Conflict, Hope, and Healing

“Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”

-Augustine of Hippo

After a few days of reflection in which there was no communication between us, my father and I had a long conversation yesterday. We were both calm and open and we expressed mutual interest in understanding one another more deeply. The result was remarkable! We talked for over 2 hours over the course of two separate calls and discussed many different aspects of our lives and our relationship.

I am feeling really good about the progress we’re making, with an understanding that it is a process we will need to continue to nurture. But we are on the same page for the first time and I’m so grateful. I am leaving the original post up (Flattening the Pyramids-Part 7) because I think it’s important to see how conflict may be transformative and can lead to greater connection and understanding within relationships. It can feel impossible, especially when there are long-standing issues, traumas, and complications affecting our interactions with loved ones, but being honest & vulnerable really does make a difference and often does lead to genuine reconciliation and healing.

Today, I’m considering the possibilities for repairing other relationships in my life, including with my step-mother, Suzann. In the conflict resolution model I teach and practice with my students, the first part of the process includes determining the extent to which the relationship one has with the other party is valued or necessary. Based on that determination, one may choose to proceed through the steps of resolving the conflict or may decide to let it go because there is no meaningful consequence. For my students, many of the conflicts they experience are with strangers or acquaintances (bumping into them, giving them looks, or commenting on social media posts) and don’t necessarily warrant much attention because their interactions with those people is limited or non-existent beyond the moment.

The conflict resolution process steps (once it’s determined to be warranted) are as follows:

  1. Focus on the relationship
  2. Identify shared goals
  3. Ask questions that look for change
  4. Act on agreements/hold self & each other accountable

In the case of my relationship with Suzann, so much of it over the last 30 years has been defined by her being married to my father, without much interaction even within that context, that I’m not sure it makes much difference if we resolve the issues that have come up over the past week or so. I’m open to the possibility, however, that there is value in seeking a resolution and will continue to think about it. Since there were hurt feelings and harsh words exchanged between us- mostly motivated by defensiveness for and about our respective relationships with Dad- it’s likely that we will communicate again and I’ll need to be mindful of the process I’ve learned, taught, and integrated into my relationship practice.

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