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What is conflict?
My mom says I avoid conflict. Apparently I get it from my dad. So she's obviously not afraid of conflict.

But it rang. That we shouldn't be afraid of conflict. We shouldn't embrace it either. But we shouldn't hang our heads and turn our shoulders. Without conflict problems become slow burns. They infect and fester and maybe never explode but will nevertheless implode. Foundations crumble and systems are made decrepit.

Can there be change without conflict?

Resolution, progress, compromise. These are born from conflict.

Something needs to happen before something can happen.

It's a new idea for me. Me who avoids conflict with such supremacy that I don't even see opportunities for conflict. I instinctively bow my head and back away and I'm not at all the worse off for it. In fact, it makes life pleasurable. Why wrestle with conflict when there need not be any?

Avoiding conflict is not always as bad as my mom makes it out to be. By this I mean unnecessary conflict. Because why should I care about silly trivialities?

I was walking on the street the other day early in the morning and I must have looked ridiculous. Cut offs and a lacrosse jersey. Chest hair bombarding New York unabashedly. And this car of kids around my age is sitting in front of me at a stoplight as I am about to cross. They stare at me and turn the corner. As they go the one in the back flips me the bird. Why? I don't know and I don't really care. This is an example of avoidable and unnecessary conflict. Why would I ever care that a stranger should give me the finger? He knows nothing about me save for my outward appearance. So who cares? Get over it. In fact it's funny he should give me the finger. This isn't real conflict. It's arbitrary. And yet people become inflamed over it. Trivialities and people fume from their ears.

No. This isn't the conflict we should confront. The conflicts that we should confront are those that question our moral integrity. If there is something in front of us we find wrong. Philosophically, spiritually, metaphysically, politically, humanely, infrastructurally wrong. These are the conflicts we should address and face head on or else those foundations crumble.

When my mom says I avoid conflict she implies that I consciously avoid it. But this is a mischaracterization that applies to a lot of us I think. It's not that we avoid conflict. It's that we don't see it. We don't ask ourselves if we are in a situation where conflict should exist and so we don't ask the follow up question: How can we use conflict to make positive change.

Confronting conflict should be an active component in all our lives.

It's a difficult task because to make change it is ourselves who must introduce the conflict.

And now that I've spent so long using this one word it feels as if I've completely lost the meaning I thought I had of it.

What does conflict mean?
Morgan,  I had to try to get a definition here; 

"..Conflict is actual or perceived opposition of needsvalues and interests. A conflict can be internal (within oneself) to individuals. Conflict as a concept can help explain many aspects of social life such as social disagreement, conflicts of interests, and fights between individuals, groups, or organizations."   Wikipedia.

My question to myself is, "Does it help me to "Confront" a perceived conflict?"  Sometimes conflict does not seem to warrant my confronting it and risking unease with myself or another who is on the other side of the conflict.   Even questioning my "moral integrity" may not warrant confrontation.  I can do very little to control that which is outside of myself, and anyway, how can my belief be "taken from me"?   What sort of conflict DOES warrant confrontation?  If I'm threatened with bodily harm for sure.  But many of the conflicts demanding confrontation, I find to be internal.  Today I listened to my partner vent something in response to a conflicting perspective we had.  She made some "you" statements.  Inside I bristled.  The choice became, confront her about the "you" statements she made about me or realize that they are HER statements and instead, confront myself as to what truth they may have from my own perspective (actually I did both...:-)).  If I find truth in them, I can state that; if not I can find comfort in what I know to be a difference of perspective.   Where was the confrontation?  She had a chance to vent; I had a chance to learn about how another perceives me.  The conflict seemed to quietly dissolve.

Also today, a dentist tried to tell me I might need a procedure that my dental coverage didn't cover.  The confronting was quick and direct; "I will need to know why other dentists I've had in the past never required this since there's been no change in my dental health".  I wanted verification.  I live on a small fixed income and have to "confront" anything that might cost more than I expect if I don't understand why.

I remain confused about what I should confront and what I should stay still with.  Rilke's The Man Watching comes to mind:
".....
What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights with us is so great!
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
As things do by some immense storm,

When we win it's with small things,
and the triumph itself makes us small....."


Thanks for the topic.

In response to Tim Guy
Conflict, I think, is in every situation.  Each is with its conflicting options.

Conflict as you seem to pose it, is personal, a matter of personal survival.  In extreme, do you survive, or your opponent?

A conflictional taciturn person is measured.  Has a good understanding of love and hate, and understands the difference.  It takes courage to see the difference between the two, to incorporate that discernment into one’s life actively, and to force a remedy if needed. 

Courage is open ended.  We all wish we had more.  It’s what leads up into our future.

A conflict with self-hate?  We all experience it from time to time.  Win.

A conflict with enjoyment, either wanting it too much or not enough?  Win.

A conflict with wanting to win too much?  Win

Perhaps the good life is to nuance winning.

A good person will take the good oponent in the eye, bend its head back and snap its neck over her knee.  And a good person will know when to take this action.  And the action if against persons… well, that’s for us all to decide on our own.

The most important thing to know about conflict is it's consequences.  There are no two the same.
Great question Morgan.
Conflict is more than just a disagreement or diverging roads. It's several roads where you can only choose one of them.

Let's take the political situation as an example. Voters often want a promise of the candidate working together with all sides, like Obama promised to do, while ignoring the basic conflicts between the sides. It's rarer that people who acknowledge the conflict and clearly choose sides get elected.

Avoiding conflicts, which so many people do, can thus lead to a bad situation.
On the other hand so many people search and create conflicts, see Bar fights and the male psyche, as a kind of need of fighting in the world. Not so good either.

Another interesting example of a certain way of resolving a conflict, as I think the Gordian knot can be described as a conflict of knot-no knot, see The Gordian knot - A lesson in greatness.
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Latest Post: September 25, 2010 at 2:49 AM
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