I am no stranger to conflict.
Both in my personal life and professionally I have witnessed, been party to and mediated more conflicted dynamics than I care to remember.
It's not that I go out of my way to look for conflict but when it comes to my door I don't run from it either. No one likes it, unless they are a sociopath.
But everyone must learn to navigate the rough waters of interpersonal work as well as the fair. Very often it is in conflict that we learn the most about ourselves and other people, learning that is done in the fires of the full, open, strong and clear heart.
Angeles Arrien has mentioned on many occasions that relationship is the highest spiritual discipline and training ground. That training ground is taken to the next level when conflct emerges.
For those who are looking to strengthen the heart for deepening relationship–and conflict is one of the doors to deepening– the following resource is a great one.
That resource is David Richo's fine book, How To Be An Adult In Relationships.
In the chapter entitled, Struggles Along The Way, he makes an important series of distinctions between conflict and drama.
You can find the following on pages 147/48:
The problem is placed on the table between us, and we see it in perspective.
We explore the situation.
We address the issue directly.
We express our feelings candidly, taking responsibility for them as our own without blaming the other or feeling ashamed.
We are looking for a way to keep the relationship stable, and we don’t use violence.
We remain focused on the present issue.
We are committed to a bilateral style in processing issues and making decisions.
The issue is resolved with an agreement to change something for the better.
Both of us are looking for ways of making our relationship better.
We fight fairly.
We admit mutual responsibility for the problem.
We are committed to working things out, but we respect the other’s timing.
We try and deal with the issue one-on-one.
If necessary, we seek therapy or a support group.
We want both of us to grow from this conflict.
We let go of our attachment to the outcome we wanted in favor of a resolution we can both live with.
We are aware of any complexities.
It is acceptable to agree to disagree.
We notice, mirror, and feel deep compassion for the other’s pain.
We admit it if our behavior is connected to childhood.
We acknowledge how our shadow might be involved.
Our conflict is love-based, and we want to show the five A’s (attention, acceptance, affection, appreciation, allowing).
We are centered in mindfulness.
The problem becomes bigger than both of us; we are possessed by it and lose perspective.
We exploit the situation.
We sidestep the issue or cover it up.
We use invective to dump our feelings on one another or engage in theatrical/histrionic displays meant to manipulate, intimidate or distance the other.
We explode, act violently, retaliate, or withdraw sullenly.
We use the present issue to bring up an old resentment that contaminates the present process.
One of us makes a unilateral or secret decision.
The issue remains an open wound with lingering resentment and ongoing stress.
One of us has to win and see the other lose.
We use cutthroat tactics.
We are convinced the problem is entirely the other’s fault.
We insist this problem be fixed in accord with our timing, showing no tolerance for time out.
We crowed the stage by bringing someone else or something else in as a distraction (e.g., an affair, drinking).
We refuse help or attempt to use it to justify our personal position.
We want the other to learn a lesson.
We each insist on getting our own way.
We see only in black and white.
Ambiguity is intolerable.
We are so caught up in our own pain we don not see the other ‘s pain, Or we think, “He/she deserves it.”
We are adamant that the issue is entirely about the here and now.
We see the other’s shadow but not our own.
Our drama is fear based, and we have to save face, protect our ego.
We are distracted by the mindsets of ego.
© Patrick O’Neill 2011. All rights reserved.