Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Strange Love; or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Conflict

I've been such a conflict avoider in my life.  Of course, this was for a bunch of very good reasons to do with emotionally surviving my childhood - the way most of our deep wounds are garnered.  So I learned to turn this skill increasingly to my advantage as time went on, seeing as how I couldn't seem to shake the habit.  For example, I developed a reputation for being a greast 'coper', a safe haven type in the eye of a crisis storm, that sort of thing.  Because I found ways not to buy into conflicts.

There's this old thing about 'faking it till you make it,' and it's not all bunkum.  It's in lots of ways the core of how we learn stuff.  In a spiritual sense things like shamanic practice are very kindred with this way of seeing.  So my silver lining is that eventually, despite it initially being nothing more than a defence mechanism, I began to learn some genuine detachment.  Sweet.  But wait, there's more.  Because here we have a positive feedback loop, yes?  Now I'm getting even more value from conflict avoidance, reinforcing it as a good way to live.

Well, it is and it isn't.

Surely you've noticed the tendency life has to bash you about the head with stuff you need to address for your own growth whenever you aren't working in the groove of that already.  So, natch, I have found myself constantly challenged by those who seem to view conflict entirely differently.  Taking the long view, this may explain why I manifested the childhood that I did.  Another story there though.

I am aided in my quest to experience unwanted conflict by my (un?)natural lack of tact.  Tactfulness is something I have had to work quite hard at and amusingly (for me anyway) still frequently fail at.  Sorry if what I just said in any way offended anyone then - I wouldn't know :-).  And again, natch, I can spot someone with a similar path or stream going on and tactlessly fall straight in to spreading The Good Word on it all, in order that we both shall learn, perhaps.  They do say "you teach what you most need to learn."  Then again they also say "those who can, do - those who can't, teach."

Hypocrisy is OK, you know.  As we used to say in the schoolyard, "It takes one to know one."  Then again we also used to say "the one who smelt it dealt it."  Jesus was not without sin, and Christians seem to have no problem getting past that.  You can be impefect and a wonderful, valuable being at the same time, yes?


This is the core of what I'm getting at here.  Conflict can be a perfectly useful thing, when done with respect.  It's just that my early experiences were so soul-thumpingly disrespectful that it's taken me some many miles to really see and own this.

Conflict happens when two or more people see the same thing differently and at least one of them feels sufficiently motivated to try and help another party see/hear/feel/understand this thing the same way they do.  And the other resists.  For without resistance, there is no conflict.

Worth noting here that my opinion (as all of this is, please don't forget that) is that conflict has no place in matters of the spirit or the heart.  We of course are moved by our hearts to enter into conflict, and to wish to prevail, but the 'battleground' of the useful conflict will always be that of definitions, of intellect, of matter, of that which can be demonstrated, proved and potentially agreed upon.  Anything else is either a simple power struggle, thus not a conflict which can be negotiated to a true and respectful peace or good conclusion, or the result of one party simply refusing to hear or acknowledge the rights of another - to be heard, to matter, whatever.

So let's say we want to build a treeehouse, you and I, and we each care about the design and construction.  A very cool part of the process is that of conflicting ideas, aesthetics and understandings.  It's just for me that once I would have done my best to structure (read: control) the situation to avoid or negate as much of that potential 'conflict' conflict as possible. 

Part of my learning to love this conflict thing is that I love people to whom it is a dear and important part of their lives.  Part of it also is that in a physical sense I am the very epitome of a conflict battleground - an autoimmune disease is little more in some ways than a part of your body going in a different direction from the rest of you and trying to convince that remainder to do as it is doing.  And to love myself I must love this also.

Mainly though, I have come to understand that conflict is not fighting.  It does not have to have a destructive or uneven or disrespectful agenda.  It can just be a healthy clash of differences, as we so often observe in non-human (and sometimes human) nature.  Respect is the key.  We may absolutely deeply truly incontrovertibly freakin' KNOW we are right but without respecting another's right to disagree there is no avoiding useless, destructive and distracting unpleasantness.  Besides, you could be wrong.  I have been.

I still have all the old skills and habits of conflict avoidance, and occasionally they pop up on auto-pilot in inapproriate situations, but that's OK.  It's good for me to know I am mostly past that, and that I still have a kick-ass armoury of anti-conflct, peacenik type weapony tools at my disposal when I need them.

It is a strange love, this love of difference, but without it, wouldn't life be just that little bit too juiceless?

Feel free to take issue with any of this, of course :-)

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE to read your writing. I try to imagine, in my american brain, you saying it with that lovely australian accent - even though i know your speaking is on the decline. respect is the key - yes! and perhaps having the opportunity to know others better by listening to their differentness? oh, and btw, most of us Christians believe Jesus was without sin… at least the ones i know.
    my favorite sentence in your above post: "I still have a ick-ass armoury of anti-conflict, peacenik type weapony tools at my disposal when I need them." made me smile a big smile. You sound like a fun guy to know.