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Owning conflict

from the archive, 2017

Thomas Kadmon, ICR

Acknowledging a conflict is the first hurdle to starting out on a productive pathway of conflict resolution.

At this point we are not concerned with analysing the causes of human conflict, but with registering the simple fact in consciousness “I have a conflict”. A condition of dis-ease or dis-content can mask a conflict. Barring a state of complete emotional dissociation, it is generally not difficult to acknowledge to oneself that one is upset; that things are not right. With a mild conflict, things may not be quite right. Resolving to address the conflict in an appropriate place, like an ICR Conflict Resolution Workshop, one must first acknowledge it to oneself.

We live in a polite society, which is good for maintaining civic peace and order, but can make awkward the owning of conflict - because nobody particularly wants to be the person guilty of “disturbing the peace”, or of indulging an “unnecessary drama”. Psychological balance requires a dedicated place where it is positively advisable to disturb the fragile peace in the interests of a deeper peace; a place where every opportunity for drama is necessary.

Because of the taboo around conflict in the more public space of the macro drama, the drama of life, there is always a tendency to deny or suppress it.

Suppression and avoidance become reflex at the first whiff of conflict. We can forget that they can be only a temporary measure at best. If suppression, denial, avoidance and evasion become chronic, serious damage can result to the psyche, like dissociation and fragmentation. Tragically, these are far more widespread than they should be.

Suppressing a conflict cannot obliterate its existence, as much as one might wish it could. However clever the denier is in not alluding to the conflict by word or gesture, it does not quietly stay in the dark and go away in the dark.

The underground conflict actually acquires a more menacing power to erupt at the slightest aggravation. And it burdens relationships through the exhaustion of cold wars.

Experience teaches that individuals and groups need a roadmap that stretches between conflicts and peace. This means methods and processes.Theoretically it is possible to deny all conflict and pass directly to transcendental peace. Such perfectionism is not irrational if conflict is genuinely regarded as an illusion of some kind. But it would be the equivalent of an instant realisation that a learning process in time is not necessary; that time itself is part of the illusion; and that the Eternal Now is all that is real. Again, the evidence provided by historical individuals and groups says that real human beings learn in time and ‘purify’ themselves somehow by passing through conflict, whether engendered by themselves or brought to them from the outside.

As physical labour naturally produces sweat on the labourer, surviving competitively in our world generates conflict as a matter of course.

It is not trouble-making to own up to being conflicted, to being polarised on one side of a battleline. It is trouble-making not to do something about it. One cannot be blamed for sweating, but may be blamed for not showering! So why stew in and nurture conflicts, when you can transmute their energy in an appropriate place into creative harmony?

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