Friday, April 1, 2011

Day 1: The Nature of Conflict (?)

This is a brief account of our time from a single point of view. I'm not meaning to be so narrow in my seeing, it is simply my natural condition. So I apologize ahead of time for the incomplete, distorted nature of this summary.  Respectfully, Linda Vanasupa

In the response to the question, "Why are you here?", several people reported that they have returned because of the personal and positive learning that takes place in their lives because of their participation.

Roger made clear that the workshop is not about he as an expert, passing onto us some kind of authorized viewpoint so that we then become authorized in our viewpoint.  It is more about us together holding a kind of reflective space in which our own unconscious models and strategies for dealing with conflict can surface.

He is not so much interested in "tools" for dealing with conflict, but in building the capacity for dealing with conflict. He asserted his belief that that capacity consisted of the capacity for self-reflection, collective reflection and listening in the face of conflict.

  • Do we have the ability to make choices of how we might interact with conflict or do our existing strategies automatically (habitually) kick in?
  • What is the source of conflict?  How does it arise?
  • What is the strategic value of having conflict?  Roger then asserted his belief that the strategic value of conflict is narcissistic, self-validation and entertainment.  That is, people purposefully engage in conflict to draw attention to themselves, to validate their own view of themselves, and to entertain themselves. 
Because it is Roger's birthday today, I will validate his assertion by confessing that I can see my own participation in conflict that served those three purposes. I will assert that those unfortunate souls with Ph.D.'s are enculturated to strategically participate in conflict in these ways.  But of course, I no longer EVER do this. 
  • What would you do in the absence of conflict?

Roger outlined a decision tree that indicated that in the moment of speaking, faced with a conflict, you have the choice to engage the conflict or bypass the conflict.  This first choice is largely "internal." What do you do?  How do you decide?  Is your decision based on some mechanistic reaction or is there a genuine choice that is transparent to yourself?

You could also externalize the engagement or bypassing of that conflict.  By definition, externalizing that would be a form of engaging it.

Three frames for considering conflict
Roger mentioned three frames in which to consider conflict:
1. PAST - an after action review.  What happened? what was learned?
2. PRESENT- working with conflict that arises in the moment.  What are your choices?
3. FUTURE - Begin to see patterns and trends in your life that you can plan for. This event has this flavor that leads me into a conflict.  This is where you are beginning to see the structures, patterns and dispositions you have to being working with conflict.

Homework related to those three frames:
1. Reflect on your own model of conflict. Journal on your definition and/or look up a definition.
2. Consider a project of conflict that you can work on for yourself this quarter. This is something that has conflict built into it, or anticipated.  Choose something that you have a conscious relationship to so that you can make choices about the conflict.
3. Notice a conflict you are in, happening in the moment. Do an after action review by creating two columns of information.  In the right column, write down the external details of the conflict (who said what? when? ); in the left column, write down the internal narrative of the conflict (what were you saying to yourself, but didn't make public? what were you thinking?)

The ontology of conflict - what is it, really?
At some point in our conversation, we began asking the question, "What really IS conflict?"

Oddly enough, as the conversation unfolded, it became clear that in using the word "conflict" we were perhaps talking about different things.

Roger asked, "Is an 'other' required for conflict to exist?"

In his model, an 'other' is required for conflict.  In the case of one person having internal conflict of their "own," he asserted that it requires one to objectify one's "self" into "parts" that can then "conflict." In the absence of "other," in Roger's model, conflict cannot exist.

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