Where does conflict arise? I have been considering this question for a while now. It feels like a chicken and egg situation in terms of what comes first…is it a reaction to an external stimulus or does an internal stimulus create the external conflict?
I am leaning towards it being primarily about the quality of the internal relationship held with the self and then it’s about how we relate to others in different situations.
The issue at hand is that as individuals we are often experiencing incoherence between our cognition, our feelings, our actions and our souls yearning. We generally feel ill-equipped to deal with conflict skillfully and so we avoid it at all costs…and it costs us dearly as it creates further fragmentation within ourselves and distancing from others.
Let me share a personal example of what I mean by this.
My entire life, all I have ever wanted is to be understood, to belong and be loved for who I am.
Seems simple enough…right!
Here’s the rub; I am an incredibly sensitive person and I learnt very early on in my development that when I revealed my true thoughts or feelings it created an environment of anger and aggression. I believed that I had to find a way to internalize and contain those big feelings and opinions. The problem is that the feelings don’t go away. Containing them creates an internal experience for me that becomes volatile and highly reactive which activates my nervous system and places it on high alert to the external environment in an effort to ensure that I do not upset or trigger anyone else. This I have discovered has made me guarded and is not an authentic way to live as relationships are built on the premise of keeping the peace in place of using conflict to deepen and strengthen relationships. Never mind that this has only taken me 50 years of my 53 in existence, but at least it has finally dawned on me.
The way we deal with our inner conflict becomes key.
The truth is, we are all constantly negotiating within ourselves and struggling to put the necessary boundaries in place to ensure that we are in a conscious way of being and not at the mercy of the demands from outside. The reason for this from my observation is that our socialization has us believing more often than not, that the needs and expectations of others are more important than our own.
This feels like the birthplace of conflict in this human experience, which in essence is a place of varying degrees of being able to assert our needs versus varying degrees of cooperation.
Depending on how grounded a person is in terms of their own sense of belonging and value, will determine the degree to which they are prepared to assert their needs and be able to remain cooperative with others. This is the space of collaboration and it falls within the conflict matrix because real collaboration means creating win-win scenarios which requires a space for negotiation in place of compromise where everyone loses. It requires of us the ability to hold our own and not feel threatened when someone else needs something too. The work then is what each of us needs to do to shift the limiting beliefs around our being worthy of being here and therefore be able to assert ourselves in the world with greater competence and confidence and an ability to cooperate with others to ensure benefit for all.
Coming back to my issue of incoherence when I’m feeling triggered and whether to speak up or contain it. If I am to be more collaborative internally, it requires deeper cooperation and honesty with the feelings that are showing up for me, creating space and time to appreciate what they are revealing to me and being able to sit with them while asserting a more conscious soothing mechanism, in place of my habitual strategy, which is abscencing. In avoidance or abscencing I gain nothing as I am not asserting what I know I should be doing or cooperating with the feelings and so I remain embattled with myself.
The lesson from this internal conflict is that I open up and speak more truthfully about my feelings regardless of how they might be received by others. I still experience a real rush of energy whenever I am about to speak my truth, and I am learning to read this as my souls rejoicing in my honesty and bringing more of myself into relationship.
When we are engaged in internal conflict, it shows up in the world around us because it manifests in the way we behave and relate to the world. For me, if I do not communicate truthfully and choose instead to internalize, I become distant, absent, resentful and inaccessible to myself and those around me. Not exactly the ingredients to foster real connection.
Consider for a moment the source of conflict in your life?
I observe people struggling with saying no, with overwhelm, with anxiety, with hyper activation of the nervous system, with needing to be a certain way, depression, fatigue, burnout, and constant crisis management.
These are all symptoms that indicate conflict between our ego and our soul essence. There is an unreasonableness about the expectations that people are placing on themselves and having placed on them. It is as if we have forgotten that we are human and find ourselves in a constant battle between the external demands of life and the internal requirements to enjoy the experience of being human. The beauty is that the soul is intrinsically wise, it is not bothered with comparison games and chasing unreasonable demands or living in limiting beliefs. Unlike its counterpart in the ego mind which is all about belonging, being valuable, successful and important which points to extrinsic motivation.
And so again I return to my source of conflict as a great teacher and the battle to stay present with the intensity and sensitivity of my feelings. Having observed my pattern of abscencing/numbing, I am now implementing ways to stay attuned and connected with my experience during the day, so that I can be responding in place of reacting to the triggers. This allows a greater internal coherence in place of the conflict and out of coherence there comes greater capacity for self-worth, self-esteem, courage and ultimately deeper connections. It also means that I focus on what I might need to address within myself or in relationship with another to ensure my internal coherence and alignment; which in turn allows authenticity in all relationships. The upside of this is that we are open and honest about our experience, it creates the opening for others to be the same.
Ultimately what I am proposing is that conflict of any kind and scale represents the internal world of the collective individuals in any system. If we can develop the capability and capacity to notice the symptoms as an invitation to explore our inner conflict as a contribution to the state of the environment in which we find ourselves, then we can create spaces to collaborate and heal our own and collective conflicts instead of avoiding, accommodating, compromising or competing which ensures escalation of the conflict and remaining trapped in the limitations of ego instead of our unlimited essential soul.
The ultimate conflict it appears to me is the battle we engage internally that questions our right to be loved and to belong to this human race. If only children could be taught that they are love and nothing separates them from love, then perhaps we can move out of the current fear-based construct which has us questioning our worth and fighting for our space out of a scarcity mindset into a space of love and abundance.