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~Gandhi

The Source of Human Conflict: Emotional Immaturity

We are a Society that Claims it wants Peace but can’t Manifest it due to Perpetual Conflict

Cultures, races, people of differing countries seem to get along only for limit periods and often under strain. The same holds true for neighbors, friends and families in all countries.

The most prevalent reason that conflicts exist between people is that we are not developed in our ability to process our emotions and then communicate effectively towards resolution. Rather than seek harmonious compromise, we more often seek to demonstrate how right we are.

It can be tempting to conclude that conflicts continue because injustices are perpetrated on one marginalized group, or that we are treated unfairly. In other words, someone or group is unhappy with their situation. That’s what leads to conflicts. When we think this way we often focus on increasing awareness of our struggle, make protests and quite frequently violence follows (physical or more frequently verbal).

Study Conflict in your Own Life

If you make it your quest to study conflict (a study of people and their motives) you will discover that invariably people always do things which makes sense to them. Their actions may not make sense to you however. Their justification may exist in their subconscious and thus appear to their conscious mind to be irrational however it is always in there somewhere. People don’t act randomly.

This means that people who are racist do and say things which make sense to them. They don’t typically set out to be racist. People who discriminate against one gender or the other do so because their ideas and beliefs make sense to them. The opinions of people you disagree with may appear ridiculous and ignorant to you but keep in mind, to them, they make sense and feel correct.

When people experience violations to what they regard as correct behavior, common sense or logical thinking, the most common reaction is emotional agitation (irritation, anxiety, worry, anger, sadness, surprise etc). You may imagine that the first response is a thought such as ‘That’s a crazy idea! You can’t be serious’. In fact, the first response is most often emotional in the form of agitation. The issue with emotional reactivity is that when in an agitated state, people lose touch with reality.

You can observe the next time you get angry or anxious, two very common emotions that create internal agitation. What happens in your thought process? Your mind very possibly generates unreasonable thoughts and conclusions which do little to process the emotion?

The current level of emotional maturity of the majority of our global population can be described as immature. Most people have not received any guidance on how to process emotions. As a result, the emotion creates internal agitation and people’s methods to reduce the discomfort often spurn conflict.

What does it Mean to Process Emotions?

Processing emotions is a conscious act of examining one’s emotional response to a situation and reaching a calm state before determining a reasonable course of action. Processing emotions does not imply negating them nor suppression in any way. One must feel the feelings before moving on to reason a solution.

The examples shown in mainstream entertainment and especially mainstream media encourage a contentious attitude. We are bombarded with videos and articles encouraging us to strengthen our case against ‘the other(s) by providing facts and scenarios to demonstrate why we are right and they are wrong. This very rarely leads to a harmonious resolution.

Observe how you respond when someone presents to you why you are wrong. What is the likelihood you will agree with their perspective and have a change of heart? People are more likely to become defensive than to have a change of heart when this occurs.

In The US, this is constantly hammered home in the war between the two main political parties; Democrats and Republicans. If you watch media videos or YouTube videos, you invariably hear a person of one party making a clear argument as to the fault of the other party. Driving these arguments will always be strong feelings.

The reason a self righteous presentation of one’s perspective does not lead to resolution is that this very approach creates a defensive response in others (unless they already agree with your perspective). It’s is driven by emotion. We are led to believe that resolving that agitation is possible when the person ‘responsible’ for inciting the agitation realizes how wrong they were and does something to reconcile their error.

This simply doesn’t work (or almost never). The pride and stubbornness in people creates resistance and they refuse to receive the information objectively. Instead they adhere with greater conviction to their version of truth and express back to the lecturing party why they are the ones who are in fact wrong.

Righteousness Fails to Unite (‘I’m Right, You’re Wrong’)

Conflict resolution predicated on who is right and who is wrong rarely results in an amicable solution. In legal matters, it may resolve a dispute whereby a mediator tasked with determining a fair outcome presents a binding set of actions. Meanwhile the hearts of the people involved are rarely changed. In fact, the non-prevailing party in such cases often feels victimized if the judgment falls against them.

Before any resolution can occur between human beings in conflict, all parties should retreat into meditation to examine what happened, their feelings and the version of the story they have accepted as the truth. They will discover that their strong emotions have warped their ability to accurately perceive the truth.

To overcome this, use prayer. A good prayer when facing a difficult situation might be, “Oh Lord, please calm the raging seas of emotion within me. Let the Truth according to Your Sight be known to me now.”

When a person employs emotional processing as part of their regular meditation practice, they develop discernment. Patterns emerge which help you learn your personal tendencies. An example of a tendency might be when something occurs that causes anger, a person immediately experiences the cause of the anger as unjust. They begin to identify as a victim in the situation.

Another tendency is to sink into depression when things don’t go your way. This can be almost involuntary if it has been a lifelong habit to get depressed when faced with adversity. The mindset that quickly comes on is of futility and despair.

The most common problem when disagreements arise that incite anger is to fight. Fighting never establishes peaceful harmonious resolution. Enemies are created as a result of fight. Amicable resolution is achieved when people understand each other and then seek to identify a compromise that both parties can accept.

Compromise implies neither party get 100% what they want. As you mature emotionally, you are more apt to accept compromise since the value of harmony surpasses the need to be right.

Slavery and the Holocaust

Consider certain conflicts that have existed between peoples on the Earth for a long time. A huge one in America is between the black race and the white race. The underlying conflict between the races is still highly evident. This is not to imply that ALL white people conflict with All black people. However there remains a palpable tension.

This stems back to the era of slavery which began the interaction of the two races in America. It is a good case study to understand the point of this article.

In recent years, the Black Lives Matter movement has become very prominent. The very title suggests there is a concern as to whether or not lives of black people truly matter to white people.

This article in no way takes a stance as to support or denounce of the Black Lives Matter movement. I wish simply to demonstrate how the strong emotions stirred as a result of feeling unfairly treated leads to conclusions which cause greater rifts between the parties and have often resulted in deadly violence. Instead I wish to discuss and promote methods of dealing with emotions in ways that lead to progress and harmony.

Assuming it were true that one’s life didn’t matter, naturally a person would have strong feelings about this. Much of the protesting has been to draw attention to systemic racism that is believed by many to be pervasive in the US especially in law enforcement but really in countless areas of society.

Black people want attitudes and behaviors of white people to change. The question is whether or not the conduct of the people in the BLM movement is cathartic to encouraging people with racist views to have a change of heart.

For those whites who are not racist, the movement may create a feeling of unification but the end goal is not accomplished, meaning the end of racist views. This result can only come into manifestation if those who are truly racist have a transformation in their understanding of the two races.

Think for example of how seeing movies like 12 Years as a Slave, Django Unchained or watching the Roots TV series would stir up emotion. Whether you are black or white, seeing black people abused and enslaved causes most everyone to feel angry and often vindictive. The feelings are always true but the conclusions drawn that then influence one’s future actions may not be.

Being angry at things that happened as part of American society from 150 years in the past and then demanding people today make reparations for those events does not lead to harmonious resolution. For one thing, most white people are horrified at the idea of slavery just as black people are.

How does Slavery in America get Resolved?

How then does this issue get resolved? It begins first with each individual feeling what they feel and understanding why they feel it. Most of us who watch a movie scene where a white master is abusing a black slave and naturally feel outraged and horrified. However in reality, the country is no longer in that predicament.

To conclude that modern times are no different than slavery days is simply untrue. Feelings of having one’s freedom compromised are valid and must be acknowledged. Concluding that one race is systemically restricting another race’s freedom requires a thorough investigation of all the data. Emotions often give rise to a premature evaluation and from there, a person simply finds evidence to support their version of reality.

It would be much more productive if films and other media focused on teaching and encouraging forgiveness for errors of the past, acceptance of what was done and an environment that is truly progressive. When I say progressive, I don’t mean so in a political way. I simply mean that things move forward and people are freed from the burden of the past.

Rather than obsessing over what was done, harmony and unity come from establishing a bond on how everyone would like the future to go.

The Holocaust suffers the same fate. People are forever highlighting the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis. In reality, hearing of the sadistic treatment of the Jews from 80 years ago incites strong emotion which then justifies maintaining a divide.

Rather than continuing to make movies about these horrible historic periods, more energy could be used to teach those who have felt wronged how to forgive and move on from the past. Those who committed crimes may repent or they may feel justified in what they did. God is the one responsible (and much more capable) when it comes to making sure each soul receives the fruits of their actions.

History has shown us that highlighting the actions of perpetrators does not bring about a change in their understanding. In reality, nearly every Nazi that was ever brought to justice either denied ever having done anything wrong or else is proclaimed pride in their actions and would do it all over again if given the chance.

Is There Truly a Solution?

When people process emotions maturely, they accept that feelings don’t follow logical linear patterns. To feel outraged at injustice is part of being human. To resolve and eliminate future injustice is not well accomplished by acting on one’s unprocessed emotion.

One would do better to calm oneself down and then take a reasonable look at reality. The problem is that it is so easy and tempting to believe the false narrative that the emotion gives rise to.

In conclusion, I see the world’s hunger for peace will elude us until each individual takes on the task of studying their emotional behaviors and begins to mature. Once each of us can see first hand how our ranting and raving about the ways we are mistreated do not lead to any permanent change, we may become open to hearing what WILL actually work.

What actually works is when people choose to hear and understand the experience of the very person with whom they are in conflict. When we realize that the person we see as so wrong in fact has strong conviction that their behavior makes sense, we can understand them. And when others feel understood, they often (not always) become much more available to work towards a harmonious end. Feeling understood can lead to a change of heart.