Last week, I had a disagreement with a friend.
I hate confrontation. Really, really hate it. And I find that I’m only comfortable enough to confront someone when I feel a certain way.
For many people, that might be when they find themselves fed up. You know, that “straw that broke the camel’s back” situation. Or when they have no more fucks left to give.
But for me, it doesn’t matter how over it I am, how upset I may be, or how close I am to blowing my top. I just. don’t. like. confrontation.
It’s a funny thing, really, considering the work that I choose to do is somehow all about confrontation.
But strangely enough, no matter how personal the pushback I’m getting from folks who engage with my work may be, since it’s based in my very real identities and lived experiences, I’m very rarely clapping back at a single person.
That makes it easier for me. The targets of my ire are systems of oppression and the actions of people who uphold them… not the actual people.
So when I get into a place where I have perceived a difference, a point of contention, or disagreement, I always have to check in deeply with myself before responding.
Because confronting someone… some one person, takes a lot out of me. It activates so much of my trauma, of my negative history, of my fears.
That deep self check I do consists of several questions:
- How much do I really care?
- What is my relationship to this person?
- What is my desired outcome?
- Am I prepared for what comes next?
What am I actually asking myself with these questions?
1. How much do I really care?
This question is so important because I’m checking in with my values.
Is this something that I find annoying or is it something that is actively harmful? If I keep it moving, will this mean that I’m betraying what I say and believe I’m about?
I’m also using this question to check in with my body.
Generally, as a person with reduced capacity due to my chronic illnesses, increasing disability, and limited energy and time, I tend to let myself be led by how visceral my reaction to a thing is: I actively pick my battles.
If I can’t move on because this incident/statement/etc. is sitting on my chest (a very real feeling I stay in touch with), then I know that I now need to go on to ask myself question 2.
2. What is my relationship to this person?
Here, I’m asking myself about my responsibility in this situation.
Is this person some Random From The Internet? Or are they someone I am in community with?
Again, I’m always carefully protecting my energy and capacity.
No matter how much I want to be out here swinging the mighty mace of logic and information, I don’t have time for that. I would much rather reserve my strength for people who are open, consenting, and actively trying to be in the work.
It’s a hard thing that I’m still working on integrating, but I can’t teach everybody. And it’s not my job to teach everybody.
But if you’re in my space, well, I move on to question 3.
3. What is my desired outcome?
I am human. And I can be competitive. I am not above the desire to pwn some person out here on the internet saying ridiculous wrong and harmful things. That pettiness feels so satisfying. Delicious it is.
But is that what I actually want? To dominate someone? To win an argument? To prove someone wrong and then do a victory lap?
None of that, no matter how validating it may feel is actually useful. I don’t need it, no matter how much I might think I want it.
If I can’t honestly answer this question with something like, “to counter their misinformation with correct information” or “to stop harm that is being done” or “to answer the question that they may not understand they’re asking,” then I’m not coming at this from the best headspace.
When I’m good, when I’m resourced, and when I’m in it for reasons that align with my values, my desired outcomes are to educate, to help heal, to protect, and to move us forward toward liberation.
If I’m not feeling any of that, I need to tap out and probably go get an orgasm and a nap. But if I’m able to be in integrity, then I can move on to posing myself question 4.
4. Am I prepared for what comes next?
Because, no matter your intentions, sometimes the conversation takes a hard right and barrels into that offramp tangent you didn’t see coming. Sometimes the other party isn’t engaging in ways you thought they would. Sometimes you get activated and can’t find your skills to counter that. And sometimes you just find yourself out of your lane because it happens.
So, though this might be a rehash of some things from questions 1 & 2, it really matters.
What if I get in too deep and can’t find my way back up? What if I get lost? What happens if this person, who started as a friend, acquaintance, or community member comes out their face with some things that make me no longer want to be in relationship with them? What if I am hurt or harmed? What if other people who are in the conversation or are observing it turn on me? What about consequences?
And all of that is real. And some of it is completely unavoidable. And the only thing you can do is be prepared to do some aftercare.
That might mean that I need to engage in self care and find rest. Or find a way to offer repair to a relationship with another person. Or find the space and support to grieve a relationship that is no more.
And this is why I engage in this process of discernment: because I don’t want to have to grieve any more than I must.
So my friend that I had a disagreement with? That went well. Or at least as well as one can hope for. We’re still friends, and somehow I feel even closer to them now than I did before.
So many things in our lives are out of our control. And even the things that seem like they are in our control are somehow still not so. That’s why we need to be sure to have discernment processes as part of our body liberation practices.
This work is a life long journey.
Let’s continue protecting ourselves and each other so that as many of us as possible can be there on the other side of it all.