Fourth of 11 articles on high conflict people in church. Previous article: A Crisis in Bonding
High conflict people are driven by deeply profound, all consuming fears that the rest of us do not experience in the same ways. It is difficult to overstate how important these fears are in the lives of the high conflict person. It is difficult to understand how much these fears drive the thoughts and actions of high conflict people.
When these fears are triggered the high conflict person will feel like their whole life is at stake.
When these fears are triggered the high conflict person will feel like their whole life is at stake. They will feel like they will surely die. They will feel like they are being annihilated. This description isn’t intended to be dramatic for effect. As I understand high conflict people, this is actually how they feel.
When someone is short or rude to me for whatever reason, most of the time I will let it pass as insignificant. I might forget about it entirely. A high conflict person will certainly remember such a slight. More importantly, they will feel like their very existence is at risk.
Most of the time they are watching and waiting and preparing for the moment when they are threatened, for when their deepest fears are becoming reality. They live in constant dread of the inevitable moment when it happens to them again.
When I was a kid and climbed up the high dive at the public pool for the first time I was nearly paralyzed with fear, afraid of jumping and the long fall to the water. High conflict people are constantly dreading their long fall. Afraid and absolutely sure that something, at any moment, will push them off and into their destruction. It must be a terribly difficult way to live.
High conflict people are constantly dreading their long fall. Afraid and absolutely sure that something, at any moment, will push them off and into their destruction.
There are four of these deep, profound fears. A person’s whole life will be organized around holding these fear at bay. They have only one or they may have a combination of more than one.
I will briefly describe each fear hear and then look at them more fully in following posts.
The fear of being ignored. If people don’t see them, acknowledge them, attend to them they will fear that they are disappearing. They compensate for this fear with loud clothes, broad gestures, dramatic stories. They seek to be the center of attention. Every time if they can. When they aren’t receiving the attention they crave they will generate it on their own, often through conflict.
The fear of being abandoned. They idealize you. They idealize you for being such a good person. They are sure you are going to leave them at any moment. They hate you because you are going to leave. They seek ways to manipulate you into staying for a little longer. They hate you for being manipulated. Conflict allows them to stay connected.
The fear of being belittled. They feel like they are special and every little slight challenges that feeling and that can’t be allowed. They will demand your respect, even your affection. Conflict is their way of defending their notion that they are special, better than others.
The fear of being dominated. Every request to follow the rules is seen as a personal challenge and an effort to control them. They resist and that creates conflict. They preemptively demonstrate that no one can control them and that creates conflict. They don’t mind. They enjoy it. Shows they are in control.
Next Steps: Do you recognize anyone in your life or an antagonist in your church that appear to have one of these deep seated fears?
What specific actions or qualities in them come to mind?
Are you able to have compassion for the fears and suffering of the high conflict person? Are you able to identify how their fears initiate their destructive behavior?
Next Article: The Fear of Being Ignored
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