The challenge of engagement.

After a recent incident in the community, I retreated to a motel where I could be alone. I stayed there for three nights, ruminating about what happened. When I came back, I started to realize how frightened I am of conflict. My lifelong pattern is to internalize it. I take all conflict within and try to figure it out on my own.

This morning I began wondering if, in fact, all conflict is internal. Obviously, there are many cases in which one can be the unfortunate victim of conflict that is started by someone else, or by a particular group – but when conflict comes up in one’s own personal domain, where does it originate?

I generally jump to the conclusion that someone else is originating whatever conflict comes into my life, and this leads to my thinking that it’s someone else’s fault. I start my “they” are doing this to “me” storyline. But if I am honest with myself, I have to admit that I generate a lot of conflict within myself, and that sometimes this inner conflict seeps out and becomes a part of my daily life with others.

If I start to differentiate conflict into – inner conflict, outer conflict, and internalized conflict, it begins to make more sense and seems less scary. And, this gives me more of a sense of control over I how respond to it. Many wise teachers have advised students to examine their negative emotions to both find the origin of their distress and the pattern that one chooses to alleviate the distress.

Yesterday, I began leaving the door to my room open during the day. After desensitizing myself to most of the noise here, I am no longer reactive to it. I have a general sense of what kind of noise is going to happen during the day and can anticipate how long the noise will last. After the noise ends, I know that there will be a period of quiet.

I guess another way of saying this is that I am easing into the rhythm of my environment. The ebb and flow of voices, coffee grinders, banging pans, is juxtaposed with open space, trees, deer, and the serenity of natural sounds. One half of my room is a wall that lets in the noise of the community, and the other half is filled with huge windows that give me a panoramic view of the garden and the woods. I think this is an ideal combination for creating the kind of work I want to commit myself to for the rest of my life.

Perhaps I am feeling a glimmer of what it could be like to move from “me vs. them” to “me as an integral part of them.” In order to do this, I need to better understand myself as an individual. I worked on this as long as I could in a quiet, private space, and now I am testing out what I learned in a new environment. The difference between now and when I was younger is that I am not around people to get their approval, or to be popular, but to see how I can expand, grow and contribute as an individual. I want to develop enough inner strength to enter any environment and feel comfortable. As a solitary introvert and a loner this is an ongoing challenge.

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9 thoughts on “The challenge of engagement.

  1. Beautifully written! As someone who fiercely hangs on to her own apartment (though it is financially a struggle), I often feel as though I’m losing my abilities to engage, work through conflict with others, and to build up my inner strength and integrity amidst others humans. I feel as though I should print this out and hang it up to view daily. Thank you again.

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    1. I hung onto my condo for years, in part, because I was afraid of engagement. But I know that as I age, I will become more dependent on others. I decided it was better to start engaging voluntarily than waiting for the time when it would be forced on me. Thank you for your supportive comment.

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  2. When I hear the word, “conflict”, I think of many things from all out war to mild disagreements between individuals. Of course, one can be conflicted internally, as you note.

    I also remember that the writing truism, “No conflict, no story.” seems to be applied to life by some. They create conflict almost as an addiction.

    Another thought is that I have feared/avoided conflict when I (sometimes without realizing it) assumed that the conflict would be disastrous/damaging. In reality, conflicts can lead to the “better story” – knowing someone better, knowing oneself better or a solution that neither party had identified when working independently.

    It may sound trite, but if one views conflict as an opportunity for growth (seems as if you are now), then conflict is not to be feared/avoided. It is also not to be fommented as a way of passing the day.

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    1. I do see conflict as an addiction that is continuously stoked by both governments and the entertainment industry. As such, it is a never-ending story without resolution. This manipulation/propaganda perpetuates fear, and fear engenders more conflict. I agree that the only way forward is to engage with conflict in ways that reveal its transformational potential.

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  3. It sounds like you’re on the right track. I think society as a whole doesn’t know how to deal with conflict. There have to be “winners” and “losers”. Just look at congress. The art of confrontation/discussion/compromise is being lost as people bury their heads in their IPhones, etc. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. I was recently thinking about moving beyond the idea of winners and losers. This is a dysfunctional mindset that needs to be replaced by something else. Appreciate your comment.

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  4. It seems that life never gets any easier. So i guess it is up to us as to how we deal with it. We cannot change other people we can only change ourselves and our attitudes.

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