I have to get this Fear of Confrontation (FOC) off my chest.
Updated: Nov 20, 2020
Any situation that makes us uncomfortable we rather not deal with (Go figure). A classic one is a confrontation. Even the anticipation of confrontation is enough to avoid. But what actually happens during these moments? The truth is if this fear grows enough, it can put a relationship in jeopardy. In time, FOC can create a build-up, disconnection, and possibly the end of a relationship.
The trouble with confrontation can develop before or during a relationship. Whether we had a traumatic experience in our family growing up, a past toxic relationship, and/or past explosive arguments in our current relationship. Normally we do not want to have a confrontation, because we do not trust it will result in a resolution or the strength to manage our emotions. The classic cycle operates as follows: FOC→ Build up → Trigger → Explosive Response → Guilt→ FOC. Here is an example of how this plays out: Let's take Jack and Jill in a modern relationship. One day Jill said something that upset Jack. Because Jack has a fear of confrontation he chooses not to say anything at the moment and so he decides in his mind to “Let it go” we therapist read that as “Suppressed Emotions” (Build up). A short time went by and Jill randomly left some plates in the sink. Jack notices and now confronts Jill about those plates (trigger). He raises his voice and has trouble settling down (Explosive Response). They are now having a big confrontation. After settling down, Jack feels extra guilty about his reaction "Every time I say something we argue" now further intensifying the fear of confrontation for himself and in that relationship. Jill is also left to wonder what just happened and may start to feel a disconnect in the relationship based on how often this may occur.
If you continue to hold in emotions and perpetuate this cycle, you are creating a stigma that “every time I have a need, it will be met with an explosive confrontation”. This stigma can create a relationship where no one’s needs are being met, thus creating both resentment and apathetic feelings over time. Emotional mistrust feels impossible to work through and soon the end may be near.
Breaking the cycle
We are human, so we are not perfect, and not all-knowing, we have emotions/feelings that are still yet to be explored. Emotions are like water, the more you hold it in, the more it will eventually seep out through the cracks in your wall, places you do not want it to go, and eventually BOOM explosion over dishes. So own it, start breaking the cycle by practicing saying something when you feel it. The best time is when you feel it, say it. Even if you do not know exactly what you're feeling, it is still best to say “Hey that made me uncomfortable for some reason” - then to keep it inside (uncertainty is still a feeling). When you talk, you are not only learning about yourself but giving your partner a chance to learn about your needs as well. This can make your partner feel special since no one else has this insight. Eventually, emotional trust is developed. “Oh I know he/she is cool cause if not, he/she would say something”. Since there are so many layers to why FOC occurs I know it is easier said than done. If we catch ourselves picking every single battle, we may be creating another cycle that is equally unhealthy. Sometimes it can be hard to know when to speak up over the little things. If you find yourself struggling with this balance and need more support. I recommend you seek out a professional for assistance. Just food for thought :) Thanks until next time.