You’ve never had conflict with another person. Your only conflict is with reality and the stories you make up about it. In other words, all your conflicts are with yourself.
I’m writing this Going Deeper for myself. If you find it useful, that’s great, but I’m writing this because these are the words I need to hear.
Debbie and I are in the midst of a month of living with our children and grandchildren. I love our kids and grandkids, and there is conflict. It mostly occurs in my mind; sometimes it’s out in the open. At times I really believe that my conflict is with them. If only they were different, then there would be no conflict. If only I was different there would be peace. If only...
It seems obvious and self evident that my conflict is with another person. After all, I’m arguing with a person whether the argument is out in the open or inside my head. I’m fighting with people, other people, real people.
You might have conflict with your neighbor because he sued you or your manager because she fired you or your son because he disrespects you or your mother because she shames you or your roommate because he’s a slob or your lover because he cheated on you or your competitor because she is winning……
Upon closer examination and, with ruthless honesty and self awareness, I think you’ll discover what I discover again and again: my conflict is with my story.
Stories include opinions, beliefs and judgments. They are the narratives that our minds make up about life, ourselves and others. Most of our stories have embedded in them a set of shoulds and shouldn’ts. These shoulds and shouldn’ts are our mind’s attempt to control reality, to make it be the way we want it to be. A key—and sneaky—way we create conflict is by simply making up the story that things shouldn’t be as they are. Yes, that’s a story too.
These stories aren’t axiomatic universal truths. They’re simply how our ego identities think the world should be. Our conflict is not with another person. Our conflict is with our stories about how that other person should be. Our conflict isn’t with reality. Our conflict is with our story about how reality should be.
What a great question. I’m so glad you asked.
In my experience, when a regular person, someone like me, starts to investigate the cost of believing conflict is with others, they first get reactive. Then if they stick with it, liberation is around the corner. As soon as we realize that all conflict starts and ends within us, we are empowered to choose to engage in conflict or drop it.
We can be at peace, free from stress and drama with massive amounts of energy diverted from conflict to creativity. We have a choice and we hold the key to our freedom.
At the very least, this is true for me. When I get honest—radically ruthlessly honest—I see that all of my conflict is with my stories about other people and reality itself. When I fight with reality and believe that someone should or shouldn’t be doing something other than what they’re doing, I create conflict.
Some days I choose conflict. It feels easier. It’s easier to believe my stories, to live in my judgments, to believe my shoulds and shouldn'ts. Some days it’s easier to be right than curious, righteous than aware. At least it feels easier at the time; like it’s easier to eat dessert than to go for a walk.
Today is one of those “some days.” A day I needed to be reminded that conflict is optional, and that the option is mine. I can choose to examine my stories, my shoulds and shouldn’ts, and see, again for the umpteenth time, that they are just my ego’s attempts to control the world. Today, if I am willing, I can choose freedom, peace, love and closeness. And so can you.
Download our fact vs story handout to support you to differentiate facts from stories around a conflict that you're having. Take the time to investigate where your suffering comes from. Can you find a fact (what a video camera records) that is genuinely a source of suffering?