Conflict: A Doorway to Transformation
By Jill Sarah Moscowitz
What is the purpose of conflict? Can it be useful? Most of us would not seek to be in battle with a loved one or even an acquaintance, yet this very battle often presents a path to heal those parts of ourselves most difficult to reach. It is through interpersonal conflict that we are given an opportunity to look most deeply within ourselves—and do the work that we are not able to do on our own.
In my work as a mediator, I have witnessed conflict in the home, in the workplace, in the community. Reasons are assigned to the conflict such as feelings of personal betrayal, misunderstanding or deceit; changes in policy or work schedules; or disagreements over money. Regardless of whom we are in conflict with, and what the conflict is over—the conflict is ours to own.
As a guest lecturer at the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders at the United Nations, Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi said "Peace is not just the absence of war and conflict; it goes well beyond that. Peace must be fostered within the individual, within the family and within society. Simply transferring the world's nuclear weapons to a museum will not in itself bring about world peace. The nuclear weapons of the mind must first be eliminated."
What is the nuclear weapon of the mind that Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi speaks of? In a painful situation the mind is quick to judge, “what is the cause of this unpleasant feeling I am experiencing?” The nuclear weapon of our mind is its desire to judge the enemy outside of us, to view it as responsible for our experiences. Rarely, do we look at our own arsenal, and begin the disarming there. The mind rarely understands its power to mitigate our experience of the situation that occurs outside of us.
Our stories about a conflict situation are most often an interpretation and judgment of what happened. According to the authors of Landmark Education, “it is a human tendency to collapse what happened; with the story we tell about what happened. This collapsing happens so fast it becomes hard to separate the two, and we think of them as one and the same. Almost immediately, and certainly over time, the story we tell ourselves becomes the way it is – the reality we know. It limits what is possible in our lives, robbing us of much of our joy and effectiveness”.
What’s left when the story goes away? When we see beyond the right/wrong paradigm we may be able to gain an understanding of our own humanity and begin to uncover our own unmet needs that may be the cause of the underlying conflict.
Marshall Rosenberg, PhD, author of Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life suggests “underlying all human actions are needs that people are seeking to meet, and understanding and acknowledging these needs can create a shared basis for connection, cooperation, and more globally — peace”. Rosenberg suggests all feelings including anger, rage, and frustrations arise from unmet needs. I often see these behaviors, or accusations of these behaviors, in mediation sessions. If in fact unmet needs are the underlying source of the dispute, then the dispute itself serves as a catalyst for self -discovery.
Yet self-discovery requires courage. So many of us wish to look good and be “right” at all times. We deny our basic humanity. As humans, we are all capable of many behaviors. We each take a turn at behaving with greed, jealousy, deceit, zealousness, anger, and fear. Even if these behaviors stem from unmet needs, it is not easy to accept them in ourselves or in others. We move to blame the “other” yet the other is only the temporary enemy; showing us what is possible within ourselves.
What if we sought to examine the inner wars? Would this aide in resolving conflict? In this journey, we might find that the mind is actively assigning someone out there to blame for the stories of right and wrong. This notion of right and wrong serves as a deterrent for deeper responsibility and love within us. Once we are able to look at the perpetrator free from right or wrong, we may begin to see the enemy’s wounds as our own, and begin the most profound healing.
Jill Sarah Moscowitz,
Certified Transformative Mediator
Ms. Moscowitz offers mediation sessions and communication skills training for groups and individuals. For more information, www.transformationthroughmediation.com or Email: [email protected]
This article was posted by Jill Sarah Moscowitz