that diagnosis about like have they gone deep enough in terms of their own inner work?
Viola Neufeld: Yeah. So Neil I know what it was I was going to say because, what’s the reason for moving on? So if you have not looked at your own stuff and you just think it’s the other person then maybe moving out of the relationship is premature. If however you’ve actually looked at your part of the problem, your contribution, and still you’re not getting from your partner what you need, then that’s a different thing because you’re not just leaving because of hurt and because of self blindness. You actually see it. You’re doing the work. But the other person is not in a place where they’re wanting to see more of themselves. And then maybe it points to a different future, but it’s why are you leaving? Have you really seen what you need to see about yourself? Because then you can make a clear decision.
Neil Sattin: Right. I love what you just said how crucial it is to identify your contribution and to change to address that. That is what we’ve been talking about all along. It’s the ways that we show up and we create the dance that’s happening or do our part to create the dance that’s happening.
Neil Sattin: Well Vi Neufeld it’s been so great to chat with you about conflict and I feel like we should have argued more or something like that. I’m really appreciating your work. And so can you just tell us a little bit more about the different kinds of things that you offer? Obviously your book grateful for the fight is there for people on Amazon, it’s a great read and really a useful tool for self discovery and transforming your approach to conflict. And I don’t know about you, but if you can imagine like how tense and how much it can shake up your inner world to know that you’re heading into conflict and just how different it can be to imagine stepping into a conflict knowing that you’ve got you, and that you can take care of yourself. This book is a really helpful part of creating that experience. So I appreciate your work in that way. But, what else are you doing with people?
Viola Neufeld: Well I was just going to say that I think one of the real benefits of doing this work is that you end up liking yourself more and you have better relationship. That’s the end result. So yes, you know if you… Other things I mean there’s all kinds of work. It’s always having to do with sorting through relationships and extended families and with couples and in organizations. If some of you want to have a little scale that you can work through and it would be a little handout on enhancing relationship vitality, if you want to do that you can contact me and I’ll send you a concept or I’ll send you a handout if you like to do that. It would be a way of, you know how you always have ideas about who you think you are in relationship and then who your partner is. This is a way of actually going through a number of indicators and you can do a scoring at the end, which will tell you you know it’ll shine some light on who’s contributing in what areas and see if your yourself perceptions are accurate or not.
Neil Sattin: Well I’m definitely going to to take your quiz. So, make sure that I get my hands on that as well. Yes. If you want to get a copy of the enhancing your relationship vitality inventory, then you can visit Vi Neufeld’s web site which is transpectives.com, and I will have a link to that in the show notes, which you can get by visiting NeilSattin.com/conflict or texting the word “passion” to the number 3-3-4-4-4. And following the instructions.
Neil Sattin: Vi Neufeld thank you so much for being here with us today. It’s been such a treat to chat with you.
Viola Neufeld: Thanks so much Neil.
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