“When we avoid conflict to make peace with others, we start a war within.” Brene Brown
I first discovered Brene Brown on Ted.com. I was thumbing through a rabbit hole of TedTalks after I found the curating features. I was sucker for the “inspiring” and “science and technology” tags. And I was hooked deep after I encountered her first talk about her research on vulnerability. From the moment she opened her mouth, there was something familiar. I thought “this woman tells stories like my mother tells stories.” She even looks a bit like her too. And she’s currently based in central Texas, where I am as well.
Later, I found an interview she gave with Russell Brand. These two people are bright beacons of hope and human understanding in the world. I am so thankful for their contributions- comedic, serious, or otherwise. After listening to their hilarious discussion of their take on a whole mess of current topics, I sought out more. Admittedly, I have yet to read any of her books, but I seriously consider myself a die-hard fan. I sincerely appreciate how she humanely delivers what we all need to hear, herself included. I respect her “student of life” attitude. “I’m here to get it right, not to be right.” My continued search uncovered Unlocking Us, the podcast Brene Brown launched in 2019. After several episodes, I am thoroughly enjoying the content she is creating. It’s in her conversation with Russell Brand that Brene Brown references her work with the concepts surrounding the quote this post starts with. I was dumbfounded the moment she said it. Just like she does with her podcast guests, I had to stop short and take the effect of these words in. To integrate my understanding and let it slowly shift a mess of self-conceptions inside me. It felt like she was talking directly to me, and it felt like I was ready to hear it and listen deeply.
After hearing it, I said to myself, “I do this.” And I also said to myself, “and it’s killing me!” I was suddenly aware of so much self-suffering. I had been carrying significant sadness in this fact too, like I knew it but was not aware of it until that moment. I had already correlated compromises at the interpersonal level triggering conflict that was relevant only to me. But it didn’t dawn on me that the simple intention to avoid conflict (something that I had learned to do to survive while working in mental health treatment services), could actually cause more harm than good. I have damn good reasons to avoid the hundreds of conflicts I tiptoed around in the past year of my life too, and a whole storm of self-misery and loathing to show for it. I am still working to remain aware of when I am avoiding conflict at my own expense. My work environment has changed drastically over the last 6 months. But this remains truer now that it ever has because if I don’t listen, this unrest within will never settle.
Without having read her books, I don’t have the context of her research as she described it around this quote but my instinct tells me what I refer to is relevant. As someone who has gone by the moniker “Maek Peace” before (and still uses firstname.lastname@example.org), and who presently holds the name Maek as a chosen first name, I can personally attest. I have certainly felt a stress or tension within myself after avoiding conflict/ contrast that turned out to be vitally important to my well-being. There are times that I can literally pick it out of the myriad of thoughts in any given moment. There is this dark, deeply happy undertone that has been crossed, and has had enough. It’s character- the voice and words it uses are sometimes rough, like medicine hard to swallow. But it always has my future and my spirits' future at heart. When I allow myself to be present and listen into this stream directly, usually with the guidance of my therapist, I am often amazed at how informative it can be. There, I can pinpoint what limits or boundaries have been crossed. I can find the words for the anger or sadness felt for their breechings. When I listen to what roils after feeling overwhelmed, it’s usually about: sensory processing (often environmental factors); interpersonal words or actions that create powerful emotions; or feeling as if you are not understood or belong. Point being: even the pain can teach us, can be our guru. Our internal struggles reflect our perspective of our external ones. And if we ever find that there is a voice of unrest within ourselves, let us remember that it must have something important to say that has not been heard. Poor chap. He’s had to yell over all that doom-scrolling and Youtube clips to find your attention. Are you listening to the music within?