Sexuality Thought Leader: Beth Keil
“…come into collision or disagreement…clash” (dictionary.com)
“…disagreement…characterized by antagonism and hostility” (typesofconflict.org)
“Fight, battle, war. [verb]to be different, opposed, contradictory: to fail to be in agreement or accord.” (Merriam-Webster)
Each of these definitions contains some aspect of aggression making conflict appear inherently dangerous. The news media only reinforces this as conflicts of all types are constantly splashed across the headlines, presented in fear-escalating language.
I’m not questioning whether conflict exists.
I’m not questioning how people feel in response to it.
The question becomes – can conflict be seen as an opportunity instead?
Conflict as Magic:
I used to consider conflict as something to avoid, sometimes at all costs. That changed when I read Thom Crum’s book, The Magic of Conflict. In it, Crum frames any conflict as an opportunity for change and transformation and uses the Grand Canyon as an example.
Without conflict, the Canyon could never exist.
Over time, the friction between two different elements, rock, and water, led to this incredible wonder of nature! Niagara Falls is another example of this.
Notice, without the natural process of conflict (aka friction) neither could exist.
In the case of differences and ideas, Gerry Spence, a distinguished trial lawyer put it this way – when we have disagreement and debate, we can have clarity.
What Makes Conflict Between People Different?
We need to begin by looking at the type of society one lives in, as it influences relationship dynamics, and thus how we respond to conflict.
“In power-over cultures, one is encouraged to feel helpless and powerless.”
In her book, The Chalice and the Blade, Raine Eisler refers to two types of societies – controlling and partnership. Controlling societies function by using power over others as a form of domination. As a result, you’re judged as a winner or loser; if you lose, you’re a failure.
Partnership societies are power-with, free of the concept of winners or losers. Within these societies, people work in cooperation with each other so there’s no hierarchy of power. This might seem pie-in-the-sky, but many indigenous cultures Eisler studied, were partnerships.
In power-over cultures, one is encouraged to feel helpless and powerless. The more people feel this way, the easier it is for those who want to dominate to do so. Over time, such feelings become unconscious and you don’t notice them as they become the way you see yourself.
The power-over culture also teaches you that during a conflict the goal is to win.
Reactivity And Passivity:
When passive, one accepts what’s happening. After all, what can you do as a helpless or powerless individual? This doesn’t mean you’re unaffected by events but feel unable to do anything about them.
Reactivity is also based on helplessness and powerlessness. The difference here is people go toe-to-toe with whomever they think is trying to dominate them. It becomes a king of the hill scenario, with everyone vying to be the victor.
“With this perspective, change isn’t inherently bad or dangerous.”
You can hear this reactivity in the judgments that are made about an issue, a person’s beliefs, or the person themselves. The words people say and their energy are aggressive as well.
Remember, the goal here is to win.
Power-with Conflict And Opportunity:
Free from the domination model, conflict can be used as change and transformation. With this perspective, change isn’t inherently bad or dangerous. Instead, conflict brings people together, to work together!
Part of a power-with conflict is how we speak and listen. A power-over society will not teach you the communication skills needed for judgment to fall away, so you can listen to another person, free of reactivity.
This aspect is beyond the scope of this article so below is a list of resources.
- The Magic of Conflict by Thom Crum
- The Center for Nonviolent Communication https://www.cnvc.org/about
- Non-Violent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall Rosenberg
- The Chalice and the Blade by Raine Eisler
- Want to know about positive ways people are working together around the world? Then this is for you! https://revitalization.org
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About the Author:
Beth Keil helps her clients change and transform their lives. She offers a special focus on helping people claim the birthright of their erotic identity and to live in the joy, intimacy, and connection it brings. Beth is a Registered Nurse, MindSet Coach, and a Board Certified Hypnotist. Through her work, she enjoys integrating all her interests, experiences, and skills to bring sensuality, sex, and the erotic into greater awareness and conversation. You can schedule a 30-minute complimentary phone consultation with Beth using the Discovery Session icon.