Leland Clipperton

Friday, March 25, 2011

Terms of Engagement

There are always points of conflict and struggle that seem to naturally occur in relationships. Most people are uncomfortable and fearful of these times and even when not, the situations are often mishandled.

It seems that it may be benficial, more productive and efficient if we were to establish more reasonable terms of engagement that are less conflictual, less volatile and more understanding and peaceful... at least that would be my preference.

Let's say you see two children arguing or fighting in the school yard. You intervene and "break up" the fight. If you were to ask, "OK, Who started it?". What response would you expect? Typically you'll see two fingers pointing at each other and the verbal response will be... "he (or she) did!

It is as if we actually believe at that point of conflict that "he (or she) made me do it!" It all his (or her) fault! If this is really true then, we actually lose complete control of our own bodies (and minds) in conflict and are controlled by another person. If it can happen then, and we're not responsible, why not just say it all the time... we're never really in control, we're being controlled by the world. We're therefore, not responsible for our own actions!

I don't think sooooo! In fact, it is the exact opposite that is true. It is only us (as individuals) that are in control!

[SIDEBAR] - The truth about what real psychotherapy is - the creation of a trusting, honest and integral relationship where there is a direct experiential learning  - that it is not the world that does onto me, but what I that do onto the world!

So, when we learn that we are not, in fact, controlled by the world, we need to re-establish more creative and productive means of engaging with each other, particularly in times of conflict.

Even when there are times when one (or both) [assuming there's only two people involved - think of the two children in the school yard] recognise that hurt has been experienced as a result of the "exchange"...
one person in the exchange says, "you hurt me!". Often the automatic response to this will be what I term as a "yabut" response.... either "ya but you hurt me too", or "I didn't mean to" or "you started it first".

So, here's a new guideline/rule for times of conflict... If, for whatever reason, you feel you have been hurt (slighted, insulted, unheard, misunderstood, attacked) you may want to "express" that feeling to the object of your concern. Finger out, you point (shoot back, defend, protect, attack) and let er rip! (this can be done in the most subtle of ways to the most extreme... it's a continuum).

You want the other person to do what at that moment? Not be defensive, exclaiming "YABUT you" or "YABUT I".   No, more likely you would want them to attend to what you are expressing... to listen. To do anything else tends to make the situation worse. Not listening suggests and re-enforces the "attack".  The content of what you're experiencing gets lost as you slip into the abyss of conflict... again.

Listen.... hhhmmmm.   The truth is in conflict (and at all other times) we all have our own personal and individual ways and means of perceiving, understanding, and interpreting the events of our lives. If we all have our own "truth", then most arguments must be about you trying to convince another that their "truth" is not real, and your truth, therefore, must be. They will not be really "listening" and you will not feel "heard" until we hear agreement or compliance... all the time feeling that if we do that, then we're giving our "right" to be "right" and it is our "job" to instruct, manipulate, coerce others to accept our "righteousness", our "truth". The paradox is established (and it's not my fault!)

So, if conflict is "caused" by this perception that unless others are in complete, total and absolute agreement (oxymoron), we have a problem... we will always be in conflict... always under attack... always needing to be on guard...

The other side is that if we understand that everyone has their own perception, for whatever reason other than willfully engaging in conflict, we need to all consider that all conflict is a trap of sorts, keeping us out of peace. That the conflict is avoidable because we are all entitled to and will always have a different individual experience with our "life".  We do not have to continue to feel attacked or unheard just because someone else doesn't "get it" or understand it. We don't have to walk around feeling the sense of impending threat... not if it's going to happen... but when and by whom?

Doing so, does not allow living in fear... we can be cautious without being "in fear". The threat is our own perception. When we await it, anticipate it... guess what happens? [sorry, that's a little redundant and sarcastic... isn't it?] We are sensitive to that situation occurring and it then happens... and we say, "How'd that happen... again?"

Try, today, to listen without fear, without judgment. Understand that we all have our perceptions and it's as difficult for you to understand another person's perception as it is for them to understand yours. Attempt to understand what's behind the perception. Ask questions about the perception, without being defensive or judgmental. Knowing now what being defensive, etc. does... just creates more conflict.

Until later,
Leland Clipperton

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