Sunday, 17 June 2007

"...but conflict feels so good!"

I was talking last weekend with a friend about this stuff - conflict, dispute management, a new approach and the like. Very often, such discussions address a perceived futility in trying to change our ways or learn a new approach. But this discussion was different.

Mike pointed out, quite rightly, "But conflict feels so good."

And he was right. Conflict feels good at the point we are in it.

In the book "Mediating Dangerously" there is an excellent quote about people being seduced by conflict. Another quote I came across on the point is this "Speak when you are angry and it will be the best speech you ever regret."

What is the point being made here?

When we are wound up in conflict we often try to suppress our responses to it until we feel that the provocation has got too much and then we go ballistic.

I have had plenty of clients with whom I have been able to work calmly and constructively. And then that phone call comes in. It is the "Right, that does it" moment and the whole demeanour of the client has changed from peaceful problem solving to "Let them have it."

Sometimes it is I myself who has the "That does it moment" and I'll dictate some stupid letter which then gets erased or modified drastically before being sent out. But it feels good to dictate it.

The recognition that it feels good is actually a useful stance. It recognises that "Conflict" is an external influence, that is to say that we are being affected by the power of this thing called conflict. If we can keep ourselves separate from the conflict we are currently experiencing then we can better identify what feelings and motives are our own, and which are the ones we are being tricked or seduced into feeling.

The other aspect of this "Good feeling" lies, I think, in the dominant role of conflict within TV and films. Conflict is everywhere on TV and in popular culture. When we succumb to that "That does it" feeling I wonder to what extent we are falling into roles that we anticipate or we see around.

This is perhaps illustrated by the comment made by many clients "But I am supposed to hate my husband/wife/ex-partner."

I'll come back to the concept of conflict as a separate entity repeatedly. It is a very useful device within conflict management. In the meantime watch out that you don't get seduced by the illusionary good feeling that conflict offers.

1 comment:

Alexander Massey said...

I think one of the reasons we can become addicted to conflict, or any emotion is because of the phenomena of the 'molecules of emotion' as Candice Pert calls them.

Essentially, we become habituated to physical/chemical states in our body and brain, whether or not they are healthy. Conflict can provide stimulation - and for some, the particular chemical / neural pattern of conflict is very familiar, for whatever reason.

Since habits arise from choices, then we can, in time, make new patterns of choices so that the old patterns atrophy, and new, healthier patterns can be introduced.

The sufi teacher Hazrat Inayat Khan wrote that "there are two aspects to people, the first that we are tuned by our environment, and the second that we can tune ourselves." It is not that everything about us is 'choice' - as children, we absorb patterns, energies, in a way that cannot be usefully labelled 'choice'. As we grow older, we can begin to examine ourselves, how we have been tuned by our environment (conditioned), and how we have agreed at some level to these patterns (cf The Four Agreements of Don Miguel Ruiz) - and then we can begin more and more to tune ourselves.