With long-term lockdown, people tend to be at home most of the time with the same people every day, increasing the level of tension. Even if we don’t want to participate in conflict, it can still occur. I talked to Tamika Morris, an interactive and integrative therapist, about conflict resolution during the pandemic – how to resolve it, how to avoid it, and what to do if a conflict cannot be resolved.

Tamika, can you tell us a bit about your background to introduce yourself?

 I am a Las Vegas native, and I enjoy education and connecting with others. Living and working in Las Vegas helps you develop a unique skill set because we are both diverse and transient. Most importantly resourceful. Just like my city, my specialities are unique, however, I have found it most rewarding and helpful when working with patients to be someone they can relate to and identify as a human being. What has worked best for me in my practice is I have the opportunity to be authentic and non-traditional in my practice.

I have a background in special education and clinical mental health services. My speciality is Marriage and Family Therapy which is my scope of practice. Within my scope of practice, I specialize in trauma in first responders, unique workplace dynamics, casino workers, children and anxiety In athletes and graduate students. These areas of speciality developed over time as I worked in different environments and received training in these unique areas. Although my specialties are diverse, they share a few common areas of concerns at their core which is trauma, anxiety and depression.

With long-term lockdown, people tend to be at home most of the time with the same people every day. Do you feel that the level of tension is increasing at home generally?

Yes. I am learning that people have a hard time being alone since they struggle with this, it increases the challenge to be with others. I have noticed that isolation is intense and is a trigger for various unhealthy and toxic behaviours/ activities.

What do you recommend to decrease these levels of tension?

Learn to regulate your stress.

1) Don’t just say “I’m stressed” – put your feelings into words. If you are not aware and accepting of your own feelings, then you won’t connect with the feelings of the people around you. You may even shut them down because you don’t allow your own.

2) Identify your triggers and check in with each emotion: guilt, shame, helplessness, despair, irritation, anger, inadequacy, confusion, disconnection, loneliness, ambivalence, as well as gratitude, love, respect, and compassion.

3) Know that thriving doesn’t always mean being productive.

You are a specialist in Conflict Resolution. If a conflict has already occurred, what steps do you recommend to resolve it peacefully?

 Call a sensible friend while on a long walk. In our socially distanced times this movement is good for our bodies and our friendships. Set boundaries and stick to them. There is no need to compromise our psychological and physical health and safety for people who will not respect our boundaries, especially now. Resist advice to be only forward looking. Now is a time to revisit stories that have been passed on in our families and cultures about adversity and resilience. Unplug from social media. I noticed that social media triggers intense conflict in relationships. If you combine isolation with anxiety and limited outlets (e.g., social media) this is a recipe for conflict.

Are there different types of conflicts?

Yes, there are several types of conflict. To name a couple, I will start with the most important, the core of it all, internal conflict. Internal conflict is the negative dialogue we have in our minds that doesn’t align with our environments. A lot of times, conflict is triggered by insecurity, comparison and rejection. When someone experienced internal conflict, they don’t like this experience because it consumes them so they will often project that onto someone else which triggers an argument and sometimes it escalates to a physical altercation.

Another type of conflict is relational. In relationships, we are sometimes not on the same page because we have different ideas in mind. This small area makes a huge impact because it affects; families, marriages, friendships, professional environments and faith environments.

Sometimes these conflicts cause a separation, an ending, and other times it can motivate positive change and bridge gaps in communication and interactions.

Can you share various conflict resolution strategies?

Yes. Define Acceptable Behavior. Don’t Avoid “Conflict.” Talk and work through it with space and breaks in between. This is not easy to do however it is important in taking steps in resolving conflict or funding compromise. Choose a Neutral Location to reduce the pressure and reference by changing the environment this interaction takes place. This will hold everyone involved accountable because others are watching. Start with a Compliment and pause after this. Use “I statements” when this happens, “I feel___. “ Using I statements removes blame and shift the focus off the person/group to the problem. Don’t Jump to conclusions. Think Opportunistically, Not Punitively. When appropriate and warranted Offer Guidance, Not Solutions. Use Constructive Criticism without the sting.

If you feel that a person is not listening to you, what is the right thing to do?

Pause and take a few deep breaths. After collecting yourself call the person’s name and address them. Ask them to listen to understand not to depend.

Is it possible that a conflict cannot be resolved?

Yes, it is possible a conflict cannot be resolved. Sometimes you have to agree to disagree and find a compromise/ common ground and move forward. Keep in mind the key to moving forward in this state is accepting this.

Are there any markers of this type of conflict?

This type of conflict happens daily. If you pay attention to what’s happening in the media, in your work environment, in your families, homes, friendships, intimate relationships, it is all around you.  

What do you recommend in this situation?

 I recommend assessing yourself in the situation. Conflict isn’t about the other person it’s about you. We cannot control someone else’s reaction to us; however, we can control how we respond and what we respond to. Here are some questions to ask in your self-assessment. What is it about this moment that makes me feel (and fill in the blank)? Is there some truth to what this person is saying? Is this person mirroring something I have done or said in the past when I wasn’t my best self? Here’s a disclaimer; This will not apply in every situation or relationship. Sometimes we are not the cause of what we experience. These are some general questions and tips to help identify where you may be in the moment and identify your part in the conflict taking place.

What tips can you recommend to avoid any conflict and to safeguard your mental health?

It is best not to avoid conflict because when you do, it’s delaying what will eventually happen which intensifies the conflict at that moment. I recommend assessing yourself, the environment, use clear and open communication and listen to understand where the person is coming from instead of reacting. This is difficult to do however because it is the value resolution in its increase. This teaches us where the disconnect lies and if we pay close attention, it exposes our heart issues, which gives us the opportunity for growth. This makes the greatest impact.

How can our readers contact you and follow on social media?

You can go to my website: www.morristherapyandconsultingllc.com to join my newsletters, schedule appointments for therapy and consulting. You can find me on Instagram @morrristherapy for educational and relatable content.

Finally, can you please share your motto and your favourite quote to cheer people up?

My motto is “Surround yourself with the community who can respect, support and understand your need to be your authentic self because you’re worth it.

My favourite quote is:

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style.

Dr. Maya. Angelou