You’re in a relationship. It’s been going well for a few months. Then, a major misunderstanding occurs: you think one way, he/she thinks the other. A stand-off occurs. What needs to happen is to resolve the issue so the two of you can go forward, right? Not necessarily.
Resolution is a construct of the ego, not of our higher nature or divine self. In times of conflict, we are potentially wrestling with intense feelings and situations. We want resolution to make everything nicey nice and return to normal so there is peace between the partners. Additionally on a deeper level, we crave resolution so we don’t have to sink into our feelings, be with them, and feel all that is going on within us. We actually cover up and mask what truly is going on with ourselves by compromising with a resolution. In essence, we are short changing ourselves and our partners. Healing on a deep level cannot occur with a cursory, superficial resolution. If we continue to seek resolution, we will not heal our issues, they will keep circling around to present themselves, and healing on a profound level will not occur for self or for the couple at large.
So how does one navigate the tempestuous waters of conflict and still maintain love? Allow it all to be present and learn how to be at peace with these wildly different emotions. As Pema Chodron is quoted, “As human beings, not only do we seek resolution, but we also feel that we deserve resolution. However, not only do we not deserve resolution, we suffer from resolution. We don’t deserve resolution; we deserve something better than that. We deserve our birthright, which is the middle way, an open state of mind that can relax with paradox and ambiguity. To the degree that we’ve been avoiding uncertainty, we’re naturally going to have withdrawal symptoms—withdrawal from always thinking that there’s a problem and that someone, somewhere, needs it to fix.”1
There is nothing to fix. There is a higher, deeper loftier way of dealing with difference. Instead of bristling against it, soften to the difference and be with it. The challenge is to have the misunderstanding present between you and also have love. Even though the egos may be locking horns, your souls can go to a higher place and engage in love. Author, psychologist, John Welwood has this to say, “Conscious commitment is a a pact between beings, rather than between personalities. In effect, my partner and I say to each other, “Whatever problems our personalities have together, we will not let them get between us. If our egos are at war, we will not let that ruin our deeper connection—we will always come back and meet on this deeper level. We will help each other wake up and become all that we can be, We will keep opening to each other and to life itself in and through this relationships.”2
From my point of view, what needs to be resolved is the fragile, hurting ego of self. It likes to be right, wants all others to side with it, and will do anything to convince others to its thinking.
What to do?
Train it to be able to relax with the chaos, with difference, with uncertainty, and vagueness. Train it and yourself to live in the now. Here and now.
But how does one train one’s ego to relax with all the anxiety causing triggers in the world?
Mindfulness training is one way. To become aware of when you first tighten and align with your point of view. As soon as that happens, take a couple of deep breaths which will allow you to soften: soften the physical body which will in turn, relax the emotions, and mental thoughts. It might be just a slight shift, however, it will be enough for you to be able to make a choice: do I continue to polarize away from this situation and myself, or do I allow for difference, honor that there is indeed unity in diversity and in doing so, be with myself on a deeper more profound level.
With no resolution for an outcome or goal, each is honored for what he/she is representing. If there is disagreement, that is acknowledged, yet no one is convinced to one side or the other. No resolution is a more honoring process of dealing with conflict. With space, each is respected and eventually, an understanding blossoms.
What happens if the ego cannot let go and continues to believe that there is a problem to be fixed? The practice at this point would be to remove any focus on the problem, or the other person, and to solely focus on self. The ego is experiencing imperfection, so the question remains, “What is it in me that is perpetuating this imperfection?” Many times it is an attachment to certain views, beliefs, values and habit energies. If one can be honest with oneself, honor oneself, and gather enough self-love and courage to dive into those deep waters of one’s soul, he or she most likely will discover the original cause of the imperfection, and “problem.” It’s always about us, not the other. The answer lies within, not without.
Certified mediator and coach, Brooke Wichmann, sees it this way, “The problem was that by focusing on defending myself, I was basically putting all my energy into avoiding what I didn’t want—pain and suffering—instead of into creating what I actually did want. Deep down, I wanted way more than simply not getting hurt, but I wasn’t working toward it… So I started to shift my intention. Instead of having it be about protecting myself in the moment, my intention became to respond to conflicts in a way that would set a foundation for the kind of beautiful future relationship I envisioned.”3
She took a couple of steps back, mindfully looked at herself and realized her contribution to the conflict. She was experiencing imperfection, and she chose to go within to discover the cause. In the end, she realigned herself to a more powerful intention—love—which produced the intimacy she craved.
Life is not clear cut; it is messy and vague, with many twists and turns. The more we can be flexible, breathe, and allow for the unenviable ambiguities and paradoxes that will be presented to us, the more we will be able to navigate through the chaos centered in peace. Balance and harmony for all will follow.
Sri Swami Satchidananda has this to say, “In essence we are one, but in nonsense we are many…We (they) all have the same essence, the same spirit. See the spirit in everything. There is nothing without life in this world. Be gentle, be nice, be loving. See your own Self in all and treat everything properly. That is how to show the unity in diversity visibly and powerfully.” 4
© Brooke Becker, 2016
- Pema Chodron, “When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times”, Shamballa Publishing, 1996
- John Welwood, “Journey of the Heart, The Path of Conscious Love”, Harper Collins Publishing, 1991
- Brooke Wichmann, “The Most Powerful Way to Resolve Conflicts in Relationships”, TinyBuddha.com
- Sri Swami Satchidananda, “The Golden Present”,Integral Yoga Publications, 1987