Why We’re in a Collective State of Conflict
Feeling like the world is stuck in a collective state of conflict and attack? Here’s my prescription for progress. Hint: It starts with YOU.
Right now, when I look out into the world, I see a lot of really important issues with two very opposite sides. No matter which side you find yourself on, there’s deep pain on both sides of every argument.
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Collectively, it seems like we’ve created a world of stark, destructive conflict.
And no matter which side you stand on, there’s work to be done if we ever hope to create peace.
Reacting Begets Conflict
So what’s causing this catastrophic divide? Quick reactions, hot tempers and cowardly attacks.
Here’s what I mean: Reacting is a mindset that only lets you see your own pain, your own problems and your own solutions. It means you’ve lost sight of compassion for the other side, and you refuse to consider the validity of their experience. Your own pain has closed you off to the possibility of another’s solution.
Regardless of what side of an argument you stand on, if you’re fighting without regard for the other side, then no one is winning – certainly not you.
We can’t change the world by ourselves, and we can’t move forward if only one side of the coin buys in.
We need to create progress, and peace, together. And that means we need to start hearing each other.
Responding Begets Peace
What if there’s a better way to create progress than the road we’re on now?
What if we could disagree in a way that leaves the conversation better not broken?
What if we were respectful of others’ experiences – simply because it was the right thing to do?
How could that change the discourse?
Instead of reacting, responding means we’ve taken the time to consider how our own bias, baggage and ignorance might be influencing our thoughts before we open our mouths. It means knowing your ultimate goal – progress – and working with other people to get there, no matter how different they might seem. It means being so damn centered and sure of your values that you can hear any opposing viewpoint and still respond with the grace required to reach compromise.
Reacting stems from pain and conflict. Responding is born of compassion and collective purpose.
How Do We Shift From Reacting To Responding?
Here’s the one thing everyone is missing: If you want to be part of the solution, you have to start with yourself.
STOP focusing on other people, politicians and problems. START learning to respond.
Our reactions come from some kind of traumatic inner narrative that’s playing way too loud in your heart and head. If someone else’s opinion has triggered you so deeply that you cannot control your response, then it’s time to look at the way you speak to yourself.
Let’s address this together.
Mini Quiz: Are You Reacting Or Responding?
The biggest indicator of your ability to react versus respond is the amount of healing work you’ve done this far.
If you’ve done a fair amount of work relearning how to speak to yourself with compassion, then you likely spend most of your time in “response mode” and occasionally slip into “reaction mode” when you’re triggered, exhausted or overwhelmed. Hey, we’re all human, right?
If your inner world feels like the losing side of a Reddit thread, then you might have more work to do on your traumas. Why? Our ability to respond comes from our ability to be and stay centered. So if this conversation feels like new territory, then you may be spending more time in “reaction mode” then you realize.
To get a clearer picture, briefly answer these three questions.
BONUS: Ask a friend to do this activity with you, as you each share your answers and give each other gentle, supportive feedback. Be sure to choose a friend who you’ve successfully had difficult conversations with before and felt like you came out stronger.
1. How often am I in a state of hyperarousal?
Hyperarousal is a state of being, during which you feel very anxious and find it difficult to relax, according to the National Health Service. You may be constantly aware of threats and easily startled. Hyperarousal often leads to irritability, angry outbursts, sleeping problems, difficulty concentrating and more.
If you’re not in a clinical state of hyperarousal – but you still feel on edge – you could just be highly sensitive. Sounds, light, smells and touch could cause you sudden alarm or stress. Or you could feel a general sense of uneasiness that’s triggered by something relatively insignificant yet redirects the entire course of your day.
To cope with these feelings, you might find yourself self-isolating, interacting mainly through screens, leaving events early, removing yourself from stressful situations and more.
To identify how often you’re in this state, try to think back on the last 3-5 difficult conversations or conflicts you’ve had. Did you react or respond?
2. What people, experiences and pressures are causing hyper-arousal?
Now that you’ve identified the feeling, make a list of the people, topics, problems or experiences that trigger you most often.
The goal with this step is to be able to better predict when you’re entering dangerous territory. That way, you can be more mindful of the way you proceed. You may even want to make a list of tools that help you return to a place of calm and centeredness.
Also, you may see some patterns emerge here. If certain themes are catching your attention, that’s a clue that you may have some work to do in that area. It’s a tip that there’s undiscovered trauma, so you may want to pull back from tense conversations on these topics until you feel like you’ve gotten to the root of the issue.
3. How are your reactions clouding your judgement?
Look at that list again. Now consider how your trauma might be influencing your understanding in both negative and positive ways. Sometimes having a personal experience with a certain topic gives us insight; other times it clouds our judgement. Consider both options.
We’ve got to stop being so brutal to each other. Because people are dying, livelihoods are crumbling and our faith in each other is shattering.
Instead, let’s start taking accountability of the harm we’re causing. Then let’s figure out a way to connect with the “other side” instead of harm it.
As long as we keep fighting and reacting to the other side, we’re all stuck in a stalemate. No one is moving forward. And nothing is being done.
And all that does is prolong the pain we’re feeling on both sides.
Share With Us!
How often do you react instead of respond? How do you change your frame of mind to see the other side?
Share with us! We would love to know!
Your story is so important.
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