Wednesday, January 26, 2011

'Reason Has No Heart of Its Own'

It occurred to me this morning that my life is about to change once again, as the need arises for me to work at something that is making me a living and paying off some debt. I've suddenly gone from taking a job that took from me, to having several opportunities where I can actually go to a place, work and bring home a paycheck. Without getting into detail, I'll just say that although I've been proactive at finding a job, I'm glad as I age I have learned some patience, because it seems that I'm working my way into jobs where I can utilize my experience. I'm very happy about that, for in doing so I'll be able to continue on learning something that I want to learn. I'm also excited about taking classes online and finally finishing school, although it seems the people who signed me up are less urgently calling me than they were before I filled out my application and signed on the dotted line. They seem much less interested now.

The other day, I started delving into the definitions and principles behind conflict resolution, as I've mentioned here before, the last third of my life I want to be about resolution. It seems to me that we spend a great deal of our lives creating conflict, consciously or subconsciously, and much of that conflict has taken us to the point we are standing currently. I don't presume to speak for everyone, for I understand that perhaps many have understood and enacted conflict resolution all along, and so for them life has been a serious of smaller plays, or perhaps comedies, I've even seen a farce or two in my travels. It seems to me that like those two or three stories in our lives that have the poignancy to speak allegorically in our own individual lives, also pertain to those two or three issues we may have to deal with all of our lives, and maybe we don't completely get total resolution, but there's no reason why we can't try or find some progress. There are many days I wake up and think, "Wow, I've made some progress here," but there are so many more days were I think, "I haven't a clue of how to resolve this." It makes reasonable sense to me that although all issues are not the same in stature, most of them we work on using the same process. Here's a prototype: 1. Here's the evident problem that I recognize 2. I have no clue as to how to resolve it. 3. I may need some help. 4. And then we generally work a process towards some result with one kind of plan or another in place.

There are many steps and philosophies that point us in the direction of solving our problems, but there are just as many steps and philosophies we employ that cause us to fail. So, we reinvent, we make commitments, we having starting dates, we have resolutions, etc. But what is that magic component that finally allows us to have some success? AA says its letting go and letting God. (It’s a good one if you can do it) Psychology says that therapy can be a vital answer. Religion points to a spiritual life. There is exercise, medication, diet, vacation, meditation, or several combinations of these techniques. Re-inventing yourself, making lists, vegetarianism, gestalt, on and on and on. In my experience, several of these ideas work well if they are used effectively, and several of them I still employ today. However, it seems so often we either wear one out from overuse, or we forget that we made that commitment, or we lose the list.

I suppose my point is that being in shape to have any kind of conflict resolution action going on in our lives is predicated on how good of shape we are in. And I don't mean physical shape, (but it certainly can be part of the whole). I've always taught acting as a four-component process, head, heart, body, and soul. Or, put another way, our intellect, our emotions, our physical being, and our spiritual life. Conflict resolution demands that all of these components need to be working in some capacity before something truthful can be achieved. And so often, we may have one of these in really good shape, or two, or three, and perhaps in rare moments in our lives all of these components may be working in a balanced functioning way. Most of my life, I've always had some form of physical exercise that I've used to stay in good physical shape. For some reason, (I'm trying to resolve) the last couple of years I've fallen short in this area. Physically, I don't think I've ever been in this poor of shape. As a result, I find that my energy is depleted before I can really physically stay with something to get it resolved. I do understand that physical condition is relative, and I'm not saying one has to be in the shape of a super bowl quarterback to function, but what I am saying is that it does help sustain a process.

If I were to ask you which emotion you most easily access, most people would say anger. For many of us, anger seems to be that component that seems to always be in shape, and always ready to create conflict, either within us or with someone else. Asking someone which one that is lacking and they will usually say joy. The human condition suggests that joy is much harder to come by than anger or sorrow are, and therefore its much more difficult to sustain. And I would maintain that joy is a natural emotion to take away the sting of conflict, but how often do we employ it?

The intellects will tell you that all problems can be solved with reason and thought. The irony of this idea is that it really isn't very smart to think that there is not a much higher working order than just the power of the brain to break through into new ideas and conflict resolution. To complicate matters, with intellectuals, there is also a tendency to utilize facts void of any kind of subjective experience, further, to the pure of intellect, experience only works in a controlled environment which is tempered only by objectivity.

And then there are those who refuse to use the brain at all and rely completely on an emotional life that is finely tuned against any kind of reason. Any high school teacher will tell you of the experience in confusion between the brain and the heart that exists in adolescence. Hopefully, you learn early in your teaching career not to take things personally, because not only are the emotional outbursts geared directly towards you, but they are usually without reason at all. A good teacher can recognize this, and can easily avoid the escalation of a difficult conflict when it's met with silent reason, deflected in a non-personal way. This is usually the most common conflict amongst families. Families tend to be locked into each other in a powerfully emotional way that is tied to history and experience. Further, in families it’s the most difficult source of conflict to not take personally. In my own experience, (and most recently) my attempt to remain objective in family conflicts I know eventually becomes clouded. Often, its one of the most confusing sources of conflict, because it can also be so subconscious. My recent experience with family conflict suggests that although I'm in the middle of it, reason will not allow me to accurately analyze how it pertains to me. It's as though I'm a third party in the conflict, being used to displace some sort of personal anger. I can go over every action, every word, and every step, but can only come up with the conclusion that its reason exists in a pattern of some long standing strange psychological experiment. I think often, that is why there are breaks that happen in families that may or may not ever get resolved, because they have their genesis in combinations of experiences that are completely out of the control of any one person. Further, they are the easiest to escalate, because reason, emotion, spirit, all become mitigating circumstances, and serve no purpose.

Then there are the ones who would tell you that all conflict is mediated by spiritual means, and that God, (usually their God) is the only one who can truly mend your conflict. Mix it up with emotion, and you have one of the most violent means of conflict escalation and resolution known to man. Just ask Israel and Palestine. The pursuit of a spiritual life I believe is an important one, but I also think that dogma is one of the ills of global and personal conflict. A dogmatic approach to spirituality may solve some problems, but it certainly increases the possibility of creating a whole plethora of others. Religion against religion is a source of such a wide spread conflict that I'm beginning to think it will never find resolution. On a personal level, I've pursued a dogmatic life in my years, and I had that very experience. I was able to manufacture a real sense of joy, but also found it to be just that, manufactured. It separated me from friends, family, and even whole countries, and more importantly, gave me the belief that the answers to all of my questions were answered in one book. In the end, when I honestly assessed what it was doing to me, I had no choice but to take many of the lessons I learned from it, and leave it, for I began to see the result through the long process of its approach was in fact, violence and murder.

It feels like my brain has turned to mush after that last paragraph, so I will stop for today, I suppose I need to write this to understand my own connection to getting at my conflicts. I repeat one of my favorite Shakespearean quotes that always reminds me the universal ground we all walk on when it comes to conflict and trouble. "When troubles come, they come not as single spies but in battalions." Lately, however, the opportunities are coming as plentiful as the trouble, so perhaps there is balance coming into my life, and I want the universe to know, as I write this down, that you are perfectly welcome to bring this into my life, help me to step away from the creation of my own folly, and watch in wonder.


Gerry said...

I just wish I could lay out the drama and have that be the answer but I know it isn't. I know it is better sometimes to create explanations without end that can't really be tied to anything. I have done that for years, just so I could distance my self from the conflict that can happen if you are too explicit. You have to leave doubt in people's minds about what you are talking about, so you can buy time for some conflicts to unravel themselves just with the benign proponent of time. Leave something alone and usually time will change the face of war to something else that might just resemble peace but isn't war either.
What you are saying makes perfect sense to me, sounds quite brilliant, even though I know to you it is not saying much. That is the point. Words can sometimes soothe in and of themselves when anything else may only make a bad situation worse. There is a word for it called obfuscation. There are times when obfuscation is called for, which means to obscure, darken, but if it is done well and for the right purpose it can still be very brilliant and necessary.

TJ in Boulder said...

Raymond -

Conflict being a permanent part of life it is interesting that this same topic came up in a group last night.

Some in the group wanted to have the act as a mediating agency. Others, said that in order to act in such a way there needed to be some validation of the group as having the skills, authority and general respect to perform this action.

My understanding in performing conflict resolution is that the parties involved have to be willing to speak their own truth without blaming and without violence. Anger is often unavoidable, but needs to be modulated. The role of a mediator is to maintain an environment in which there can be communication. It is valuable, even necessary, for each party to be able to repeat clearly and coherently what has been said by the other. Such as, "What I hear you saying is ....." This allows each party to hear their own statements from the outside and to correct misapprehension on the part of the other.

How often is it that we think we are being clear and reasonable, only to have the other party respond with a seemingly emotional reaction? Words and language are so imprecise. But, understanding can be achieved by sincere effort to hear the other. Understanding in no way means there will be agreement. "We agreed to disagree." is often the outcome. But, perhaps the disagreement can be without rancor.

Of course there has to be a desire by both parties to find resolution. But, sometimes it is enough just to honestly and respectfully express one's own point of view to find some sense of peace.

Unfortunately, in relatinships with history and emotion (i.e family) or with deeply held beliefs freedom vs. morality, finding that place of understanding can be quite difficult.

One last thing - As I have said before, "It is futile to try to communicate (find resolution) through rational communication with someone who is irrational."

vooman's voice said...

I think the problem is with me, you and everyone else is when we and the world gets too serious. As John Bennett says, "A computer can't laugh." I don't even know if they could insert a laugh track. Lighten up. When I see those big long sentences of yours and your Blogging, Mom. I am ready to run for the woods. This is not trying to make anyone shut up, it is just what is easier on the eye.
Bukowski was the one who told me I needed to use more dialog in my writing. Your Mom was the one who got us all writing, not Buk. I just went to investigate why he sold and she didn't. Her writing group...have some muscle. We can all be proud of that. I'm hoping to write more blogs and get better at it. Lost of practice never hurt anyone.
Some one said to me the other day when I mentioned him, "Oh you mean Boringcowski." I had to laugh.

Bohemian Cowboy said...

I have lots of ways to 'lighten up'. If I've learned anything from writing my blog its that sometimes, a long winded sentence is not easy to write. I don't expect everyone to enjoy what I write. I usually learn from what I do write. What I am learning recently is that writing about resolution has created more conflict than I think I've experienced for quite some time. I'm learning that many people react dramatically to the idea of resolving something, especially in our family. I write dialogue constantly in my plays, so I choose in my blog to explore the demands of writing prose. I have noticed that in the last six months, the amount of minutes people spend reading my entries has increased, substantially, so people are not falling off, they are staying on. However, I'm recently contemplating stopping writing here, as it seems to lately created complications in my life. I suppose my writing also parallels some of what I spend my time reading, and I've been reading some tough books. Faulkner wrote sentences that sometimes where two pages long. I'm no Faulkner, in fact, I have trouble reading him, but there isn't a quorum on how long a sentence should be. If this sounds defensive, it probably is, I've been taking some 'hit's lately, the more you write the more it seems people want to criticize.