Rigid, reactive and defended thinking

During conflict and stress it is easy to slip into rigid, reactive and defended thinking. This does little to solve the problem. In fact, it often prolongs the conflict, escalates the conflict and blocks its resolution. Just when we need calm, logical problem-solving we can’t.

This can happen to any of us. And it most certainly will, from time to time. Our brains and our bodies are built for this. It is protection from danger like a fire or a flood or a dangerous person.

But we don’t encounter fires, floods or dangerous people very often. Mostly what we need day to day is calm logical problem solving. And still the system kicks in and we move toward rigid, reactive snd defended thinking. And it is even worse for high conflict people.

High conflict people are in a state of constant fear of the most profound nature. At any moment they may be completely undone, destroyed. They are on edge. So when something, however small, triggers these fears, the high conflict person is instantly in the rigid, reactive, defensive frame of thinking. They are convinced that they are in mortal danger. This is a common trait and a present reality when dealing with high conflict people.

Here is what rigid, reactive, defended thinking looks like:

It is very much involved in fight, flight and freeze. There is not much of the calm focused thinking through problems and situations.

It is engulfed and overwhelmed in fear and anger demanding quick decisive action to resolve everything. There is not a sense that emotions come and go, rise and fall. That overly strong emotions can interfere with good decision making and problem solving. That there is time enough for careful thinking and creative solutions.

It is caught up in black and white, all or nothing, either or frames of thought. There is not a sense of curiosity, of flexibility, of opportunity. There is no expectation or willingness for compromise. There is little appreciation for the complexity of the situation, nor the many possibilities for resolution.

It is focused on “bad people” as the problem. There is not a sense that the problem is the problem. There is little understanding as to how they have contributed to the situation nor that they can make changes to improve the situation.

Next Steps: When you are stressed do you recognize any of these qualities in yourself? Always start with yourself. It is where you have the most control and the greatest opportunity to make positive changes.

Do you see these qualities with others? When? How do you tend to respond?

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