Is Relationship Drama Shortening Your Life?

Posted on January 14, 2016 by Nate Regier / 0 comments
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A large study in Denmark, reported in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, found that people who are constantly involved in conflict with their families, friends, and neighbors are more likely to die in middle age.

The researchers surveyed 10,000 men and women about conflict in their lives and then tracked death records 11 years later. Frequent fighters were two to three times more likely to be dead than their peaceable counterparts.

This research adds to other studies showing that persons who frequently express hostility towards others are more likely to have heart attacks than those who don’t. However, it’s important to note that conflict is does not always result in hostility, in fact it can often result in many positive outcomes. 

A part of the foundation of our work at Next Element is the distinction between negative and positive conflict.

Negative conflict is characterized by ‘fighting’ among three roles; the Persecutor, the Victim, and the Rescuer.

The Persecutor attacks or blames others, using guilt, intimidation, and/or fear to get what they want. Victims accept the attacks, feeling hurt and worthless as a result. Rescuers give uninvited advice and attempt to fix others without permission. Drama-based conflict is toxic. It results in feelings of rage, helplessness, and frustration. Negative conflict is all about struggling against others. We suspect this is the type of conflict that the Danish researchers were studying. Negative drama may indeed shorten your life!

Positive conflict is different.

Positive conflict involves struggling with others instead of against them.

It’s healthy and normal for people to have differences and disagreements, but attempting to eliminate these differences is not healthy. Defining peace as the absence of conflict is not helpful because it dismisses the power of conflict to create new and wonderful things when managed well. Positive conflict means being honest about how you are feeling without attacking someone else or putting yourself down. It means creative problem-solving around the real issues, not the superficial stuff. And it means not giving up on each other while seeking win-win solutions.

Positive conflict is hard because it requires new skills, new habits, and a new attitude towards ourselves and others. But it is rewarding. Who knows, it may even add a few years to your life!

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