High conflict people have an enduring pattern of behavior. It repeats and that is part of their makeup. Their efforts to stop this enduring pattern are not effective. In fact, what they do, the only things they can think of doing, make matters worse.
Since they’re unable to stop this cycle inside of themselves, they will attempt to control you and make you stop the cycle. But they believe you are the source of their distress. So their controlling behavior will lead to serious conflicts with you and may become a source great pain in your life.
Chronic feelings of distress
High conflict people are in a continuing state of distress. They fear that at any moment their greatest fears will be realized and they will be utterly destroyed. This is not hyperbole. It is how they feel at their very core. They may not be able to express it. Then it may not be willing to admit it. Still they continually feel as though they are on the very brink of untold destruction, and, that they’re going to die.
The problem is external
High conflict people are not given to self-awareness, self reflection, or taking personal responsibility for their thoughts emotions, actions, or outcomes. At the same time, the situation of being in a chronic state of distress is intolerable. If they aren’t the source of this distress, if they couldn’t possible possibly be the source of this distress then the source must be outside of them. The distress must be external.
Of course, the source of distress for the high conflict person, just like for ourselves, is at least partially inside us. This notion alone is highly stressful for them. They find it difficult or impossible to acknowledge that they are part of the problem.
So they are always on alert to see, protect, prepare for, and avoid the source of their distress. They are hyper-vigilant and super sensitive to everything and anything that might even hint that their deepest fears may in fact be coming true.
Attempts to relieve stress
The situation a high conflict person finds themselves in is intolerable, so they set about to relieve this pressure. They are not the problem and that is a settled matter. So someone else must be. So they set about getting other people to stop being the source of their distress by any means necessary.
The key is to understand the notion of “by any means necessary.” They seek to master their feelings by controlling other people’s thoughts, actions, plans, and emotions. They will manipulate, lie, coerce, threaten, use violence, flatter, cheat, betray, make false accusations, or anything else they can think of in hopes that the threats they feel will go away. Often these means are grossly inappropriate and disproportionate to the situation they are in.
Unfortunately, for the high coffee person, that stress continues. Perhaps which increases for short time and then returns. Often because of their approaches so ineffective, the distress and the complications of the situation have only increased. While this is easily predicted by others it catches the high conflict person by surprise and they are utterly dismayed.
The response by others who have been the focus of high conflict people only adds to their distress. The pushback, asking for accountability, the complaints they receive about their behavior only increases their stress and convinces them that the problem, as always, other people. So their internal distress increases and the cause, they believe is external and we are right back at the beginning.
Thus patter repeats and repeats in a high conflict person’s life.
Next Step: Do you know someone in your family or in your church who is stuck in a pattern like this? Think through their typical actions snd reactions. Can you predict what sort of thing they might do next?
If you aren’t in conflict with this person, what helps them through these conflicts? What helps them break the pattern?
If you are already in conflict with them, take extra time to think through the pattern. Be very specific. Try to understand why they choose like they do. Can you help break the pattern?