If it is poorly tended, it is the root of the damage that we do to each other on this earth. It is the heart of war. It is the destroyer of connection and as such, it ruptures relationships.
When conflict arises, we are being called to embody greater depths of intimacy and harmony. We are being called to become as aware as possible of ourselves relative to a subject. We can either answer that call or allow the conflict to drag us into deeper levels of unconsciousness. We can seek a meeting of minds or we can become reactive and try to end the conflict through power struggle. The struggle for power and control is the enemy of conflict resolution. Relationships involve the inevitability of rupture. The degree of security and joy felt within a relationship is really about our capacity to create repair. People, who cannot repair ruptures in relationships, cannot do so because they feel power and control over others is safety. When conflict arises their ego, which is in a state of fear, immediately seeks to win or to punish the other. Their ego seeks to stay safe and survive by being right, justified, good, and victorious so that the other person is the one who is wrong, unjustified, bad and loses. The down side is that this person cannot maintain relationships. This person also remains unconscious. This person lives in a state of starvation as they lack secure connection and intimacy.
If we are all like this as people, it is easy to see that our human society will never be in a state of harmony. We will all starve for connection and intimacy and our world will continue to see crime and war and atrocities. So, unless we want to live and raise our children in a world like that, we must end this pattern within ourselves. We must end the conflict within our own life. We do this by learning how to use conflict to become more conscious. We use conflict to awaken. It is not easy, because we have to be willing to become vulnerable, open and soft when everything in us is screaming to close off and become hard and defend ourselves. We must choose love over our own ego’s sense of survival. For this reason, I’m going to spell out a protocol for how to resolve conflict whenever it arises. You can apply this to any relationship, whether it is a one on one relationship, your family, your intentional community or the world at large.
1. Whoever feels that a meeting of minds is necessary, calls a meeting between the people involved in the conflict or for more challenging conflicts, between the entire community at the earliest time possible for both people. It is not an option to avoid conflicts. If even one person feels the need for conflict resolution, conflict resolution is needed.
The goal is understanding. This is not about agreeing or winning the conflict, this is about understanding. If both parties wish to understand the other, then both sides will be heard. Let it be known upfront that if this is not a time for anyone in the community to pick sides. It is an opportunity for mirrored growth and expansion of consciousness. Beware of seeing anyone as the “underdog”. This breeds defensiveness. The community stays quiet until asked to participate in the discussion involving the people who are at odds. If they wish to provide insight they must ask to do so. And the mantra going into conflict is “Everyone has a valid perspective.” And valid is not about right or wrong.
Remember that conflict is almost always caused by poor communication and poor understanding so the more questions we ask each other the better. The community is urged to ask both parties questions that lead the parties involved in the conflict towards greater understanding. Become interested and curious about the perspectives involved; do not walk into this like you already know the perspectives. We all need to be as open as possible. This requires bravery.
We also need to understand how to deal with emotions in other people before trying to resolve the conflict. To understand this, especially the steps involved with dealing with negative emotion, watch my YouTube video titled “Emotional Wake Up Call”.
#1. Become aware of the other person’s emotion
#2. Care about the other person’s emotion by seeing it as valid and important
#3. Listen empathetically to the other person’s emotion in an attempt to understand the way they feel. This allows them to feel safe to be vulnerable without fear of judgment. Seek to understand, instead of to agree.
#4 Acknowledge and validate their feelings. This may include helping them to find words to label their emotion. To acknowledge and validate a person’s feelings, we do not need to validate that the thoughts they have about their emotions are correct, instead we need to let them know that it is a valid thing to feel the way that they feel. For example, if our friend says, “I feel useless”, we do not validate them by saying “you’re right you are useless”. We could validate them by saying “I can totally see how that would make you feel useless and I would feel the same way if I were you”. #5. Allow the person to feel how they feel and to experience their emotion fully before moving towards any kind of improvement in the way they feel. We need to give them the permission to dictate when they are ready to move up the vibrational scale and into a different emotion. We cannot impose our idea of when they should be ready or when they should be able to feel differently, on them. This is the step where we practice unconditional presence for someone and unconditional love. We are there as support without trying to “fix” them. Do not be offended if they do not accept your support at this time. There is a benevolent power inherent in offering, that is love in and of itself regardless of what someone does or does not do with it. #6. After and only after their feelings have been validated and acknowledged and fully felt, help the other person to strategize ways to manage the reactions they might be having to their emotion. This is the step where you can assert new ways of looking at a situation that may improve the way the other person is feeling. This is where advice can be offered. 2. Commit to resolution. We have to be very honest with ourselves about whether we genuinely want resolution. If we do not genuinely want resolution, no resolution will ever be had. If we want to be seen as the one who has been wronged, because the one who has been wronged is the good guy, we will never be able to turn conflict into harmony. If the community suspects that this is the truth for someone involved in a conflict, this must be addressed prior to commencing a conflict resolution between two people.
3. The people involved sit down and agree upon the FACTS of the conflict. What happened? Nothing more, just so we can be on the same page about the facts and so both parties know the facts of what occurred that caused the conflict
4. The people involved in the conflict choose what they would like to do from there. Here are the options:
a. Each side takes a turn going through the “Emotional Expression Process”. Expressing their whole truth from start to finish. This tends to work the best when people are angry. This is Teal’s preferred method for conflict resolution. To understand this process watch my video on YouTube titled: How to express your emotion.
b. Both sides do a judge your neighbor worksheet (This is a process created by Byron Katie). Last time I checked, she makes these workshops available by download for free.
c. Each side takes a sheet of paper and writes down what they are feeling and why they are feeling that way in a way that they are exposing their deepest vulnerability. Using “I” statements. Why did this hurt me? What am I really afraid of in this situation? Instead of making it be about the surface story about why we are justified in being hurt or angry, we make it about what we are feeling and willingly expose our deepest insecurities. They do not talk. They hand their paper to each other. Open discussion may commence after that point.
d. The community gets to guide BOTH people individually one at a time through the “Emotional Vipassana Process” that was put forth in my “How to Heal the Emotional Body” video on YouTube. This is the best option if people are triggered to the point that they cannot lay down their defenses.
e. Both parties (and/or the whole community) do the “trauma release process” by David Berceli (PHD) before sitting down to be open about the vulnerabilities and fears and wounds behind the conflict one at a time so we can absorb each other’s words without counter arguing.
f. Both parties “switch roles”. They imagine fully being in the other person’s perspective and arguing the other person’s perspective so we may better understand the other person’s perspective as well as see ourselves mirrored in an extreme way. To understand this process, watch my Youtube video titled: Switch perspectives (A relationship exercise). This is perhaps my very favorite technique to use.
5. Conflicts arise from differing needs and the feeling that the ability to get those needs met is threatened. Both sides figure out based on the conflict what their true needs are and potentially even suggest ways with help of the community how those needs could be better met by themselves and by the others in the community.
6. The individuals and/or community helps both sides establish a vibration/feeling of moving forward by finding solutions so that the conflict does not arise in the future. This does not need to be a compromise. It needs to be a “3rd way”. We need to care about other people in our community enough that we find a way to make BOTH AND ALL parties feel good about what they are moving forwards towards.
7. Both people (or parties) involved in the conflict switch their focus to what they enjoy about each other. They write down what they love or appreciate about the other person and read it aloud. The other person practices the art of receiving what is being said. Only things each party genuinely enjoys about the other party are to be written down.
8. The conflict resolution is solidified in whatever way feels best to the people involved. Meaning once harmony is restored, integration must take place. Integration of conflict works best in the presence of others so this is not the best time to go away and process alone. It is best to process within the context of the group or with company. So the parties involved are fully present with one another doing an activity that is fun or taking notes on what they’ve learned or doing an activity that bonds them.
9. If conflict cannot be solved by an entire community, the community agrees to initiating a call or in person visit by a third party (uninvolved) meditator before deciding how to progress.
There are so many benefits of conflict resolution. We understand ourselves better, we receive insights, we experience growth and expansion, we come closer to unity and oneness, we experience healing for our wounded aspects, we become more aware and we stop fearing other people and we begin to feel a sense of being supported and belonging within the group just to name a few.
Don’t fear conflict. Embrace it. Concealed, avoided or otherwise ignored, conflict will fester and grow into resentment, create withdrawal or cause factional infighting within a person and subsequently within the world. Conflict that is embraced and faced creates harmony and unity within life and subsequently within the world.