Conflict arouses powerful emotions. When you are under their spell, you can do strange things. It’s especially painful when you are in conflict with a person you once loved deeply or had a strong emotional bond with. Maybe, you just quite liked being friends with this person that you can now no longer stand to be around. Relationships end for reasons which are often very logical but that doesn’t make the emotional fallout any easier to digest.
Conflict often drives us to look at the other person without rose tinted glasses and to see them as something other than human. They surely can’t be normal, sane, happy, decent, caring, able to love or feel any emotions if they are capable of hurting you. We might even describe the other person as a a narcissist, a monster or evil.
We only have to look at how we refer to dictators, terrorists, murderers or any other category of person who is deemed an ‘enemy’. It may be the case that they may have committed some truly inhumane acts which should be criminally punished, however, this one-dimensional way of looking at people in general, allows us to feel superior to them and blameless. It doesn’t put conflict to rest, it makes it harder to build trust and find a solution.
This way of thinking allows us to justify our own bad behaviour and importantly, it allows us to maintain the certain position that we are right so that we feel secure and safe with our convictions. If we did think of our enemy as human, it might make us change our mind about them, forgive them and move on. This requires self-reflection, empathy and compassion. It also takes time to get to this point for most people.
To help you get onto that path, here are three truths about your enemy which will change your perspective:
- People love them. Even though you don’t and the thought may fill you with anger, they still have relatives, friends and partners who may think they are the most wonderful person in the world. We all have good qualities and bad qualities and we don’t always behave in the same way towards everyone. Some people, for example, are kind, caring and considerate to the people they love but ruthless in their professional lives.
- They experience suffering as well as joy, just like you. Every single one of us suffers. To be human is to be vulnerable. Grieving, losing, being rejected, suffering illness and the experience of dissatisfaction or unhappiness will come to us all at some stage in our life. Similarly, we all feel joy, delight, peace and a whole range of positive emotions because of our achievements, our merit, births and partnerships. We can also feel this at the same time we are suffering! When we can see our enemies as experiencing life in the same way that you do, together with the rest of the human race, not only does your suffering diminish but it also allows you to act with more empathy and compassion.
- They want conflict to end, just like you do. It’s no wonder. Conflict is exhausting and alienating. Even small disagreements cause stress and impact our mental health which is why there will come a point when we want it to stop. This could take the form of the silent treatment, terminating any form of communication or actively attempting to find a mutually beneficial solution. Timing may differ for each conflict but rest assured, it is so draining that nobody wants it to last forever.
If you are in conflict with somebody, you might not be in the right emotional state to accept that we all make mistakes and we don’t always behave in desirable or mature ways. It’s even harder to accept this undeniable reality when you feel deeply hurt. Don’t lose faith that your emotions and your perspective will change over time. If you are not yet at that point when you can look at it objectively, then congratulate yourself for even considering that possibility.
As always, let me know what you think by leaving a comment.