The Complexity of Conflict

Posted on May 1st, 2012 by micka002

As noted in a recent Mpls Star Tribune article about peacekeeping in South Sudan – conflict is complex. And as noted by Tiffany Easthorn, Nonviolent Peaceforce’s ( country director for South Sudan, ” When it comes to understanding conflict, a good-bad dichotomy is seldom accurate… People in conflict shift positions all the time. Everybody’s a victim, and everybody’s a perpetrator.”

This is a hard truth. Hard to hear. Even harder to accept.

It’s easier when we perceive a clear “good guy” and a clear “bad guy”.

And when we’re part of the conflict, it’s especially hard to accept our part in conflict, because doing so is so counter to our natural urges. Whether our ‘warring” is with our work colleagues, our lovers, our friends, partners, or children, our natural inclination is to defend our self and to blame, shame and fault-find our ‘enemy’. “If only he/she would do such and such, things would be just fine.” “If only he hadn’t said that, we could still be friends.” “She’s such a jerk. There’s no way I can work with her.” These are words I’ve heard a hundred times over, whether from myself or from the parties to a mediation.

Shifting from a reactive stance of blaming and fault-finding to seeing our part in conflict requires presence, self-awareness, curiosity, vulnerability and courage.

The Enneagram can help us gain such awareness and develop a curiosity about the dynamics at hand. And a process called the 4 As can help us manage our defensiveness and reactivity and own up to what we’re responsible for related to the conflict.

Future blogs will explore how our dominant Enneagram Type/Point tends to lock us into positions and create conflict with others. I’ll explore the 4As as a process/path by which we can notice the habits that create challenges for us. And I’ll explore the peace keeping principles of John Paul Lederach and how the Enneagram can help us approach conflict from a perspective and attitude that is indispensible to true peacemaking, healing, and reconciliation.

Join me for the journey. I’m not sure where it will take us.

4 Responses to “The Complexity of Conflict”

Roxanne Howe-MurphyMay 2nd, 2012 at 2:21 am

I’m excited to see your blog, Curt! You’re bringing a vital perspective to the field of conflict management.

I think you are speaking to the paradoxical nature of conflict when you address its complexities: ‘everyone a victim and everyone a perpetrator.’ You are asking to dive below the obvious, the surface and explore the deeper reaches of conflict within–and somehow, hold it all.

Looking forward to reading more.

Kathryn GrantMay 2nd, 2012 at 3:50 am

This blog is very nicely done – bringing coherence and attention to the very nature of conflict. I try to remember to be curious when things come up for me – and I appreciate that mention here as well. I am convinced that the Enneagram holds keys for our own healing as well as the healing of the society around us; immediate and on thelarge scale. Thanks for writing, I await more…

Tricia SpitzmuellerMay 2nd, 2012 at 2:20 pm

What a great blog. I’m grateful for the information and expertise you bring to conflict resolution and I look forward to your future blogs. Thank you for doing this, you are making a difference in the world- mine and yours! I’m in conflict this morning, how timely. Helps me to take a breath and remember there are 2 sides. Looking forward to the 4 As.

Jane StrongMay 22nd, 2012 at 1:04 pm

This is really helpful as it makes distinctions that are essential if we’re to get beyond the black and white of conflicts. It seems that the very nature of conflicts puts us into black and white thinking, so your thoughtful consideration of the history behind a situation as well as the monochromatic nature of our default type-based positions is well worth considering. Well done!

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