2 Dec, Dealing with Conflict
I was supposed to clown at a hospital today but Cristobal didn´t organise it and I wasn´t feeling that happy. You have to be happy to be a clown. Some say there are happy-sad clowns, perhaps some performers might be, but when you are into love you can´t fake it. Sometimes you don´t feel like it as you actually need a clown. Have to laugh at that. Maybe start a clown support group. I am going to do more innovative work as a clown in 2011 to bring joy. Will give it some thought.
Anyway, I have had a problem I am dealing with, it involves a conflict I had for 8 years. I did fall in love with a person, and I have no idea why it happened, it just did. The person was of a character that was in my perception self centred, ego centric and I sense a power seeker, having said that I keep open to the fact I could be wrong. I have to keep that upper most it creates space for something else. When we are angry we tend to demonise others. He is a clever former Diplomat and I have observed him manipulate to get what he wants. For some reason, I put to fate, I was to be a thorn in his side, but he was one in mine. I wrote poetry to this person, not love poetry but philosophy as I tried to understand why he stonewalled me and then showed me attention in person. He did this by walking past me deliberatly, I sat in an obscure part of the university, he had to go out of his way, it wasn´t just imagined when he just walked past, it was to get my attention. He also used to stare at me a lot for lengthy periods of time, I watched him move people in a circle so that he was facing me, it was not just a glance, but standing around me. I was perplexed at this. The behaviour was obvious and subtle at the same time. I didn´t know if he did this because he liked my poetry and also didn´t want attachment so kept me at arms length but enough attention to keep me questioning. Or if he just sought ego gratification with no empathy for my situation or maybe something else. For a long time I couldn´t figure the truth of it but intuitively I knew it was a problem behaviour. After 8 years of being locked into a situation that I found very difficult to pull away from, I saw clearly his deception. This was actually good for me as I needed to have evidence he wasn´t innocent as he lied to the Risk Manager who was investigating my letter I emailed to the university. He tried to make out I was after a relationship, but I wasn´t. I did tell him so many times to make it clear I wanted resolution. I suspected for a long time his behaviour was deliberate and that he has possible pathological tendencies. I say the latter as there was a point I didn´t think I could go on, I conveyed this to him and he did nothing. Anyway it is a long protracted story that anyone could get caught up in.
I am a peacemaker and conflict resolver, what happened to me was that I became inspired, I am certain it was a higher power as often I wrote poems that I don´t fully understand and stated things that were new to me. I get the feeling that I am going to write, sometimes in the early mornings and it is hard to get up. My poems often start in the same place and finish in the same place, two columns on one page. Some poems even complete themselves years later, interesting huh. I have no idea what I write until it is written. But once written I knew it and understood the meaning. However, others can interpret poetry in a myriad of ways. It is like looking at a painting. We all see different things as our inner world resonates with some things and not others, we seldom see the big picture.
The tension from this situation served to become a creative catalyst to higher knowledge. So I can find gratitude for him. On a personal level I saw nothing of kindness in this person. This was important as my work is in peace and I was trying to understand people who feel no empathy which is the core of violent conflict. Ongoing and cruel conflicts would have features such as a lack of empathy, demonising the other as the enemy, dehumanising, using language that removes humanity or objectifies, torture, bullying, psychological manipulation, justifying violent acts through some twisted mission or purpose and so on. I want to understand how people can detach from another´s suffering. It is an issue I cried over since a young girl, as I couldn´t comprehend the cruelty. I couldn´t understand why people are allowed to starve, why militaries train to kill, why human´s rape and so on.
I am at a point where I believe that they somehow disconnect emotionally, they have no self love and low self esteem, they are unable to feel other people, let alone themselves. They may compartmentalise in their minds to keep parts of themselves separate. I think suppression can be a key variable and many men would experience this. As men they are not allowed to cry as it is seen as weak. Often the subconscious or covert messages are that women are weak and emotions make you vulnerable. This has been a viewpont for centuries. From a women´s perspective it is the opposite. Crying, emotional expression is transparency and it is brave to show your feelings, women don´t see weakness they simply feel compassion as most naturally empathise with feelings. When you are vulnerable it is the road to invulnerability as you become more courageous in being visible. Emotional release is also healthy, we have tear ducts for a purpose and in truth the emotional landscape enables a deeper experience of life and awareness of self.
What I found interesting about the conflict resolution process I experienced was that it was adversarial, I was not invited in to meet the person making the judgement. The evidence was based on perspectives and perceived as truth if it was evident on both sides and basically the person deciding made a decision on the truth. He was not impartial. I was amazed as this happened to me three times at this university, the conflict was not handled by mediation and assisting the parties to solve the problem that was jointly created. It is very empowering when parties are encouraged to find solutions to conflict. To learn to really hear each other is the first step in learning respect and making space for being wrong or re-evaluating prior judgements. Often we make judgements based on beliefs and that can easily become a misunderstanding. So it is essential to let people speak face to face, uninterrupted, and then allow for questions and then facilitate a dialogue, generate options and solutions to the problem. It is really a great process. To find people undertaking a conflict resolution process at a high level in the organisation, using judgement like a court of law, was truly amazing to me. I suspect they were from legal backgrounds not psychology, sociology or social work which would be approrpriate in my view and effective.
What I learned on the Rotary Peace and Conflict Studies program in Bangkok was to use a process of Third Sider. This is where the mediator is a facilitator. The process empowers parties to step back and overview the conflict, to understand barriers to resolution, to look at positions and interests and underlying needs. Beneath conflict is a set of needs not met, a skilled mediator will help parties identify what these needs are. Then strategies can be worked out that give the parties what they need to resolve and move on or indeed let go. This 8 year process has shown me the depth of ignorance in institutions, in this case I was dealing with a university that teaches mediation yet does not practice it. It was deeply biased and escalated the problem.
I realise we have real problems across society as most people do not know how to resolve conflict. This is a real problem for violence is escalating as we have seen in Australia, more shootings, some at universities, others domestic or in workplaces. It could be copycat crimes copied from US programs or it could be modelled from parents, cultural, gender etc. There is also evidence of increased bullying and at the workplace more reserach is done on workplace psychopaths. These are people who often end up in high positions as they are ruthless and have no empathy. They will destroy careers to get what they want. I think they make up 10% of the population. Therefore, I think sensitively dealing with conflict and teaching people listening, communication and problem solving skills should be compulsory at every school and within organisations. Peace is actually a practical process. The reason people see it as pie in the sky is that very few learn how to do it. That makes it an ideal rather than educating the world for peace, making it real. And if it is true to say only love is real, there is your answer. We need to expand love, open the heart and mind to new possibilities in my view.
The central issue is that we do not know how to deal with the conflict, mediate it, de-escalate it and ensure a win-win for both parties. In our culture win-lose is the modus operandi and it is outdated and very damaging to people. It is a subtle form of social isolation and punishment that doesn´t empower anyone in the process, if anything it creates tyrannical behaviour if power issues are left unaddressed, these people become more blind to their actions. In the legal system so many people have been irrepairably damaged and relationships broken down because of adversarial stances of lawyers pitching one against the other and tearing lives apart. It can be humiliating and soul destroying. One walks away vindicated and behaviours and attitudes are unchanged, the other walks away a victim or bitterly betrayed. Neither is a good scenario. Restorative Justice brings perpetrator and victim together to face what happened. It is good for families to be present but important they don´t attack the other. It is to learn and to become open to consequences, this is a gentle way of making an impact on a person who has committed a crime. Some may be psychopaths, others may be ignorant, it is important to empower people. You have to be careful that the session does not become abusive or you could add to the trauma, so sensitively handled would be the way I´d go. Alternative Dispute Resolution is an alternative that works on repairing relationships through mediation and facilitation to empower people to solve their own problems. This is taking responsibility. I vote for the latter.
So my experience was to confirm my belief that we have to learn to solve problems, not ignore them, deny them or take sides. Just assist to help people to find their wisdom. Each person has it but many don´t use it or tap in. I felt sad after the process I went through but I am so used to injustice in my own life. Yes life is not fair, and you may not change people, but you can hold firm to your own virtue, that is worth preserving. It is not about winning it is the participation and assertion of truth that matters at the end of the day. I have had to walk away from so many situations where people are not prepared to listen or acknowledge truth or have no awareness of dealing with people with real respect.
One of the challenges I face as a peacemaker is learning to let go. I remember my father saying to me when I was young and in conflict with a very difficult mother. He would say walk away, but I felt injustice and would fight, I wouldn´t allow myself to be bullied. I do think today his words were wise. I am still a persistent person but I do think truth is important and following your feeling but not aggressively. I also believe letting go is an important lesson, perhaps one the lessons for me. As you can easily get energetically caught up on a treadmill. Bear this in mind if you are in conflict, sometimes to walk away is the wisest way. For me, you do not dishonour yourself, you may see this person is not open to reason, find the nonviolent path.