Thursday, June 10, 2010

Conflict The Pitting

Conflict, the pitting of one POV against another, sometimes in extreme displays, other times in more benign expressions, is entirely unavoidable. Another marker of the fucked life is an inability to manage conflict.

When I was growing up conflict was managed in our home by two routes: denial and explosion. The internal strife brought on by a sick and subservient relationship between my mother and her mother stained us all. It taught an ugly lesson: appease the wicked and when your soul gets sick of being associated with you for that appeasement, blow your top like a cartoon bad guy.

I have had two responses to the conflicts in my life - run from them or be chewed up by mis-placed anger. Friends, that is fucked.

Trying to avoid conflict is like trying to avoid air. It is impossible until you are taking a long dirt nap. The real question isn't about conflict, but rather it's about your character, your central self and how that is expressed in every situation.

* * *

Fear is a trembling thing. It distorts and hyper-attenuates the mind causing it to become so fixated on potential outcomes that it paralyzes our innate ability to choose. We become stuck in the mire of fear. If you have seen a cornered animal, its eyes filled with life-preserving fear, you know how dangerous that position is. It is also inherently futile.

The futility of fear has no effect on our willingness to be trapped by that fear. I grew up fearing what was possible, what I was capable of in a fight. There should have been a warning label on my forehead: CAUTION: Contents Under Pressure - Dispose Of Properly. This is a serious mindfuck and it fucks you up good and tight. To unfuck that part of my fucked life has been the greatest challenge I've faced over the last three years.

Divorce has a way of drawing out all of the festering resentments, slights and outrages of a failed relationship the way warm salt water can leech out the pus of wounds. It is all you can think about for a while. But it subsides as your new life insists on its place, taking your attention off the past and focusing on what is entering your life, not what is leaving it.

Except when that past won't leave because divorce, like marriage, takes two to make it work and if the other won't let go - out of hate, or misguided hope - all those resentments and outrages still need to be dealt with. And that right there is unavoidable and necessary conflict.

Necessary conflict is your Get-Out-Of-Hell-Free card. You have to learn to quit running from the battles in your life. The conflict won't go away until you engage it. Appeasement didn't work for Neville Chamberlain and it won't work for anyone else either.

UYL Rule #6: Appeasement never works and causes greater damage down the road. Face your conflicts as they arise, otherwise you are fucked from beginning to end.

Okay, so you've decided not to appease, but how do you fight? As Phil Jackson likes to say, "How you do anything is how you do everything." Go back to yesterday's entry. Re-read the quote from Epictetus. Only you can decide your spiritual program; only you can decide to live in accordance with that practice; only you can decide to take your life off hold and become your complete self. You are fucked until you choose, but having chosen the ability to face conflict without fear or distorting anger will be manifest in your life because you are no longer concerned with attempting to control that which is outside your control. Your only field of battle, your only field of play is your commitment to your own words and deeds.

It is the very stuff of liberation. The weight of carrying someone else's madness is dropped from your shoulders and you can breathe.

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