9 Tips to Avoid Conflict this Christmas


Christmas can be a time of joy and celebration, yet at the same time it can be a time of stress and tension. Don,t let that cross word escalate into a huge argument that spoils this season of goodwill.

Here are a few tips to help you smooth out any ruffled feathers:

1. Get it out into the open – Rather than avoid conflict altogether make time to sit down calmly or go for a walk to discuss any frustrations that may be building. Do so in a calm, respectful way rather than let the tension build up and blurt it out in an angry, hurtful way.

2. Stop being defensive – rather than denying how you feel and avoiding the reality that your silence is creating a bad atmosphere. Make time to talk. Silent defensiveness only contributes to the problem. You may think it better to say nothing as a way of alleviating stress in the here and now, but silence is a very passive aggressive gesture and will only alienate your partner when they don’t feel listened to.

3. Avoid overgeneralising – When you have it out with the other person avoid making sweeping generalisations. Don’t start sentences with “You always,” or “You never,” as in “You always leave everything to me!” or, “You never help me!” Can you really say, with your hand on your heart that this is the case on every occasion? Also, however tempting it may be, avoid bringing up past conflicts as this will just add fuel to the fire and stir up mor negativity.

4. There is not always a “right” or a “wrong” – it’s not helpful to always assume that there is a right and a wrong way to look at things, and that your way is the right way. Don’t demand that the other person sees it your way or that just because they have a different opinion that they are wrong. Try to find a compromise if you can, or agree to disagree. After all, both points of view could be valid.

5. Stop mind-reading – in the CBT world we talk about “unhelpful thinking.” Instead of asking how the other person is thinking of feeling, people sometimes assume that they know what their partner is thinking and feeling based upon inaccurate interpretations of their actions. For example, just because somebody is late home, it doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t care enough to be on time. Remember, we all come from a unique perspective, so stop assuming and take time to ask, check out and really listen to the other person.

6. Don’t forget to listen – instead of taking time to attempt to understand your partner, stop interrupting, rolling your eyes and rehearsing what you are going to say next. Take time to stop and truly listen to their point of view. There will be plenty of time for you to talk. Do not underestimate the power of really listening and really trying to empathise. Such listening skills are really all about respecting the other person.

7. Stop playing the blame game – instead of simply criticising and blaming the other person for the situation. Be prepared to back down, say sorry and acknowledge that you might not be right. You may think that this weakens your credibility and prefer to “shame” them into accepting it is their “fault.” His does not help create a harmonious solution where both parties can make up. Instead, try to come up with a solution that helps you both.

8. Stop trying to “Win” at all costs – there is a saying that goes along the lines of: “If people are focused on winning the argument, the relationship loses.” The point of a relationship discussion is to reach a mutual understanding and come to an agreement or resolution that respects everyone’s needs.

9. Avoid character attacks – finally, just because your partner leaves his or her clothes lying around the bedroom does not mean that he or she is “inconsiderate” or “lazy.” Just because the other person wants to do something different to you it doesn’t mean they are being “awkward .” What ever you make think, take time to step back and give the other person some respect, after all it is their behaviour you have difficulty with.

Remember, good communication can really improve relationships, increasing intimacy, trust and support. This Christmas come together and make time for each other, even if things become a little fraught at times. Make friends, say sorry and celebrate openness and honesty.

Have a good Christmas,

Until next time, Steve.


You may wish to know that Steve is now offering therapy sessions via Skype Please contact us through our website @ www.stevecliffordcbt.com

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Steve Clifford Senior Accredited Integrative Psychotherapist.                                           Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

Reference: “Conflict Resolution Mistakes to Avoid,” by Elizabeth Scott, 28/10/11

Image: Source/Wikimedia Commons – File: Argue.png (Clipart).


File:Mr Pipo thoughts.svg

All day long our minds are filled with constant chitter chatter. Most of it benign, some of it worry-some, and some of it down right troublesome.

Research suggests we have somewhere in the region of 65,000 thoughts every day and that on average our mental dialogue is in the region of 50 to 300 words per minute.

Much of this is self-talk, inwardly directed and a good deal of it is unhelpful. Because of the way it makes us feel, it is capable of raising our stress levels and bringing down our mood. In CBT circles we talk of NATs (Negative Automatic Thoughts) or ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts).

Such thoughts are:

AUTOMATIC              They just seem to come into your mind without any concious effort.

DISTORTED               They are not always supported by the things you know to be true.

UNHELPFUL             They are nearly always negative and make it difficult to change.

PLAUSIBLE               You accept them as facts without questioning them.

INVOLUNTARY         You do not choose to have them and they appear difficult to stop.

One of the problems is that we tend to be so identified with our thoughts that we often cannot see them for what they are…just thoughts. Instead, somehow we see them as us, and we feel we have no power over them. Often we give them power, believing them and that we are somehow at the mercy of them. Racing thoughts, obsessive ruminations and irrational fears take over.

How then can we learn to step back and take control? Well, let me introduce you to “thought flipping.”

I would like you to imagine that you are now going to install a “negative thought alarm.” As soon as a negative thought crosses your mind a silent alarm sounds. You then step in with absolute authority, grab hold of the thought and flip it on its head, by thinking the exact opposite.

Yes, expect a little battle at first, when your rational programmed mind tells you that such a practice is ridiculous and could not possibly be true. But like the Master you are, you use your authority and power to respond back in a direct and commanding way. The mind is reminded that it’s former thought was, at the very least, as lousy and ridiculous as the new flipped one. As you are the Master you will choose what is true.

Here is an example of thought flipping where we rewrite the negative mental script.
You find your mood dipping and you notice you are feeling angry with yourself. Your thoughts are as follows: “I am useless and have no sticking power, I missed an entire week at the gym.” By flipping the thought we create a different perspective and this can halt the negative mood slide. “I have been kind and listened
to my body and taken a break from the gym, so I am going to have a really good workout today, because I am truly committed to my goal of feeling good and honouring my mind and body.”

What you need to do is change the wording, in other words rewrite them. Which one do you want to be true? You choose?

It can be really helpful at first to get into the habit of writing down any serial negative thoughts that continue to pop into your mind. Do this when you notice the drain on your emotions and you start to feel down, depressed or anxious:

Write down your thoughts on paper and take a good look at it.

Do you know this thought is a fact, is it true?

Is this a helpful thought, does it serve you?

Write down a counter thought that opposes the negative thought

Change the wording of the thought to something more positive

Now each time the negative thought wants to dominate your thinking, assertively replace it with the new positive alternative.

So here we have it, thought flipping, tackling negative thoughts by re-creating positive alternatives with deliberate intent. Planting positive thoughts this way ensures that we take back control and create the reality we want.

Until next time, very best wishes, Steve.


You may wish to know that Steve is now offering therapy sessions via Skype                   Please contact us through our website @  www.stevecliffordcbt.com

Visit our facebook sites:



Steve Clifford                                                                                                                       Senior Accredited Integrative  Psychotherapist.                                                                 Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.


Adapted from: “Thought-Flipping: A guide for Taking Charge of Your Mind-Stuff,” by Leigh Donovan, 30/06/12, Spirit-full, a personal transformational blog.

Ref: “Negative Automatic Thoughts,”  Central Manchester and Manchester Children’s University Hospitals NHS TRust, Clinical Psychology, 2002

Image ref: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f9/Mr_Pipo_thoughts.svg

The transcending reality of the Jesus story.

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It has been said that Jesus is to the West, as Buddha is to the East. Certainly for the past two thousand years he has occupied a central position in our culture. Yet today churches, clergy, and monastic communities are in rapid decline. One reason for this, is that over the last fifty years our obsession with historical accuracy of every part of the Jesus story  has taken away from the meaning of the story.

I believe that it is misguided to look literally, instead we need to look symbolically. In other words, stop reading the bible as a historical document and start reading it mythologically in the same way as we would, say, Greek myths and legends. Plus, to expect 1st century ideas to travel and translate word for word across time is ridiculous.

We need to look at the metaphors and symbolism of the story; that way the transformative power comes forth. With the best will in the world, churches have failed to capture the sacred dimension of life in the hearts and minds of their congregation.

When Jesus said, “My Kingdom is not of this world”, he did not mean that it is floating around somewhere up in the sky. Jesus was very clear when he said, “the Kingdom of God is within you”. In other words he invites us into a larger dimension of living than we commonly inhabit.

Transcendant awakening is a bit like the path of enlightenment in Buddhist philosophy. By directing the light of our consciousness beyond the current frontier of our knowing, we begin to allow the great unknown dimensions of life to find us.

According to Revolutionary Mystic Adyashanti, the Kingdom Jesus speaks about is not of this world, but is very much present within this world. He considers it is ever present and everywhere upon the Earth, but people do not see and experience it because they have become attached to the things of this world; things like power, greed, hatred, envy, judgement, control and violence.

By stepping away from our own divinity and projecting it exclusively on to Jesus as the one and only son of God, we simply perpetuate the very suffering that Jesus came to dispel. Buddhism too is concerned with suffering (dukka).  To the Buddha the entire teaching is just the understanding of suffering, the unsatisfactory nature of all phenomenal existence, and the understanding of the way out of this unsatisfactoriness.

Just as with mindfulness and other meditation practices we are striving to cultivate true awareness, so too Jesus calls us to awaken and embody the living presence of eternity and enlightenment here on Earth. If we can find the courage to step away from the security of what we think we know, and look at this story with fresh eyes, it can speak to us in ways that can really resonate at a deep level. As adults in our western society many of us have almost entirely forgotten that story telling and myth are powerful ways of conveying spiritual and existential truths that cannot be conveyed in ordinary language.

Living in this moment is something taught in many (if not most) traditions, and it is a great antidote to suffering. The Buddha tells us, “Don’t chase after the past, don’t seek the future; the past is gone, the future hasn’t come. But see clearly on the spot, the object which is now, while finding and living in a still, unmoving state of mind.” Jesus said, ” Consider the lilies. They neither toil nor spin…let tomorrow take care of itself.”

Let us see the words of the story for what they are – mere pointers towards a reality that the limitations of words always distort and never capture. There is a transcending reality not only present in the story, but also in the very heart of life. This reality is within each of us, within the stillness of our internal space and stands for the limitless of Being itself.

If mindfulness has emerged as a powerful practice embracing business culture, schools, health and many other secular environments, it is because Religion as a system of belief is not seen as the doorway to the everlasting as it was. When mindfulness does not claim to hold the Truth or be the Way it resonates more easily with people in this secular society we live in. On the other hand because language can never do more than point to that which it seeks to describe, looking at the story as a symbolic message can offer the disenchanted a transcending reality which is present in the very heart of life as a limitless symbol of hope if we listen to that still and quiet place within.

Until next time, very best wishes, Steve.


You may wish to know that Steve is now offering therapy sessions via Skype                   Please contact us through our website @  www.stevecliffordcbt.com

Visit our facebook sites:



Steve Clifford                                                                                                                       Senior Accredited Integrative  Psychotherapist.                                                                 Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.


Adyashanti (2014) “Jesus: A Revolutionary Mystic,” Watkins Mind Body Spirit, Issue 38, Summer 2014, 30-31.

Spong, J. S (1999) Why Christianity must change or die, Harper, San Francisco.

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