Being in conflict with someone, somewhere at sometime seems to be an inevitable and perhaps frequent event during the course of all our lives. Mostly they don’t last long…the conflicts that is!! They blow over, either by talking things through or the issue, which tends to be fixed, just loses it’s significance against the bigger picture which is always moving and changing. But sometimes a conflicted relationship gets stuck and even escalates. Sometimes they seem to last for years. Some people even manage to string it out over their entire life! It’s then that our ignorance of the dynamics of conflict is not only obvious, it becomes a huge obstacle to it’s passing.
The basic ingredients of all conflicts are the same regardless the issues at stake, the characters taking part or the history of the relationship. However when we are in the middle of any conflict it’s hard you see and understand these ingredients. It’s tough to see real causes. The arising emotions are both distracting and blinding.
Here are five key ‘insights’ about conflict and their application, which may help you walk your own path to liberation from all conflict everywhere and for all time!
INSIGHT 1 – Your responsibility within any conflict situation in which you are involved is your contribution to the conflict
APPLICATION – The Shift from Dissolution to Resolution
The process of responding to any person or situation is something that happens within you. No one can make you feel anything without your permission. If you have been in conflict with someone for sometime you are likely to be creating fear or anger towards them, and therefore expressing resistant behaviours/tendencies as you engage with them. The other person is not responsible for your emotions or your behaviours. Easy theory but hard to see in the actuality of the exchange. It’s also a ‘don’t want to see’ whenever you simply think about the conflict. It’s always easier to hold ‘them’ in your mind as the perpetrators.
If you sit quietly on your own and find a neutral position from which to reflect upon the conflict, as if you were a third party watching, you will likely realise the following. There is a cyclical exchange of energy in every conflict. The cycle of your experience of the conflict and therefore your contribution to the conflict begins within your consciousness and is sustained within your consciousness. It doesn’t begin with what the other says or does. It begins with your ‘perception’ of the other. If you perceive them negatively you will think negative thoughts, feel negative, create a negative attitude, and behave negatively, thereby giving them negative energy. You don’t have to. Perception is always a choice. But that’s the first thing we forget in the heat of any exchange.
– When there is conflict there is mental/emotional pain.
– Who creates your mental/emotional pain? You do!
– Who creates at least half of the conflict? You do!
– Who has the power to dissolve at least half the conflict? You do!
– Where do you dissolve it? Within your own consciousness. Within your self.
When seen in this light liberation from conflict is simply a decision. At any moment you can decide not to be in conflict! All you have to do is change your perception. That becomes much easier when you alter your intention. So what is the intention behind all conflicts? It sounds like this. “I want something and I am going to get that something regardless of what they want”. A simple definition of conflict is therefore “The belief that if they get what they want I cannot get what I want”. The shorter definition is of course WAR!
It is within our power to change our intention at any moment. That’s why the road to conflict resolution starts with a change of intention and perception. It may be as simple a thought as, “It would be interesting to see what we both might gain from this.” In that moment, with that thought, you have begun to dissolve your contribution to the conflict. You have begun to lessen your pain!
This is why all conflict resolution can only begin with ‘conflict dissolution’. One party has to dissolve their contribution to the conflict, even if it is only temporarily, so that the process of resolution can begin.
Dissolution comes before resolution.
INSIGHT 2 – The quality of energy you put into the conflict is likely to be the quality of energy you will get back
APPLICATION – The Shift from Wanting to Giving
What you give is what you get, and what you get is the return of what you have previously given. This is known as the Law of Reciprocity. Sometimes we call it sowing and reaping. This one law, and its many principles, is what makes the world go round. When you become aware of this one law you become much more careful about the quality of energy you give to others, regardless of who they are, or the situation that you share with them.
Drop a stone in the water and the ripples it creates will reflect off any boulder in the pond and return to the point of origin of the ripple. When we ‘drop in’ to create our life, in the great big pond of life itself, we are each walking radiators. At a subtle level we radiate attitude, and at a gross level we radiate behaviour. Either way what ripples out from us will likely return in a similar form. Unless of course ‘the other’ is slightly more enlightened and they decide not to ‘give back’ the same negative energy but to return a positive attitude and proactive behaviour. In which case, in that moment, they would be called ‘a leader’.
Are you prepared to not only dissolve your animosity towards the other but to change the quality of the energy that you give them? To do that requires a shift in emphasis from wanting a certain energy from them to giving a certain energy to them. The law says it must be reciprocated. In a conflict situation this begins with giving respect to the other. That’s not so easy if we are still stuck in the illusion that ‘they’ are responsible for our emotional pain, not easy if we still mistakenly believe they are entirely responsible for this conflicted relationship. Only once some level of mutual respect is reciprocated can there be meaningful exchanges. But we may have to be patient for the reciprocity to kick in! It will, eventually, if we are consistent in our ‘respectfulness’. That’s the law! Every day offers multiple opportunities to experiment to see this, and prove this to be true, for your self.
INSIGHT 3 – You cannot make anyone do or be anything because you cannot control another human being
APPLICATION – The Shift from Control to Influence
In any conflict situation we are essentially giving our power to the other. We are disempowering our self. In seeking the root cause of how and why we disempower our self so frequently in this way, we arrive once again at our belief system/s. Everyone has assimilated a number of beliefs through childhood, education and cultural influences. One of the most pervasive of these beliefs is around the issue of ‘control’. Almost every time we feel stressed or feel powerless or feel like a victim, it’s because we are not able to do what we subconsciously believe we can and should be doing, which is to control others.
Most of us will have assimilated this particular belief that we can control what we cannot control as we watched our parents becoming upset and blaming others because those ‘others’ were not doing what our parents wanted. We also learned to believe that we were being controlled by our parents, so we expect to grow up and join the ‘controllers club’, whose primary expectation in life becomes ‘the world should and will dance to MY tune’. Hand in hand with this belief is the idea (another belief) at a slightly deeper level, that others are responsible for our happiness. This is obviously not true and it’s easy to prove it’s not true when we watch two people responding to the same event, perhaps a competitive sport, or the movement of the stock market. One is celebrating and the other is upset and miserable.
However we can influence others. If you are a parent, a manager or anyone dealing with people as part of your role it is your job to ‘influence’. But the most frequent mistake we make is we try to control. The sign that we are trying to control another is we become emotionally upset/disturbed when they do not do or be what we want.
So is it possible to stop wanting something from the other, to stop believing they are responsible for our happiness, to stop trying to make the other behave a certain way, to stop expecting the other to be or do or say what we want? Is it possible to only want the best for the other? If we do, it completely changes the dynamic of the relationship. When we do we have made the shift from control to influence.
INSIGHT 4 – The resolution of all conflict begins at the mental level when you accept the other as they are in the moment.
APPLICATION – The Shift from Resistance to Acceptance
If you ever want to mentally and emotionally disarm another person in a conflict situation simply accept them as they are and their position as it is. It does not mean you ‘agree’, acceptance is not agreement. It doesn’t mean you ‘condone’ what they have said or done. It does mean you can begin to communicate and travel together on the journey towards resolution. Acceptance is not the only step, just the first step. By accepting the other, as they are, by acknowledging and appreciating the other’s point of view, without judgment, you start to weave trust and respect into the relationship. Only when these two ‘ingredients’ are present is a real relationship possible.
When you shift from resistance to acceptance you move from closed to open. In being open to the other you are in effect starting to ‘walk with’ instead of ‘walk against’ each other.
INSIGHT 5 – You are mentally attached to an outcome that is not happening in the physical dimension – only detachment can help you
APPLICATION – The Shift from Attachment to Detachment
In all your conflicts you have an image in your mind of the result that you want – it may be something to do with a situation or a behaviour that you want from another. It is not happening in the physical dimension, so you are not getting what YOU want! The truth is the conflict is happening because of your attachment to that specific result and the method you are using to create the result is the wrong method.
When you don’t get what you want, or it is being blocked, you automatically start to think your happiness/satisfaction is being denied by the other. In truth your happiness (contentment) is being sabotaged entirely by your self because of your ‘attachment’ to the outcome you want. But if you think it is being denied by ‘them’ you will blame them, project your pain on to them, play the role of victim and then try to defeat them in order to become victorious and thereby get what YOU want. Phew! Such is the way of ALL conflict, all war!
In order to get what you want you then try to control the other, first in your mind, then with your words and then with your behaviour. In an organisation or even a family this is doomed to failure, unless you pull rank. But if you pull rank you will eventually lose the trust, respect and the commitment of others. Pulling rank is just the ‘lazy mans/parents’ way to getting what they want. And if, for a moment, you do seem to get what you want you will likely, and mistakenly, strengthen the illusion that ‘other people make you happy’.
When you are attached to the image of a specific outcome, when you are attached to the idea that ‘the other’ has to change, that’s what keeps you closed to other options, other possibilities, new ways forward. It shuts down your creativity and your ability to work with the other to find solutions. Before we can resolve conflict it’s necessary to dissolve our part of the conflict and that means learning the art of detachment. It does not mean you do not care about the other, or that you avoid the other. In fact it’s only possible to extend care and connect authentically when you are not attached to anything, otherwise you are busy with your attachment, defending it, protecting it, fearing the loss of it. And that ‘mental busyness’ is what makes you less able to connect with the other openly, transparently, authentically.
The reality is human relationships are messy. People are unpredictable. Sometimes we ourselves are unpredictable. Every exchange is different. Many seem difficult. That means the above insights and their application are not rigidly sequential as stated. Resolving conflict is not about clever techniques and neat methods. Once you are familiar with the wisdom that sits behind the insights, once you see the validity of the internal shifts, then the appropriate behaviours will emerge naturally. You will intuitively begin know when to apply each one, or a combination, and in which particular moments.
Question: In which relationships are you experiencing some conflict today?
Reflection: Which of the above insights may immediately help you to start the process of resolution.
Action: How will you now engage with that person? See it! Then do it!
by Mike George