I am not a fan of conflict. In fact, it is safe to say that I will do just about anything to avoid it.
Some people revel in it … they like the challenge of the debate, the different views, beliefs, and thoughts … they can’t wait to bring you over to their viewpoint. Even if they don’t succeed, they enjoy the attempt.
Of course, there is not necessarily any harm in that. Good healthy debate, sharing thoughts and opinions, freedom of speech and all that jazz can be thought of as healthy conflict (in our use of the word). But when it goes beyond that we end up with a conflict that is not healthy.
What happens when conflict becomes unhealthy?
On a global level, countries invade other countries – in the name of what exactly? A fight over territory, resources, a perceived or real insult, a belief of superiority, greed, religious beliefs, fear …. The list is endless, but the result is the same … destruction, pain, sadness, fear, anger, betrayal, death, loss …. Everyone loses in war – unhealthy conflict.
On a local level there can also be fighting between different groups of people. This can be physical and at times highly organised, fighting between gangs who have different values, beliefs, or cultures perhaps. It can also be less physical where groups of people may be shunned, bullied, or outcast because of their differences – values, beliefs, customs. Again, unhealthy conflict. Again, everyone loses though some may not realise that.
What about closer to home? What about families? There is conflict there too and whilst it is expected, especially as children grow up and situations change, it can be unhealthy or become that way.
Then personally we often have conflict, conflict within ourselves. Decisions we make are often preceded by conflict and uncertainty as we weigh up the consequences of each path. Sometimes they are relatively simple … shall I have a wrap for lunch or soup? No harm there.
Choices, attachment, and conflict
At other times we can become bogged down in the choices we have, and the considerations of others who may have different thoughts and desires. At these times this inner conflict can consume us, and we can become overwhelmed.
We may become so attached to our choices, to the way we want things to happen, that we become attached to one path, blinkered. This can cause the conflict to multiply. Not only do we have conflict within ourselves but also with another person, especially as we try to bring them around to our way of thinking.
Recently I found myself in this situation. I was attached to a choice I had made (to be honest I still am). Well, that’s fine, it is good to stick to things, to persevere and all that. The issue here is that there is someone else involved and that person, whilst happy at first and still happy in the main, has other thoughts about how that choice should progress. This led to conflict both between us, as I tried to change their thoughts and desires to completely match my own, and within me as I fought to keep perspective and manage my feelings of betrayal and fear.
“We may become so attached to our choices, to the way we want things to happen, that we become attached to one path, blinkered.”
Attachment, changing views and detachment
Days later, a friend posted on Instagram about detachment which resonated with me. I realised how unhealthily attached I had become to a very specific choice pathway. It made me recognise that I was trying to inflict my thoughts and desires on someone else and make them theirs, trying to change them. That’s not cool!
I am still attached to my choice, as I have said, but now I realise the decisions and choices I make may not work out exactly as I had planned. And that is okay because everyone has their own thoughts, values, beliefs, and desires. Who am I to think my way is the best or only way?
Now I will detach a bit and allow those close to me to be themselves, whilst also being myself.
Living in harmony rather than conflict.
About the Author
Engel Prendergast is a Mental Health Consultant, working with organisations and groups to build a culture that supports good mental health.
Engel is an accredited Mental Health First Aid and safeTALK Instructor, and Lifeline Crisis Supporter and Mentor. She holds a Bachelor of Science (Health Promotion), Diploma of Counselling, and a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment.
With natural compassion, a determination to help others and extensive experience in training and facilitation, Engel provides an environment that fosters learning and ownership.