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Conflicts are an unpopular topic. I hardly ever deal with them in my seminars. People would much rather deal with personality development, all kinds of skills and other positive content. It is supposed to bring them further, make them more competent. Conflicts are most likely to be communicated as conflict management strategies. However, when it comes to dealing with one’s own conflicts, the escape from them is the most chosen coping strategy. Yet every conflict is in the deepest, first instance an intrinsic, i.e. an inner conflict. It is supposed to protect us psychologically and physically, to ensure our physical and mental integrity. The problem is that we are very bad at dealing with inner conflicts and therefore we avoid them like the devil avoids holy water. However, the intrinsic conflict power remains with us and cannot simply be ignored. On the contrary, it has a reinforcing effect on us, pushes us to do something with relentless force. We are forced to act – and it is precisely here that the greatest problems arise for us, for our fellow human beings and for our diverse societies.
Unreflective and unresolved inner conflict situations have several inappropriate consequences in human behaviour. Those who avoid the inner conflict of their souls tend to blame others. The intrinsic conflict is externalised. The system is to blame for my suffering, my wife is to blame, the children are to blame, the teachers are to blame, my employer is to blame, the Russians are to blame, the Americans are to blame, the politicians are to blame, etc. Please don’t misunderstand. This does not mean that I am saying there is no blame. What I want to make clear is that we quickly step out of the ownership of our own inner conflict situation. As a result, we become extremely emotional, act and argue extremely irrationally and instead of resolving inner and external conflicts, we divide our society with our torn souls. In summary: We are internally conflicted, shift the dispute externally and distract from the fact that we actually have a problem with ourselves. In this way we provoke quarrels with our fellow human beings and pull out all possible stops to be right. We put pressure on others to change something, to do something to make us feel better. It is not about the others – it is about my inability to manage internal conflicts.
If you look at a society or a nation as a unit, then the discord of individuals can also be said to be an intrinsic discord of the national soul. This is what I am observing with great concern right now. Within societies, strife escalates into an irrational, emotionally driven culture of argument. There is hardly a topic that is not bitterly argued about, and this goes on until a new topic causes outrage. There is no consensus, no factual agreement and reconciliation, no mutual understanding any more. The deep rifts are accumulating. We no longer talk to each other, we argue. Our societies are divided, we are losing our common identity. To regain it, we look for external culprits. Who is responsible for our misery, ourselves? No, of course not! It is the bad ones who threaten our culture. We are the good guys, the rest are the bad guys. This is how we get ourselves social consolidation, we are us again – how nice – we have an enemy image again and will go to war to defend ourselves.
Personal responsibility, a straw to hold on to.
Before I accuse someone or demand something from someone because I feel threatened, I pause. I question myself about what drives me to act. Often it is my convictions or my own interests that motivate me. Often I hold my own convictions without having sufficient technical and background knowledge to do so. This means I have to inform myself better or even educate myself further; not to be better equipped, but to be more fair to myself. If I then have the feeling that I am at peace with myself and that I need to make an impact on the outside, then I have done some, but not enough.
In contrast, I look at the system or the people I bring into this conflict situation. If I demand fairness and respect from other parties, then I should also follow that in myself. This certainly does not happen when I move into a highly emotional, blame-shifting level, i.e. only when I am NOT at peace with myself. Respect means actively listening and perceiving! Only in this way will a possible consensus be reached.
However, personal responsibility also means that if it is not possible to reach a consensus, the consequences must be borne. It is far too easy to shift the blame onto others. Yet conflicts are very rarely about blame. It is about solutions and change. Often it also means that I need courage to implement actions. Avoiding conflict is very rarely a good solution.
If my conviction or my demand is not met despite a dispute, then it is not the other side’s fault, but it is up to me to decide what to do next. This is where I see major personal deficits in people.
The world is not either or. There are not only good and bad nations. My opinion is not the only right one, there is not only me. Personally, it hurts me a lot – self-centredness is spreading like a plague among us. People are increasingly developing into dependent, internally torn individuals. They don’t feel good about it, they hurt each other instead of supporting each other. They become more bitter and lonely. The war will not save them. War will not save any of us. We need inner peace. For that, we need to stop pointing fingers at others. It is never too late, even if it is already too late.