Creating harmonious relationships whilst we deal with the challenges of lockdown.
During these exceptional and unprecedented times, we have many different types of challenges and there is much help and support online. I am focusing on the areas I have been immersed in over the last 30 years: communication and resolving conflict. We may need to communicate differently now as so much has changed. Our strategies in the past may not always work in this new lockdown experience as we are living with the same people day after day. This can put pressure on our relationships and even the most loving relationships can have extra stresses. For those living alone this brings different challenges as you may be on the phone more often to family members, you may be more in touch with inner conflict, you may feel very isolated.
I am passionate about resolving conflict so that everyone gains, rather than have some who win and some who lose. Unresolved conflict and conflict which damages us can have a huge impact on our lives.
Ever since my Dad was killed in a terrorist attack in 1984, I have been learning about the power of empathy, how to heal from trauma and how we can resolve conflict, so no one hurts. I have spent the last 20 years meeting with the IRA combatant who planted the bomb which killed my Dad; I have shared stages with him over 300 times around the world and learnt so much from our ongoing dialogue.
I trained nearly 30 years ago as a parent educator, supporting parents in listening to their children, looking at the needs behind behaviour and alternatives to blame and punishment. I am also a restorative justice facilitator and have devised workshops in schools for young people to be change makers. I have founded a charity Building Bridges for Peace and now have a new website https://www.jo-berry.net/ Most of all I am still learning to choose love over anything else.
I know for many there are moments when everything seems normal and then in a flash people can feel overwhelmed by the trauma and stress of what is happening. Feelings can be intensified, and we can behave differently. At this time, all feelings are understandable, and even small children may be feeling so much. What can we do to make space and acknowledge all these feelings without them spilling out onto each other is an important question. We are all dealing with so much uncertainty.
How are you doing?
How is it for you being with your loved ones every day without seeing anyone else. Are you feeling frustrated sometimes? Do you feel emotional for no reason?
Is it a challenge to resolve everyday conflict?
Are there new conflicts arising that would not normally when you spend more time apart?
Are you living alone? (Sometime living alone makes it hard to let go of negative self-talk and practise self-care.)
Conflict arises from differences. It occurs whenever people disagree over their values, motivations, perceptions, ideas, or desires. Sometimes these differences look trivial, but when a conflict triggers strong feelings, it needs to be resolved. We all have a need to feel safe and secure, a need to feel respected and valued, a need for greater closeness and intimacy. Sometimes seemingly trivial issues can become hugely important, for example who does the washing up can become a major trigger, or where our kids leave their shoes, or who takes out the rubbish. It is never just about the presenting issue; it is about underlying emotions and concerns which need to be addressed.
I am living in a tiny house with my youngest daughter and her boyfriend, both circus performers and jugglers, and we know honest communication is needed every day. Yet small things can become massive and I am needing to find new strategies in myself so we can all live together harmoniously. I have moments when I turn into ‘controlling Mum’ and it can be over the smallest thing, like who ate the chocolate!
Our small sitting room is a place for circus practise, body conditioning, juggling, my office, eating, relaxing, live zoom Pilates classes, watching tv, dancing, board games and more. We are sensitive of each other’s needs and negotiate the space. Yet every day I am looking deeply into myself as to what needs to happen, what can I let go of and what needs to be spoken about in a safe way. I know at every moment we are all doing our best and I am being very gentle in myself when I mess up.
Yesterday we held a circle and started with gratitude and appreciation of each other before sharing our individual challenges. We all felt so joyful and happy after the session and today there is a new focus in the air.
My Offer to YOU
This is an opportunity to develop your conflict transformation skills which will enhance all your relationships and I will support each individual home situation whether you live alone, have children, partners or extended family. Before lockdown we had ways to meet our needs, such as take time away from loved ones, kids went to school, we left each day for work, we could go to the gym or a thousand other ways. Living together is intense and emotions can be very charged.
I am offering zoom sessions of one hour each, with a free 15-minute chat before to see how I can support you, and for you to discover if you can work with me. This will be free to front line workers, and £50 or how much you can afford to everyone else. I also accept donations to my charity, Building bridges for peace.
I offer many different types of support and have outlined a few here. I believe there is an amazing opportunity to be different and creative with conflict at this time and together we can go on a journey to explore this. We can develop our capacity to be empathetic, learn or deepen our skills, and have stronger self-esteem. Our overall mental health is more important than ever as we have lost most of our support systems and I can hold a space whilst you build your unique support structure for you in this new ‘normal’. I sense there is an openness to try new things as we adapt to the new normal.
Ø I can be a safe place for you to be heard – whatever you are experiencing. Sometimes it is easy to get overwhelmed with worry and feel very desperate. I am here for you and you will feel a loving hand holding you whilst you share.
Ø I can listen to you, so it is then easier to listen to the other person. Sometimes all we need is someone to listen to us without judging, trying to fix us, or interrupting. I will empower you to find the strategies you need in your unique situation. Every household is different and there is not one solution for all. I can help you find ways to listen to each other so you can hear each other in a safe way and then discover shared solutions.
Ø I can help you create structures so that issues can be resolved before there is an argument. I can also support you in handling those moments when stress becomes overwhelming.
I can help with everyone to express feelings in a safe way where no one is hurt, whether you are 2 years old or 92. The emotion can be anger, fear, frustration, sadness or any other emotion. Even in a small house there can be space to feel emotions in a safe way.
Ø Would you like to hold a family meeting where all have a voice – from the youngest to the oldest? A place where each person can speak without being interrupted. With a few simple ground rules – which everyone has agreed on – you can all feel safe to share what you feel about a topic you have agreed on or create a space to all say how you feel. It can be an amazing opportunity for everyone to share and can result in everyone feeling closer.
Ø If you are looking to find a solution to a conflict in the house, then through this process everyone will contribute to a shared solution and thus each person will be invested in making it work. I can prepare you to facilitate the meeting, have one session with all participants and or I can be with you all on zoom. We will work out together the best way for you. I can then support you in developing the most appropriate circles for your house.
Ø Gratitude and appreciation circles. At a time when there is so much distress and fear about, it is healing and transformative to have a time where all can share our appreciation of each other. When this is added to gratitude – such as is there one thing we can say at this moment we are grateful for – our inner feelings of joy can be enhanced. I can prepare you to facilitate this and then you can come back to me and share how it went. You can then have another circle taking on board all you have learnt.
One of Jo’s MANY gifts is helping people with difficult conversations…and I cannot recommend her enough. She has helped me with an ongoing conversation and I never fail to be deeply touched by her caring and wisdom. Jo has an incredible knack of using a few simple words to totally shift the direction of conversation to a place of resolution or acceptance, to calm the situation, to help me see clearly and to reclaim my power. Her gentle yet powerful enquiry can turn things around in a moment. All things I am usually quite adept at – but sometimes when it is someone too close to home I can find myself lost re how to respond.
Elaine Harrison, Author Coach & PR
Please contact me on [email protected]
If you feel you are in danger, are experiencing any form of violence or coercive control, then do ring the National Domestic Abuse Helpline for free and confidential advice, 24 hours a day on 0808 2000 247.