Monday, June 28, 2010

The Origin of Conflict

In my last blog I alluded to the origins of conflict. I suggested that conflict arises from the fact that man is a social animal, that the conflict is a result of individual desires, ambitions, and space issues collide with those of other individuals. David Bohm, in his book On Dialogue, provides some discussion that supports this thinking (although I have to be careful because Bohm also identifies thought as the major culprit in creating conflict--more on that later, I hope).

Bohm begins with the premise that everyone has basic opinions and assumptions. The term "basic" suggests, in Bohm's words, that these opinions and assumptions are "about the meaning of life; about your own self-interest, your country's interest, or your religious interest; about what you really think is important." (There's that word "think" again.) The reader may wish to revisit an earlier posting that I made regarding opinion. Bohm goes on to say that when these assumptions are challenged or attacked that we step up to defend them, because "a person identifies himself with them. They are tied up with his investment in self-interest."

We can, therefore, determine that conflict occurs when a person's self-interests and beliefs, upon which is founded the individual's identity, are threatened. Our beliefs, opinions, and assumptions may be ill-founded, completely wrong, but we are offended when it is brought to our attention that we may be wrong. There is a connection between our opinions and assumptions and our self-worth. If our opinions and assumptions are wrong, then we are at fault, and that can't be a good thing.

The reality is that we are bound to be wrong about some things. Therefore, what we have to do is remove the personal attachment to the ideas, to the thoughts, so that we might better assess the value of the thoughts, allowing us to communicate more openly, without taking a defensive stance and allowing an emotional attachment to prevent our resolving the conflict.

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