What If You’re The Problem?

No matter the sticky situation, sometimes it’s a case of the buck stops here. By Rebecca Keane

We’re told to be selfish in our teens and twenties, these are our years to figure out what we really want and put ourselves first before possibly (traditionally) doing the whole marriage and mortgage phase of our 30s and 40s. Go work different jobs to decide what you really want, date so and so, travel everywhere to have a little taster of everything to know where you want to eventually settle. It’s all about choices and the world being your oyster! And I’m the first friend to encourage others to do the thing that serves you best. It’s a great time of your life, but it doesn’t come without its sometimes downsides or consequences of putting ourselves first.

Even if you’re long free of your crazy, chaotic, painful 20s, let’s face it, we live in a world full of main character energy. If there’s a trio of people, whether its a team or a band there’s usually a comparison to Destiny’s Child but you’ll often see memes saying ‘I don’t want to be the Michelle, I want to be the Beyonce.’ But we all want to be Beyonce! How many Beyonces can one world contain? It doesn’t help that Instagram memes and psychotherapy TikTok urge you to put yourself first – the others are toxic, the others are in the wrong! But this resistance to meeting anyone in the middle means that many of us may end up cut off from people we really love and truly care about because we never even gave the other person a chance to explain themselves or negotiate.

The cold hard unpalatable truth sometimes is that you are the problem. Or you may be. I can definitely say I am the problem, I’m sure I have been in past situations. It’s hard to remember but sometimes it’s not about you and shock horror, the world doesn’t revolve around you. In your previous standing up for yourself, you may have burnt a bridge or gone about it the totally wrong way. So if we are to assert ourselves in a relationship what is the best way to go about it? Taking a look inward may be your first port of call, says Dr Ciara McEntaggart. “Regardless of whether it’s standing up for yourself or checking if you are part of the problem, it’s always worth looking inward, it’s one of the first steps I’d tell people to do. Every relationship has two people involved, there’s two sets of behaviours to consider and they work well together or they don’t. If you feel from your side there’s an issue, a conflict or a conversation is a necessary or healthy way to deal with that when the other person. The issues become really heated up from the emotions and they even overshadow the issue itself but these emotions should be channelled separately.”

When examining past fights or confrontations, many of us find ourselves asking, why is this happening to me again? I’ve already had this type of relationship break down years ago, and it feels like history repeating itself, causing more upset and hurt. Or that dreaded feeling of wow, this is always the mistreatment I’m destined to attract. “From needs not being met, if you never feel understood, that’s going to naturally overflow into other issues,” says Dr Ciara. “The emotions may not be about the small things themselves, they’re about this larger thing and what you need from a relationship. Confronting a person is not the wrong thing to do but it’s the wrong channel to let those emotions out.”

When you think you’re being hard done by, it can be hard not to let a situation get you down or leave you feeling bitter. Those triggers that force you into a place of defence can jump into attention and really sting, but separating historical emotions from the current issue can prevent you feeling bitter. Knowing your personality type when it comes to confrontation is helpful, says Dr Ciara. “Ask yourself what type of conflict facing person you are, are you conflict avoidance or are you conflict seeking. Things that would suggest you’re conflict avoidant would be where you’re minimising things, you’re saying it’s all going to be fine but it’s not, or you’re martyring yourself where you feel you have to carry it all by yourself. When you avoid conflict, resentment can easily build here. Conflict seeking may feel they always need to right something or they can’t rest until they are right.”


Your emotions don’t have precedence over other peoples

Your viewpoint may not be the same as other people

Your perspective isn’t the only perspective

Your ideology is not the only way to think

Your outrage isn’t anyone elses emergency

Identifying your style of dealing with things will further help you in deciding whether you are the problem. Looking back at past resolutions (or lack of!) can identify whether you seek confrontation or not. Dr Ciara says if you are going to seek resolve stemming from a conflict with someone, there are seven steps when you’re looking for resolution. Number one would be don’t talk about an issue when angry or upset, number two is to take a pause and breathe, number three is to write down issue, number four is to write down your emotional reaction surrounding the issue, number five is to write down assumptions you may be making about this person, number six is what do you want to achieve from this or overcome it and lastly, number seven is to plan a day, time, place to have that discussion, avoid it when stressed, tired or hungry. Breaking down the scenario step by step will negate a fury riddled, stomping in all guns blazing reaction – sometimes the punishment doesn’t even match the crime! “Looking at those steps and seeing where you’d falter will reveal your personal hang ups that get in the way”, advises Dr. Ciara.

If you’re unsure of how you face conflict or confused as to why history repeats itself in your friendships and relationships, asking close friends or family members what they notice about you can be a huge help. Visiting a therapist or counsellor is beneficial in identifying how you interact but obviously, that’s costly and time consuming. Dr Ciara says having the self awareness to ask others is amazing, but be prepared for the answer.

“If you feel you struggle with relationships genuinely, whether it’s relationships or friendships, asking others opinion is a great thing to do but the only thing is you may not like what you hear so prepare yourself for that. Make sure you really trust the people you’re going to ask, and that they’re going to be really honest with you while still respecting you in the answer.”

As the great saying goes, “you can be right or you can be happy”. If you’re going to go all guns blazing defending your own great honour all the time, don’t be surprised if you’re on an island for one. Harsh advice perhaps, but we could all do with a pause before a push.

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