This article is largely from the Peacemaker Tools chapter in the new 2nd edition of my "coaching type" book,Intentional Integrity: Aligning Your Life With God’s Values, copyright 1999. The portions omitted were personal inventories and surveys and independent activities that did not fit this article format. Endorsements, chapter outlines and a book order form can be found at www.mbsnet.com/proactive.htm.
Each of us faces situations that are laden with the potential for increasing or decreasing interpersonal conflict. The choice is always ours to make war or promote peace. As a person committed to intentional integrity at home and work, you are in an excellent position to model peacemaking. You can strengthen your own skills and facilitate the development of other’s skills in resolving and preventing recurring interpersonal conflict. As John Calvin said, "We do not serve God unless we are in any case lovers of peace and are eager to promote it. Whenever there is a disposition to quarrel, there you can be certain God does not reign."
A loving peacemaker thinks, says, and does the right thing. This is the result of righteousness flowing out of a person who has received a "grace invaded, transformed heart." They have said, "Lord, change me!" and have accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior. Righteousness is an inside–out transformation orchestrated by God, not an outside–in work by man.
If you’re not a Christian, my prayer is that you’ll seek the truth for yourself about the saving grace of Jesus Christ from the Bible. Ask a Christian friend to tell you about Jesus and how He can change your life from the inside out.
We all experience resistance within ourselves and from others. It seems inevitable. However, it can be identified and overcome in ways that will help you more quickly and easily prevent conflict and resolve personal problems. First, you must deal with it rather than deny it. By dealing with it, you will better understand your motives and make adjustments that will contribute to your ability to think, say, and do the right thing.
The kind of "resistance" we’ll be addressing is emotional in nature and centers on your reactions to others and events that keep you from satisfying your needs or wants in a given situation. It also includes the resistance you feel when you are confronted with information that challenges what you already think is correct.
Most of us resist taking responsibility for the conflicts and problems we experience. We don’t want to look at what we are thinking, saying, and doing to bring both about. Taking responsibility creates feelings of vulnerability or loss of control.
Resistance manifests itself in both verbal phrases and nonverbal signals. As a peacemaker you need to be alert to both as you observe and listen to yourself and others.
Some typical phrases that indicate resistance is present are:
- "You don’t know what you’re talking about!"
- "I don’t have the time to try anything new."
- "This is a ridiculous idea."
- "We tried that before and it didn’t work."
- "We’re already stretched too thin."
- "That sounds good in theory, but it’s impractical."
Some typical nonverbal signals that resistance is present are:
- Tense vocal responses.
- Fatigue, absence from work, and illnesses.
- Indirect eye contact.
- Tense facial expressions.
- Angry and hostile outbursts.
- Avoidance of completing work.
Instead of thinking of resistance as something to be feared and denied, think of it as something that needs to be surfaced, analyzed, and used to help achieve truthful rational thinking. As a person of intentional integrity, you will elect to surface and resolve your resistance. As you work to prevent and resolve interpersonal conflict and problems, you will use your resistance as a barometer for alerting you to the fact that one or more CDS (Compulsive demand sentences) keep you from doing the right thing.
We observe others who are irrational and untruthful. However, most of us do not see the ways in which we are irrational and untruthful. What is more important, we don’t like to be told about it!
Irrational, untruthful thinking is thinking that contradicts God’s laws and commands. It weakens a person’s conscience. It fosters wrong action based on faulty internal character and external conduct which leads to conflict and problems.
A key emotional motivator behind irrational, untruthful thinking is FEAR—False Evidence Appearing Real. It surfaces when we face people or situations that we think will cause us to lose control or experience vulnerability. Fear more easily takes hold of you when your conscience is weak. It cannot take hold of you when your conscience is clear and strong. To position yourself for resolving and preventing the interpersonal conflict and problems caused by irrational, untruthful thinking, you need to understand how fear works. You need to know how to gain a clear and strong conscience by surfacing and removing from storage the subconscious CDS that were built on lies and replace them with what is true and right.
The emotion of fear dissipates your faith and triggers your fight–or–flight responses. Fear surfaces when you are blocked in your ability to get what you want rather than do what is right, according to God’s will, in a particular situation. The emotion of fear is the basis for all negative emotions. It manifests itself using a variety of masks—anger, hurt, blame, and frustration. Fear triggers thoughts, words, and actions that cause you to think, say, and do the wrong thing. You attack and defend.
One morning I was hurried as I showered and got dressed for a business appointment. Our son, Scott, asked me if he could back my car out of the garage to pull his in to clean and vacuum it. I said sure and I heard him back my car out of the garage while I was getting dressed.
As I was ready to leave, I didn’t see my keys on the dresser. I yelled at Scott, "Where are my keys?" His response was, "I don’t have them!" Then the attack and defend scenario began.
I was angry that I was about to be late for my appointment and verbally blamed him for not being responsible by putting my car keys back where they belonged. We bantered back and forth with blame and denial until he finally countered back angrily, and with a tone of hurt, saying, "You’re calling me a liar! I used your extra car keys hanging on the key rack in the garage to back out your car!"
With this shot to the heart, and the recognition that I had wounded a person I loved so very much, I returned to my dresser. There were the keys! My worry and anger had led me to make false assumptions and accuse Scott. It blinded me to the truth.
As you and others go back and forth between attacking and defending, you will become more and more irrational and find yourselves going deeper and deeper into a pit of oscillating dysfunction and recurring conflict and problems.
When you are attacked, you’ll usually feel defensive and find a direct or indirect way to counterattack. As with all defensive behavior, which is designed to keep the truth about the fear from our awareness, attack preserves the problem of compulsive thoughts, words and deeds.
Are you holding onto the belief that attacking can really benefit you? Are you aware that attacking and defending do not produce the results you deeply desire in your relationships with others? Both attacking and defending always produce wrong results because God’s laws always prevail. Righteous action eventually gets right results; wrong action eventually gets wrong results.
Conforming to God’s laws allows you to develop a clear and strong conscience that will give you a preventive stance as you face potential conflicts and problems. You’ll be able to keep yourself out of the pit of oscillating dysfunction that is driven by fear. As you pray for the Holy Spirit to give you the strength and willingness to accommodate the righteousness God has already given to you through Christ and His grace, you will find your fearful perceptions dissipating as you recognize your irrational thinking; then you’ll be able to rationally think beyond the FEAR or the False Evidence that is Appearing Real. As you pray for a clear, strong conscience, you will find that the Holy Spirit will help you align your thoughts, words, and actions with God’s truth as you openly and rationally analyze each conflict situation.
There are three sources of "truth" people use as the basis for making decisions. Only one source is proven and dependable. Let’s examine them.
Self–made Laws—These are the "my" principles or "my" rules individuals form for themselves. As a kid, when the kids were playing at my house, I did it a lot of times. I changed the rules of a particular game to gain personal advantage. "House" rules!
We form these kinds of rules based on our own limited knowledge and experience as well as our desire to justify our personal motivations and desires. One self–made law I find prevalent today is "Do it to others before they do it to you!" Another is "Convenience over commitment." The latter self–made law too often overrides the sacred marriage vows.
Legal or Culture–made Laws—These are the "laws of the land." They are initiated, theoretically, as a result of the "collective wisdom" of a society of people. In America federal, state, and local laws have been put in place by our elected representatives supposedly to protect us, guide us, and restrict us.
God–made Laws—These are the laws established by God. Many laws regarding such things as righteous conduct, marriage relationships, the integrity of personal relationships, quality of work and the conduct of business are spelled out in the Bible in the form of standards, commands, admonitions, and directives. Others are observable physical laws such as gravity. The scientific community is in a continual process of discovering the physical laws God put in place at the time the earth was created.
In order to obey and benefit from God’s law of righteousness, a change of basic intent and motivation is required. You must intend to move from your ego–centered motivations to a motivation to do, to the best of your ability, what is right according to God’s commands and standards.
If we leave things to our own devices, our ego motivations will contribute to weakening our consciences and fostering undesired conflict and problems. When we fail to accommodate the character and nature Jesus has offered to us through God’s grace, we begin capitulating to our ego motivations. I like Ken Blanchard’s notion that when we go our own way we often end up Edging God Out of our conscience. We put ourselves in jeopardy of defiling and weakening it! Maintaining a God–centered vs. ego–centered motivational focus is critical if you expect to gain the maximum benefits from God’s law of absolute righteousness. You will be blessed when you adopt the simple intent (motivation) to do what is righteous in every situation of life. That basic motivational commitment is the key to resolving and preventing conflict in your life. A guiding question to help you stay on track is, "What would Jesus think, say, or do in this situation?"
The "virus of dishonesty" sits on our shoulders waiting to feed our egos. It tries with all kinds of rationalizations in an effort to divert us from acting on the standards for conduct God has told us to obey.
With diligence beware! The virus wears a coat of green woven with envy and greed. It has huge sharp teeth that bite deeply into your brain and heart and distort your conscience. It sits waiting on your shoulder each minute of each day, waiting for the opportunity to use its big red tongue and lips to whisper into your ear the great lie, "It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay... EVERYBODY else is doing it... everybody else is doing it... why not you?"
A few years back my conscience brought me face–to–face with the virus. For years I had rationalized padding expense accounts and expenditures. Nothing I did had the potential of sending me to jail. I rationalized what I did by "saving" taxes and giving more than what I "saved" to church programs and worthy community causes. I further rationalized that I could spend the money I "saved" on taxes better than the people in government were doing. My concern over wasteful governmental spending was appropriate, but not using it as an excuse to justify my actions. I was clearly cheating and stealing. When I saw this, I stopped.
How do you recognize the symptoms of dishonesty and their impact? They show up as wrong results. In addition to lying, cheating, and stealing, other examples are expressions of infidelity, guilt, defensiveness, defiance, addiction, fear, and excessive stress. Others are expressions of contentiousness, greed, anger, hatefulness, arrogance, and crookedness. The list is by no means complete. Add to it.
Understanding your emotional flags is a starting point in the process of surfacing and eliminating the CDS (compulsive demand sentences) stored in your subconscious mind. Some of Albert Ellis’s and Richard W. Wetherill’s ideas are part of this chapter.
Like other people, you desire to get what you need and want. In your effort to satisfy your desires, you at times experience resistance in the form of "emotional flags." If you’re like most people, when you are frustrated in your efforts to satisfy your needs and wants, you tend to react emotionally. At that moment what you do or say is less important than what you are thinking.
During those emotional experiences, you tend to talk to yourself, usually not aloud. However you do put your thoughts into specific sentences. Think about the following examples and substitute a familiar word or words in the blank. "No matter how hard I try to...you’re never satisfied, so I won’t ever do it again!" "I’ll make you pay dearly if you don’t... like I want you to!" "Forget it; I’ll just fix the... myself and I’ll never do the things you ask me to do for you!"
If you analyze these sentences, you’ll see that each one is illogical and unrealistic. The sentence puts into words something you would consider untrue if you had been calm and thinking clearly.
Usually when you form such sentences, you have no sincere intention of following through on them. You soon forget your emotional outburst and assume that when you calm down your compulsive thoughts will just go away.
The problem is that your emotional compulsive thoughts do not go away; they get stored in your subconscious! The irrational, untrue thoughts remain in your memory bank just like programs stored on the hard drive of your computer. They also tend to retain the flavor and motivating force of the original emotion. The reason for this is that people overtly think with their conscious minds and do not understand the covert workings of their subconscious minds. After your conscious thinking has supposedly returned to normal, because your emotions have subsided, the original CDS still remain stored in your subconscious mind.
You can get rid of the conflict–producing irrational thoughts developed when you were emotional, by learning how to remove the illogical CDS stored in your subconscious mind.
Your brain traps and stores CDS. It was your wrong, illogical thinking tied to an emotional trigger that created your CDS in the first place. Understanding this and taking personal responsibility for the fact that you created them is critical. You add to your subconscious list of CDS each time you engage in recurring conflicts and suffer emotionally loaded interpersonal relationship problems.
Irrational thinking causes you to say and do the wrong thing and get the wrong results. It blocks from your heart the peace God promises to those who love and obey Him. Therefore, compulsive thoughts will not permanently satisfy the emotion that sparked them. The emotion does not fully subside, because the storage units in your brain cells do not empty. Instead they trap the thought and the emotion. Both remain available for repeated use on future occasions when the same emotion and compulsive thought is activated. The behaviors these emotionally driven, compulsive thoughts cause you to exhibit are as reactive as when you panic in fear and hit the brake as you notice you’re about to drive through the red light at an icy intersection!
Consider the example of a man who thought this about his wife: "When she puts me down like that again, I’ll smack her one!" Those words represent a burst of irrational compulsive thinking done in a flash of emotion. They cannot lead to action that satisfies the emotion behind them unless the compulsion is carried out. Therefore, the words are trapped in the subconscious brain.
The compulsive thought demanding action waits for the time when specific events activate it again. That time of renewed activation may never happen, but if his wife ever puts him down in the precise way that causes an explosion of the right degree of emotion, the husband will smack her one as predictably as he will react to a red light at the intersection of two icy streets by hitting the brake!
You can remove the CDS stored in your brain by using a release technique developed by Richard W. Wetherill. If you are like most people, you have done a large amount of emotionally loaded, compulsive thinking and have many subconscious CDS that cause various kinds of undesired compulsive behavior. When conflict arises between yourself and another person, you are faced with the difficulty of dealing with it. The good news is there is a proven process you can use to stop doing the things you keep doing, and don’t want to do—those things that cause recurring conflict and problems between you and others. Here’s how it works.
You must reopen the closed mental storage units in your subconscious brain that contain the CDS that cause you to manifest the irrational compulsive thoughts that were stored when you did the original wrong thinking. You can reopen those closed storage units, but you have to know how.
Of course you can’t reach into your brain and physically open those storage units, but you can open them through a clear thought process. When you think clearly you are opening storage units. In fact they are opening and closing all the time. The difficulty with overcoming past compulsive thinking is you don’t open the proper storage units unless you know you should. Even when you know you should, when you first start to do it, you may resist! We all have strong urges to gratify our subconscious, emotionally driven compulsive thoughts and do not want to change them.
Learning to use a CDS elimination process starts by bringing your hidden CDS into view. Select any interpersonal conflict or problem you have with another person. Write down the subject of the conflict or problem and put your ideas related to the subject on a sheet of paper as fast as they come to mind. Each sentence should express the thoughts exactly, just as you have expressed them with emotion to yourself and others in the past. Remember, these sentences are all, or part, of some of your CDS, the precise wording defining the compulsion and the stated or implied circumstance under which the compulsion is to be obeyed.
For example, you may want to start with your thoughts regarding a conflict between you and another person about how money should be spent or saved. Write down the name of conflict, SPENDING MONEY, at the top of the paper. That’s your subject.
Now list exactly what you have thought about the person, related to this subject, in the past. Do not edit your list or try to make it sound polite or rational. Write down exactly all the uncomplimentary, critical remarks you’ve thought to yourself or made to others about this person related to the subject you have in mind. The following sentences are typical though the gender may differ.
"He’s the most wasteful, big spender I’ve ever known so I’ll hide as much of our income as possible." "I could never trust him with managing a budget, so I’ll do it and not let him see what we really have to work with." "He’s always getting us into financial trouble and if he does it again, it’s fire him or me!" "He always gives me a pain in the neck when I bring up our debt problems, so I’ll give him as big a pain in his neck as he gives me!"
Sentences like these may seem extreme, but they are typical of the compulsive thinking we do when we are emotional. Some people do it virtually all the time.
It is irrational and wrong to form those judgments, because they get stored in your brain and influence your attitudes. They promote self–fulfilling prophecies. If you analyze the sentences honestly, you will see that they make no sense. Having parts of your brain storing compulsive thoughts about a person leaves you with a dysfunctional brain filled with trapped compulsions. Such compulsive thoughts will impair your thinking and cause you to be compulsively antisocial and show dislike and disregard toward others.
After the CDS are removed, you’ll see virtues in the person with whom you’ve been in conflict. More important, your brain will no longer be disabled by the trapped, unrealistic, compulsive thoughts that magnified every fault and manufactured faults where none existed. In short, your thinking will become rational and truthful.
The way to remove your CDS is to inspect the CDS you’ve stored in your subconscious mind and see them for what they are: irrational, untruthful thoughts.
After you surface up to two dozen CDS about another person as it relates to a specific conflict, analyze them. As you analyze them, seek flaws in their rationality and truth. When you find and acknowledge the lie in a compulsive demand sentence, you have removed it from the storage unit in your brain and its power to continue to dominate your thinking. Cross it off your list, unless you still experience negative emotions when you read the sentence. If you do experience negative emotions, keep the sentence on your list for further analysis until you fully acknowledge it as a lie! After the first reading of your list, add more critical thoughts as they come to mind. At first you can draw on your memory, then draw on your imagination.
There is a reason why this works. Many of your most damaging CDS were stored in your brain long ago. You cannot remember ever having thought them or having put them into spoken words. Therefore, they are beyond conscious recall.
The sentences you can remember thinking are easy to surface, but the sentences you cannot recall can also surface through your imagination. In your search for compulsive thoughts, your imagination tends to follow mental paths already established. If you have ever had a compulsive thought, you can think of it again. Actually you can think of it more easily than you could form a new compulsive thought. Therefore, when you draw on your imagination to extend your list, you tend to include the pertinent compulsive thoughts that seemed out of reach.
Some compulsive thoughts have a strong grip on your emotions. Notice and give a name to your emotional reactions when you look at your sentences to see how they are somehow irrational.
Try the process now. Begin the first step toward removing your CDS from storage and let God’s truth about the situation fill you:
- Make a list of your thoughts toward another person about a subject of conflict.
- List exactly what you have thought about the person.
- Inspect your CDS to see them for what they are—lies.
- Add more critical thoughts as they come to mind.
- When you find irrationality in one of your CDS and you do not react to it emotionally, cross it off your list.
Dr. Millard MacAdam is an author, coach, consultant, speaker and radio guest. He is managing partner of ProActive Leadership Consulting & Training in Newport Beach, California. He and his wife Barbara have been married since 1951 and enjoy living near their three children and eight grandchildren. Both ski and Mac enjoys trout fishing. Mac is involved in the leadership team for Christian Businessmen’s Committee in Orange County.
You are invited to visit Dr. MacAdam's homepage, www.mbsnet.com/proactive.htm, where you can order a free monthly subscription to his e–mail newsletter, INTENTIONAL Leadership INTEGRITY Tips. It is distributed to leaders in over 25 foreign countries and most states in the U.S. as a public service of his firm.
Dr. MacAdam may be contacted at:
ProActive Leadership Consulting, Training & Coaching
2114 Vista Laredo, Newport Beach, CA 92660–4041
Phone: 949–644–5552 Fax: 949–644–6180 E–mail: MacAdam@mbsnet.com