Relationships and Conflict

Without relationship with others, it is almost impossible to achieve a healthy relationship with self or lasting inner peace. Relationships are the sounding boards to check our level of self-acceptance.

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We count healthy, intimate relationships as one of the main factors in our sense of wellbeing in life. But at the bottom of any kind of inner conflict is our relationship with others, the people around us or the world at large. Can you think of any situation or event in life that involved conflict, discomfort, pain or hurt that does not involve any other person around you? So does it mean our relationship with others, is the cause of our pain or lack of peace in life? In fact, without relationships and the inherent conflict, it is not possible to achieve inner peace. By triggering what needs to be resolved, relationships act as the most crucial catalyst through which we can achieve lasting peace and fulfilment. 

Any emotional hurt we have faced in life, is originally caused due to our failed efforts to connect with others. That does not make relationships bad or wrong, as this happens in childhood while we were still making sense of the world around us. As children, we do not know how to communicate our needs, how to express our thoughts or how to process painful emotions. In the process of learning these things, some of the painful memories gets stored in our subconscious. These are the thoughts, patterns and perceptions that define our relationship with others in our adulthood.

In adult life, we start a relationship with ‘How can I live without this person!’, but end up wondering, ‘How can I live with this person, it is so painful!’ The people in our lives that we are most intimate with, are the ones that trigger us most. As those are the only ones that can show us what we are not willing to see within us. Often the person that seems to trigger in us the deepest emotional pain is not the real cause of that pain, they just managed to pull the past pain that is already within us to the surface so that it can heal now. Relationships are mirrors that show us the emotional pain and hurt from childhood that we are unwilling to face within ourselves.

We may think since healthy relationships do not have conflict, all we need to do is avoid all conflict in relationships. We may isolate ourselves from people around us, saying I am highly sensitive, or highly spiritual, or highly self-dependant or highly tolerant. But all that does is stuff up all the unresolved emotional content deeper into subconscious so that it creates an unending loop of unhappy relationships filled with more conflict. The only solution to resolve inner and outer conflict is to boldly face the pain with openness and vulnerability.

Many self-help gurus often say, healthy relationship with self is crucial for a healthy relationship with others. But without relationship with others, the elements of healing, integration or completion that are crucial for a healthy relationship with yourself are not possible to achieve. Hence, conflict in our relationships is not to be avoided. Our relationships serve the purpose of showing us what needs to be resolved within us so that we get to a place of deep inner peace.

Lose Control

One thing that keeps us away from peace and hence cause all the conflict and chaos is a need for being in control. This need is the toughest thing to give up because of the underlying fear and deep insecurity that is the root of this need. We remain as confused and hurt children as long as we don’t recognise this insecurity and address it. And we keep causing conflict and chaos in our own personal world and world at large until we resolve it within us.

Being in control is the biggest illusion we created out of our ego’s insecurity in this ego driven world. Not a single person is truly in control of what can happen in his or her life. When we think everything is going smooth and is perfectly under control, life throws at us something completely unexpected. No one is truly in control nor can ever be, but that doesn’t stop us from constantly trying to reassure ourselves that by being in control we don’t have to fear so many painful things. We may be able to control few things in our lives that have caused past pain, so that it doesn’t repeat again. But we cannot stop life from hurting us with something completely unexpected. Recognising this vulnerability inherent in being human saves us from a lot of hurt and pain that no amount of striving for control can. That is why vulnerability is the true strength. It liberates us from fear of pain, the core fear behind all our damaging actions and behaviours.

We strive for control because we do not know how to deal with the insecurity and fear of getting hurt or the pain in our lives. But as long as we are seeking to control, we are in fact prisoners of this fear that is driving the need for control. As we are not free anymore, it drives us deeper into fear and insecurity and a much larger need for control. If one individual is desperately trying to control the one they love, always “for their own good”, we can see how both the parties are prisoners, one is a prisoner of fear and the other is of control. This need for control is the main cause of conflict in relationships – being parent and child or spouses or friends.

This need for control in collective conscious becomes more dangerous when it results in dictatorships and worst possible crimes against humanity. Because all the worst dictators or conquerers or even an entire race feeling superior to others, truly believe they are doing it all for the good of the humanity, for saving the humanity by “positive control”. If everyone comes into my way of thinking, feeling and behaving, everything painful in the world will become alright. But this kind of perfect control exists only in our illusion. The only way to reach harmony is to lose the need for control  by addressing our own fears and insecurities. The only demon out there is our own fear, and it is a vulnerable beast that needs to be embraced with love not to be conquered by control.

Coming out of Conflict and Chaos

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Complete acceptance is the most powerful solution to conflict and chaos. There is as much conflict in the heart as there is chaos in the world we see outside of us today. At all the levels of human existence, we are in a constant quest for acceptance. Not feeling accepted is at the core of all chaos and conflict. Right from individual personality level to the community at large, every conflict is a search for acceptance that we are unable to give to ourselves.

As a child, we are always expected to be something other than who we are. Not feeling accepted for exactly how we are, there is always a  constant need to change, fix or adapt. If we are a talkative child, we are expected to be less chatty. If we are an introspective or intuitive child, we are nudged to be more outgoing or analytical. As we grow up, this continues to be a feeling of not being accepted, always feeling some gap in how we are showing up, however it is. No wonder FaceBook or YouTube likes define our existence today.

As individuals in a society, there is constant pressure to fit into the box of being acceptable. This narrow box never really fits anyone’s unique expression. We try to fit in 7.2 billion unique expressions into well defined boxes so that they do not outrage our sense of propriety or threaten our sense of security. Not much scope for real freedom of expression. By the time we grow up with these societal limitations, we get used to the boxes and we are lulled by an illusion we have freedom. However, the conflict in heart doesn’t go away, it pops up every time there is a life issue involving heart based decisions.

As a part of community, being accepted for our own faith, belief systems, ideologies – for a sense of belonging, defines our existential conflicts in the larger world. Entire history is full of bloody conflicts just on the basis – our belief in God has to be accepted by others as their belief too. As if, I cannot sustain my faith in my God or ideology unless everyone believes and accepts the same version of it.

Self acceptance is a powerful solution that allows us to grow out of our need for external validation. It allows us not just to accept who we are but also extend same level of acceptance to others and their expression, their belief systems and perspectives. We turn up into mature, responsible and tolerant individuals who do not have any need for conflict or chaos to sustain that belief in ourselves or our unique expression.