In the third episode of the Rediscovering Self with Amrutam podcast, host Preethi Parthasarathy explores the theme “I’m scared of confrontation” with Ishani Badyal, a psychologist-psychotherapist working in a personality disorder/ difficulty service since 2016 with a private practice of her own. She works in a relational framework where she focuses on therapy relationships exploring themes of attachment, containment and communication.
Confrontation is not always negative
The episode begins with exploring what is confrontation and why is it that some people are afraid of it. The thought of confrontation can be terrifying for some people and more often than not there are multiple layers to it. Ishani starts by explaining that confrontation in general carries a negative connotation. “It is inferred as something aggressive, rude, or a situation where someone is trying to put you down. And it is not something we are necessarily taught but something we just pick up,” she says.
“Our culture and education system inadvertently propagate these notions. As a child when we do something wrong, there is a reaction from an adult; it could be a teacher or a parent and most times, it ends up in a situation where we are either being scolded or beaten for our actions or behaviour. This leads to two categories of consequences – one, where we become really sad and scared and other, where we get really pissed off or angry.”
The truth is: confrontation is not negative. In simpler terms, it is essentially feedback in regards to your work, actions or life. Something that could be done and/ or viewed differently from their perspective. Of course, different people react and respond differently but one of the big reasons people feel unsettled by confrontation or feedback is because they associate it with their self-worth or self-esteem. When someone points out that difference, people take it as a personal attack. Ishani adds, “When someone says your work is not good, you think you are not a good person or you are not good enough.”
Avoiding the blame game
An important thing one needs to keep in mind while receiving feedback or in a confrontational situation is that you are not being blamed. There has to be a balance between taking responsibility and avoiding blaming for something you did or did not do. Taking things personally becomes counterproductive to the whole process and hampers your growth. Often times, this reactive approach also puts you in a place self-doubt where you question your skills, abilities or what you could have done differently, both as a person or professional.
“Confrontation is generally viewed as a situation where you are either being criticized or are being critical of others yourself. This is shaped by our childhoods, social groups and education system. But if you operate from that position, it becomes counterproductive and defies the purpose of giving or receiving feedback.”
What is interesting to note is that a lot of fears related to confrontation stem from a place of power. Even in our normal course of life involving personal relationships with friends and family, we can get intimidated by the thought of someone confronting us if they think we have done something wrong. This can get especially difficult if the other person is someone you look up to or is in a position of authority (for instance, your parents or the elderly).
Ishani believes that if you are in a place to give feedback or initiate confrontation, you should try to understand why you are confronting and what is your purpose behind doing so. This helps avoid any bitterness or the need to make the other person feel guilty to get something done.
Confrontation as an enabler of growth
Here, Preethi poses the question: Are confrontations really important? Why is there a need to address something if it is not working well or at all? Ishani responds saying that confrontations are important and relevant because human beings are social animals. “Since we are always projecting and relating with other human beings, we are constantly interacting with others. And when we do that, things come up and there is a reaction and when that happens, confrontation naturally becomes a part of the dynamics.”
“Confrontations are essential because they help shape our understandings and add growth in our progress. As good as self-evaluation is for assessing ourselves, we do need other people who will be able to tell us what we are doing differently. You can’t have the good and leave the bad. It happens both ways.”
In the final segment, Ishani and Preethi discuss how people who are scared of confrontation can take steps to approach it better. Sometimes people directly confront you, other times they are passive about it. “It is important to think about it before you do it if you are the one to initiate it,” says Ishani. Why are you doing it? What is your purpose? And what do you expect to come of it? – are some questions you should ponder upon.
Don't make it personal
In situations where you are on the receiving end of confrontation, Ishani suggests that trying to view things for what they are helps in keeping its spirit intact. “Feedback given in a professional setting is really not about you as a person. But if they are making it personal and cornering you, then that is their baggage to carry. You do not have to take it personally. In situations like these, it is about confronting a confrontation and standing up for yourself. In other words, it is empowering yourself.”
Who would have thought that there is so much going on behind a certain kind of behaviour such as this? Human emotions are complicated and we all need help unpacking these thoughts that are shaped by our experiences and worldviews. Preethi and Ishani end the episode suggesting that therapy is a wonderful outlet for those who wish to seek help and want to reflect on themselves.
Find a therapist
We hope this episode was helpful to you. If you are struggling with your mental health and wish to seek therapy, then here is a list of mental health professionals that you can reach out to. All you must do is filter out the professionals that fit your criteria and write an email to them introducing yourself and explaining briefly what you are going through and be a little patient with their responses. The right professional will reach out to you soon and we hope you have a meaningful journey of getting to know yourself and building self-awareness through therapy.
Team Amrutam sincerely wishes you all the best and lots of love.