Conflict Anatomy

Today, we face an increasing amount of conflicts and a lower quality (if possible) of these conflicts that degenerate into verbal and physical violence amongst people who may have committed to a meaning-oriented life.

Meanwhile we discuss at length on how to solve a conflict, and we do find innovative tools to address conflicts and to restore the confidence and the friendship between people. Some things work and other do not work, leaving us frustrated and sometimes grumpy.

Now let us go back to the origin of a conflict. Do we really know what a conflict is and how it starts? Are there pre-conditions for a conflict to happen? Are there any other conditions in which a conflict would have a chance to happen?

If we could know a bit more about the process that is in motion for a conflict to raise, we would probably know better, not only how to address it, but also how to prevent it. We could change the pre-conditions or prevent them to happen. We could change the parameters that lead to blindly fight with one another, and definitively shift this vicious paradigm that endlessly makes conflicts happen and expand. We could redefine our living conditions, in order not to solve conflicts in a satisfactory and innovative manner, but for conflicts to have no more possibility to arise and to develop at all.

The conflict and the mind:

Our mind is constantly updating. In a total subjective, while unconscious, process, it re-shapes its reality by merging memories with new information occurring within and without, in order for its experiences to make sense and to match its beliefs. Hence, it is endlessly creating more sophisticated (though human) ways to relate to its inward and outward world. As the mind sophisticates itself more and more in each instant, by acquiring more knowledge and experience, everything tends naturally to increase. And so does the conflict and everything human unless one is really dedicated to his spiritual path.

The main feature of the mind, its ‘raison d’être’, is the ego, the sense of separation between ‘me’ and everything which is not ‘me’. Therefore, everything which is not ‘me’ nor ‘mine’, that occurs in my life, is spontaneously and unconsciously assessed and judged from this primal sense of ‘me’. No way to pretend that we are the one who does not assess nor judge, since it’s a subconscious pattern of the ego to self-explain and self-justify oneself according to one’s environment. The one who says she/he does not judge nor label the other, really does not know what happens within.

A conflict starts with a disagreement between two people or clusters. How is it possible? A disagreement rises when one party stands for an opinion which is in opposition to the opinion of the other party. Now, let us examine whether an opinion is valuable enough, regardless the topic, to generate a conflict between 2 parties. Let us examine what is an opinion, and in which context an opinion may be possibly taken as the truth.

How real is a conflict?

In the pyramid of the needs, the first few layers match the basic human needs whereas the top layer matches the spiritual needs. A conflict belongs necessarily to the bottom layers, which are basically human, because there is no possible disagreement at the highest layer of the pyramid, since the needs at this stratum are not any more human but spiritual. In other words, disagreements and conflicts only appear when the primal human needs are challenged.

On the other hand, Neuroscience reaches Sri Aurobindo and Mothers’ teachings, stating that everything is illusory and does not exist as such. Neuroscience teaches us that one only sees what he believes, and that one is constantly creating his reality, which matches perfectly what is expected and possible to happen.

For instance, since our brain is not multitasking, focusing on one point makes everything surrounding this point disappear. It is not an assumption but a fact! Focusing on a particular item shades the surroundings of the focus. What seems to be seen however is a complete illusion, because our brain is re-creating the surroundings of the point we are looking at. This phenomenon is happening intensely and rapidly in our reality because our sight is shifting from one point to another with an average of 3 times per second.

Furthermore, what is happening with the sight is also happening in the brain. Indeed, similarly, focusing on one aspect of a topic, for instance the conflict, makes everything surrounding this aspect vanishing as if it has never existed! My brain is constantly re-creating an apparent reality, based on memories and beliefs, a reality which exists only for me.

What we are fighting for during a conflict simply does not exist for good, as it is entirely constituted of memory and imagination.

Then, what is the point to fight with someone for something that does not exist, or exists only for a remarkable short time?

What an illusion but our life!

The ‘old-fashioned’ way to behave in a conflict

How to make one understand that conflict is an ‘old-fashioned’ way to behave? How make one understand how ridiculous she/he is to continue to fight and argue endlessly on a topic which has already passed for long? How to bring the evidence that forgiveness is a much more powerful tool than resentment? How to bring the scientific/spiritual, while common-sense proof that a “free-of-conflict relationships” is the best way to relate with one another, especially in a spiritual place?

Beforehand, to avoid redundancies, let us summarize some well-known facts, explained in previous articles:

  • 2 adults are 50/50% responsible in the way their relationship evolves
  • Reaction (rather than creation) is the easier and usual way to behave, as it comes spontaneously from the lower part of our brain, the reptilian, which is linked to safety
  • Conflict always nurtures back conflict, whereas unexpected goodwill breaks the pattern of the conflict growth
  • Buckminster Fuller, Albert Einstein and Ramana Maharshi, from a different angle, state that we cannot solve a problem on the same level on which it has been created
  • The mind does not make any difference between past, present and future since the same neuronal connexions are activated. “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality” (Seneca)
  • We are not multitasking
  • On an average of 60 000 thoughts per day, 80% are identical to yesterday’s
  • One only sees what she/he thinks
  • One cannot force oneself not to think of something
  • Thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations are entangled in a same process
  • After 40, an individual is constituted of 90% automatic unconscious patterns
  • Hebb’s rule states that 2 information (thought, sensorial, event, etc.) that happen simultaneously in our environment, link themselves for the unique reason of their synchronicity
  • Neurogenesis (the constant production of new synapses and neurons) and neuro-plasticity (the constant possible re-wiring of new ways of information in our brain) allow us to constantly re-shape our mind
  • A brain alone does not function properly, it needs another one to interact

Fraternal and free-of-conflict relationships should be our natural way to behave. However, as in all ‘powerful-spiritual’ places in the world, things are quite different on a day-to-day basis. Although we have more strength to achieve our goals, due to our Masters’ spiritual support, we encounter more important challenges, for the same reason. The more capable we are to handle issues, the more sophisticated and challenging the issues are. Especially in relationships. Sometimes, though, difficulties seem more salient, as they are acknowledged publicly, but spiritual progress continues anyway in a discreet manner.

The syllogism of a “free-of-conflict relationship”.

Ex. 1. Socrates is a man, 2. all men are mortal, 3. therefore Socrates is mortal.

The following syllogisms show the evidence and the good-sense of a free-of-conflict relationship. Furthermore, it also shows that it is truly easier to live without conflicts than with.

Major premises (1) as well as minor premises (2) of the syllogism are well-established facts, without any possible reservations. Like a game, a major added to a minor lead to an amazing conclusion (3), every time different, but constantly aiming for an irresistible understanding. The syllogism of a “free-of-conflict relationship” emerges so evidently, that we will surely question ourselves on how it is still possible that we continue to behave collectively from the same tamasic pattern of egoistic behavior.

Shifting of paradigm, from a traditional human relationship to a “free-of-conflict relationship”, only requires innovation, good sense, good will, and perseverance. And a certain part of sacrifice, as well. A few pioneers who are willing to sacrifice their individual egoistic comfort zone to reach a medium level towards a definitive fraternal relationship would be a valuable asset. Silently but firmly, from their profound inner commitment, they would become powerful enough to pull up the rest of the community. Who will join the team?

A few possible major premises of the syllogism about non-conflicts:

  • A few individuals resolutely focused can change a larger group of people. Every one might remember this experiment in Washington DC, in July 1993, where a coherence group of 4,000 Transcendental Meditation members led to a decrease of 23.3% reversal in the predicted violent crime trend. This is not a scoop in any spiritual place, where numerous members are steadily focusing their attention and prayers towards a good development of the city. This is helpful for the implementation of a “free-of-conflict relationship” atmosphere.
  • The Intuitive mind is not an assumption, but a fact. It is located slightly above our physical head. “It is then possible to adopt a different and a more direct method, not to refer all our thought and action to the Lord secret in the heart-lotus but to the veiled truth of the Divinity above the mind and to receive all by a sort of descent from above, a descent of which we become not only spiritually but physically conscious. The siddhi or full accomplishment of this movement can only come when we are able to lift the center of thought and conscious action above the physical brain and feel it going on in the subtle body. If we can feel ourselves thinking no longer with the brain but from above and outside the head in the subtle body, that is a sure physical sign of a release from the limitations of the physical, and though this will not be complete at once nor of itself bring the supramental action, for the subtle body is mental and not supramental, still it is a subtle and pure mentality and makes an easier communication with the supramental centers.” Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga II, The Intuitive Mind.

  • Mirror neurons and Behavioral Synchrony are well-known facts, as well, in the field of Neuroscience. They explain that the brain of a human being, like all beings of a same species as fish or birds, has the natural and spontaneous capacity to match any other human being or group he/she may come across. Behaviors are contagious, either sane or insane. Unless one sharpens constantly his/her consciousness by focusing on the Divine, one may tend to follow the lower part of mankind by unconsciously listening to one’s basic propensities, or imitating his/her neighbor.
  • To do as if, or how to change without moving a little finger, is a remarkable and powerful tool! The capacity that allowed us, when we were kids, to pretend we were a cow-boy, a doctor, a nurse or a pilot, is the same that leads us to a panic attack today. The mind does not make any difference whether the situation is real, whether it is a memory or a fantasy, as the same neuronal connexions are activated. Today, there are numerous people who come to see a psychologist or a healing practitioner in order to be relieved of troubles that, in fact, do not exist but in their thoughts. But the thing is that these thoughts became so real and concrete that they have created diseases or physical troubles. The capacity of the mind to make a thought real, for a higher purpose or for a lower one, is stupefying. This capacity is also the one which is used by sportsmen to overcome their current capacities and gain the tiny second that makes them a champion. Just by doing as if!

What about doing as if we abide already to the Divine part of the pyramid of needs?

In his letter of April 7, 1920 to his young brother Barin, Sri Aurobindo writes: “I do not want hundreds of thousands of disciples. It will be enough if I can get a hundred complete men, purified of petty egoism, who will be the instruments of God”

A few possible minor premises of the syllogism about non-conflicts:

  • The sense of guilt to not have behaved correctly can lead one to endless and desperate suffering for something he/she has done or said, as nothing definitively disappears in one’s mind. Let us imagine a person of great consciousness, who has created an accident which has led in return to a definitive loss of another person. At first, we naturally start to blame the 1st person and try to support the 2nd. However, the question remains to know which person will suffer the most, and for a longer period of time? The one who had the definite loss or the one who caused the loss?
  • The sense of guilt is really interesting for us, on the spiritual path, because it reflects a possible constant inner struggle between the Psychic Being and the Ego, in case of “inappropriate behaviour”. Whenever a certain level of spiritual growth has been reached, it becomes much more uncomfortable for one to continue to behave like before.
  • The power of an insight is that it brings sudden knowledge, or sheds new light on something that was previously, and since long, understood from a different angle and/or wrong perspective. There is a before and after an insight, and one cannot pretend anymore not to know if one knows. One can eventually pretend that he/she does not know or is not aware of something, but it will create internal struggle because he/she will witness the contradiction within. In the case of a wrong behaviour or a lie, there is no way to insist at length in order to make one admit his misbehaviour, since he/she is already perfectly aware. Depending on the state of consciousness of the one who lies or misbehaves, this kind of behaviour can be very damageable for the Psychic Being and could lead to further disorders, be they mental, emotional or physical. NB: This premise is not in contradiction with (d)
  • The power of the “adverse forces” on our spiritual path are equally powerful than our capacity to overcome them. Overwise, we would not even be aware of them. That also means that we should not pretend to be overwhelmed by the external circumstances, since we have created them, and we have the abilities to deal with them.
  • The tiredness to be constantly angry and upset versus the joy to be alive. Carrying upset and anger requires a constant attention, whereas being spontaneously in the flow requires nothing but to breath and to remain in the joy to be alive. This is already well known to everyone.
  • At some point, one could envision the “power of sacrifice”. Are we ready to behave consciously in a different manner? “You will need much endurance, much perseverance and courage and an untiring goodwill. Look and see if you are capable of having all this, and then start. But once you have started, it is finished, there is no going back anymore; you must go the very end.” (The Mother, Words of the Mother, vol 6, p 441). This last quote of Mother could be probably remind the one from Luc 6:29. To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer also the other”. This extremely innovative way to relate to the other party in a conflict, invites us to behave not any longer from a Human perspective but from the Soul perspective. Whenever 2 parties are involved in a conflict, the one who withdraws first is actually the stronger one, regardless the ‘apparent’ consequences for his life, health, or belongings.

A few possible conclusions of the syllogism of a non-conflict:

Now, let us play to create all the beautiful syllogisms we can imagine, which will enhance our capacities to relate to one another. Let us be confident: all the conclusions are natural and true since the premises are also true!

Reminder: Major Premise + Minor Premise = Irresistible conclusion

e + g = irresistibility of a free of conflict relationship

b + h = the power to neutralize the adverse forces

b + j = the power of the collective sacrifice to the World


Please, associate other major and minor premises, play and organize your own syllogisms on non-conflicts!

Possible features of a conflict (non-exhaustive):

Further aspects of the topic should be tackled from different angles. Let us look at some other elements which may be approached with regards to the development of a conflict.

  • Needs for clarity on the topic at the origin of the disagreement: When a conflict starts, it generates in its development side-effects and consequences, not directly related to the topic itself, but that may possibly be harsher than the actual disagreement, making it difficult, at a later stage, to distinguish what the conflict clearly is.
  • Timeline to address a disagreement: Due to the inner (illusory) reality of the actors involved in the disagreement, it is constantly changing depending on the circumstances, moods, inputs, etc. Then, the longer the conflict lasts the more unconnected assumptions may occur, leading to more difficulties in solving the initial disagreement.
  • Self-nourishing power of a conflict: As a morbid effect (still to be understood), a conflict contains within itself the power to nourish itself endlessly, compelling the protagonists to forget its origin. A spontaneous insult, made by one, for no apparent reason but his bad mood, may harvest another insult in return, which will then lead again to another one, etc. The whole process will then justify itself whereas there was no reason in a first place for the initial rudeness to be pronounced. In this case a conflict rose from nothing!
  • The drop which make the glass overflow: Frequently, the rise of a conflict between 2 parties, is only the tip of the iceberg, the trigger that makes the flow of concerns unbearable. Thus, it is the constant responsibility of the protagonists in a relationship to assess whether the climate in their relationship is good or bad. The drop is only the means to understand that the glass was already too full, for too long.
  • The number of participants as well as the amount of information and aspects of a specific conflict, makes this conflict exceedingly difficult to address. Whereas a disagreement may happen concerning a tiny aspect, all the number of participants and/or information may lead the situation to an inextricable ending. The sophistication of the mind could be possibly another parameter to increase the difficulty to address a conflict, whenever this ‘smartness’ is at the service of the ego, rather than at the service of the higher part of the pyramid.
  • The amplitude of the feelings and the long history between the 2 or more participants in conflict makes things difficult to address, since we may hate proportionally to the way we loved. Cases of conflicts within couples and/or families are the most complicated to untangle since there are so many expectations and disappointments among the members, who still in fact continue to love each other.

The technique of ‘zoom and counter zoom’: Possible double back and forth in the resolution of a conflict

  • Come back to the origin of the very conflict and commit to forgive and apologize for whatever happened after the apparition of the very conflict (whatever it is, and the possible more painful aspects of what happened after) which was due to our basic’s human tendencies of reactivity (explain eventually …). If not possible, if some consequences of the ‘very’ conflict are more painful than the conflict itself, put them aside and commit to addressing them separately, having in mind that they (probably) would have not raised without the conflict. This technique could be presented as a spiritual one and would be presented as an invitation to bring consciousness to the topic. It and would require strong willingness to understand in a neutral way the process of development of any conflict, from its root to all the additional parameters and facts that happened afterwards and that have actually no necessary connexion to the conflict itself. In the end, if the proposal doesn‘t get the agreement of one or the 2 parties, it would become a silent assessment of the possible lack of goodwill of the parties to solve the issue, and may put one or the 2 parties in an awkward position, in which they would state their goodwill to solve the conflict by actually doing nothing to implement it concretely. This issue should be addressed separately
  • Once the root-conflict has been identified, place it into a wider picture (like an un-zoom), which is the picture of the ‘kind’ of conflict, to which this particular conflict belongs. Then, try to solve the kind of conflict, or at least propose a solution to do so, in this wider picture. Doing that, we re-locate our conflict into a larger scale, a ‘kind’ of conflicts, which has an immediate consequence that we are not anymore identified to our particular one. Attempting to solve the ‘kind’ of conflicts in a larger picture will have as a natural consequence to make our personal conflict vanish into the larger scale. The second positive ‘side-effect’ of this technique is that we transform our particular conflict in a meaningful way to help the community, and we receive gratitude in return to be part of it

Other aspects to be eventually tackled in later stages:

  • What about the detractors who will argue that this is impossible to achieve?
  • How to implement future innovative behaviours while continuing with rules for addressing conflicts?
  • In a relationship of 2 parties, should a possible conflict require both parties or can only 1 party be in conflict?