There’s a certain degree of conflict that’s inevitable where each of us has a need which may conflict with another person’s need. Conflict isn’t inherently bad, so the question is how do we deal with it?
Let’s use this example
We’re driving in the car and the temperature in the car is uncomfortable for you. The first question is do you say something? The second is how do you communicate about it? It starts with having a need that’s not met and how you negotiate to get it met.
The way you communicate can be simple and clear which allows us to make a simple adjustment to the temperature in the car. Or if you communicate by saying “What’s wrong with you that it’s so cold or hot in here?” then it becomes a criticism or judgment as opposed to an expression of a need. Now it becomes a major conflict with emotional entanglement. Now, we’re into what we can call a “fight” and we’re battling for power and control and some respect and recognition.
Conflict and Paradigms
The paradigms always at play are power and control, closeness and caring and respect and recognition.
We tend to approach these situations where we feel like we don’t have control or power, or we feel like the other person doesn’t care about us or respect us or recognize our needs. Some of us have what is referred to as a bias to negativity: We tend to have a bias toward thinking the other person doesn’t care about us and as a result, it intensifies our defensiveness with the other person and now, we’re deep into a fight. You don’t care about me and for me to “survive”, I must fight for what I need. Now it becomes more aggressive rather than assertive, now I’m more and more in victim consciousness. Wherein my belief is I’m not enough and I’m not going to get the recognition or caring or be in control. This is happening TO me, I’m the victim here.
Now I go to my typical fight, flight or freeze because I’m now in a very defended mode and depending on who the person is and what the circumstances are, I might use any one of those three defenses which makes the behavior aggressive not assertive. That’s how most people play out conflict; they cycle back from a simple start to intensifying partly because of how they define it (oh, this person doesn’t care about temperature) and now I’m in a “life-or-death” struggle. It’s not literally life or death but in the victim consciousness we drop into, it feels like that.
Authentic Consciousness and Conflict
We want to change the paradigm into authentic consciousness so we might express our discomfort by saying, “I wonder if we can adjust the temperature as it’s a little too chilly in the car.” And the driver says, “Sure, that’s fine.” It all starts with a simple need and how that need gets expressed.
If I’m in victim consciousness, I already have a preconceived notion that I don’t matter so that affects how I communicate and that affects you and how you react or respond to me. If I’m in authentic consciousness, I can say, “Hey, I get that you’re upset, what exactly do you need?” If I get triggered, now two of us are in reactive mode and the conflict escalates into where I’m going to be “right” and you’re going to be “wrong”.
So, communicating from a place of authentic consciousness shows that we know and implicitly believe that we deserve to be cared for; we know that we deserve a degree of respect and recognition and we know that we can negotiate from a place of power, so we have it within us. That comes from an implicit acceptance of our true identity as a wonderful person, a gem, and knowing that we are enough.
Conflict and Negative Bias
The negative bias starts from the place of “I’m not enough”. I’m always scanning my environment and always finding confirmation of my “not enoughness”. So, if I’m not enough, there’s never enough. There’s never enough love, money, whatever it is. So, remembering that in victim consciousness, because I’m not enough, I’m feeling anxious because I’m always dependent on other people. I feel shame because I’m not enough. I feel resentment and blame so the one word I use to describe all the emotions that are constantly alive in us in victim consciousness is desperation.
When I’m desperate, I act desperately—there’s simply not enough and I’m desperate to try to find it and create it. The consciousness here is based on fear and that prompts a constant state of reactivity.
According to Henry David Thoreau, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” That’s what’s referred to here; there’s no ease, no sense of belongingness. We must numb ourselves to cope with it as underneath it is a sense of anxiety, blame, shame and resentment. And, for this person, there’s never enough, however, there can be enough when you move from victim consciousness to authentic consciousness.