Evolutionary Reconciliation: Part 6

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"Two groups of people approaching each other over a chasm, ready to shake hands."

“Unfortunately, the Sapiens regime on earth has so far produced little we can be proud of. We have mastered our surroundings, increased food production, built cities, established empires and far-flung trade networks. But did we decrease the amount of human suffering in the world? Time and again, massive increases in human power did not necessarily improve the well-being of individual Sapiens and usually caused immense misery to other animals.” (Yuval Noah Harari) And along with the immense suffering of other animals, we must also include the demise of forests, oceans, skies and future generations. “The Animal that Became a God” is the title of the afterword in the book Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, and sums up his thesis that modern “successful” humans and their empires are self-made gods, seemingly not accountable to the limits and dangers of pleasure, dominance and comfort. The big question is how do we reconcile our need for cooperation, sustain a healthy respect for difference with our unconscious inner conflicts?

Tools that help me whenever I am engaged with a person and especially when I am wanting to counterattack in a conflict include:

– Emptying myself of all preconceived ideas about who the other person is; interview the person as if for a podcast with no need to win, persuade, convince or resolve the issue at that very moment

– Relaxing my body and counting to 8 as I exhale twice as long as my inhalation

– Reminding myself that empathy “plays the largest part in our understanding of what is inherently foreign to our ego.” (Freud) Noticing that I have gotten caught up in defensiveness, I am always free to let that go and return to the moment. If not possible, ask for a time out

– Speaking slowly, using the bare minimum of words, with a focus on feelings, needs, kindness, honesty, respect and curiosity

– Offering up a guess about the other person’s feelings and needs 

– Remembering that the need to belong, to be loved and to contribute, when acknowledged, can overcome the fear of rejection and the fear of intimacy. I can attempt to assist the other person to return to these wholesome intentions by naming possible unmet needs behind seemingly unrelated accusations.

– Investigating our shared values can diffuse conflict

– Tuning into my own needs, I can ask for a time out to protect my integrity and prevent possible escalation

– Forging support with trusted allies and being quiet in nature can help to balance out self-doubt that can arise from a tense relationship.

Inquiring into the bigger questions surrounding human relationships can also assist me to step away from my own agenda. How can we make peace with our egos which drive us to find fault in someone’s words, keep score and try to win every argument? Do humans create unnecessary conflict because deep down, we feel unhappy and are trying to find happiness? Do we fuel disharmony because we are confused about the true source of happiness? Do we confuse normative conflict with abuse because we think engaging with normative conflict will cause us unhappiness? Is being prone to inciting relational conflict a learned behaviour? Is learning to confront normative conflict a desired, evolutionary leap forward?