Susie & Otto


Conflict, Anger, Sarcasm and the Urge To Fight Back

If you're like most people, when conflict comes up inside you, you get "grabbed" and react automatically.

Usually this "automatic" reaction happens in a split second and even though you may not want it to happen, it does.

  • We get defensive and say something mean and sarcastic that we later regret
  • We feel anger boiling inside us and we have the urge to fight back


  • We back away from conflict, shut down to protect ourselves and may physically leave the room
  • We freeze and get that "deer in the headlights" look in our eyes and nothing comes out of our mouths

Or we might do a combination of any of these.

Whatever happens inside you, we're guessing that a lot of times you feel like you just don't have any control over yourself when this pattern pops up.

And to make matters worse...

You have people in your life that react either the exact opposite of you or just like you do in those instances.

Over the past couple of days, Susie attended a fabulous workshop given by Richard Strozzi-Heckler, founder of the Strozzi Institute.

During the workshop, one of the exercises Susie did with a partner revealed how they each habitually (and automatically) acted in conflict situations.

Susie and her partner at the workshop didn't "think" about their reaction beforehand--It was just as if their body, mind and actual physical body "knew" what to do when push came to shove (so to speak).

This is a very common pattern we've seen in ourselves, our relationship and in the relationships of most of the couples who work with us one on one in our relationship breakthrough coaching--and it's a pattern we'll call "Pushing--Withdrawing."

This is where one person pushes and the other person withdraws or retreats.

We don't have to tell you that t always creates distance and disconnection between the two people.

This withdrawal can be from any number of reasons but fear of not getting your needs met and not feeling safe is always at the bottom.

In most cases, people find themselves pushing because that's how they've previously gotten their way--and they don't feel "safe" or trust doing it any other way.

But it also can be from a mental place of trying to help the other person see his/her genius--in other words, trying to "fix" him or her.

"Pushers" may not even recognize that they are "pushing" even when we are. They might even be shocked to discover that someone else thinks of their actions as being "pushy."

In Susie's previous marriage, she found herself "pushing" her ex-husband to "feel" emotions.

She remembers when her grandfather died, trying to get her "ex" to express the feelings that she knew he must have because they both dearly loved this man.

Susie had the sensation of "clawing" at her "ex" to get him to feel but he just shut his emotions down even more.

If you're familiar with this "pushing--withdrawing" dynamic, you probably figured out that he is the "withdrawing" type.

This was a reoccurring theme during their marriage and she never understood that her pushing him to "feel" was actually causing him to withdraw even further.

They kept doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result each time. It never happened!

So what do you do if you are pushing someone to feel or act a certain way by another?

What do you do if you are the one being pushed?

The first thing to do to unlock this stalemate is to recognize and admit that this is a dynamic that happens between of you.

Be sure and talk about it when it's not happening because you'll have a lot more success if you're not in the middle of it.

If both of you can recognize that it does happen in the relationship, you can begin making agreements about what you'll do when it happens again. And then do that thing--like maybe make a joke about the fact that you' see yourself doing it again and then stop it.

Don't point out the other person is doing what he or she is doing unless you have that agreement.

If someone is withdrawing or retreating in a relationship, they are not feeling safe in that moment, so pushing only adds to those feelings.

The person who is withdrawing may be focusing on a past negative event or projecting negative possibilities into the current or future situations. As hard as it is to believe, they may simply be feeling too much, rather than not enough.

The situation may be overwhelming to them.

If you're the one who withdraws, you may need to ask for a little space, saying when you'll come back and talk about it again.

You can also look at how you can stay present when things get tough and not run away emotionally or physically.

If you're the one who is "pushing," you may need to learn to back off your energy a few notches so the other person feels like he or she can open to you.

A question that you can ask each other when you're no in the throes of your "push--withdraw" dynamic is "What does this situation remind me of?"

We've used this question when it's happened between us--and it works to focus attention inward instead of outward at each other.

In our relationship, we've taken turns in different situations withdrawing and pushing. And when we ask the question "What does this situation remind me of?" we usually can feel in the moment a connection with something from the past that has created the conflict inside us.

It may not be a question that can be answered in the moment but it has been helpful to us to agree to come back together and talk about it later.

The most important thing is for both of you to create a way to trust and feel safe in your relationship so that you can regain your connection more quickly.

Our best,

©2010, Susie & Otto Collins

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Susie and Otto Collins are spiritual and life partners who are committed to helping others create outstanding relationships of all kinds. They regularly write, speak and conduct workshops and seminars on love, relationships and personal and spiritual growth to audiences all across the USA. They are the creators of the "Relationship Toolkit" which has helped people in over a dozen countries improve their relationships. It includes a video called Spiritual Partnerships plus two booklets Love and Relationship Success Secrets and 101 Relationship Quotes Worth a Million Dollars! You can also read more articles like these and subscribe to their weekly newsletter on love and relationships by visiting their web site at Their new E-book Should You Stay or Should You Go? has just been released and is now available See Archives 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002 and 2001. Other Relationship Issues, Books

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