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The Philosophy of Fear and Confrontation

By Charlie Badenhop

Is there now, or has there been, a person or two in your life that you have difficulty in maintaining a civil relationship with at times? It may be your spouse or lover; it may be a friend or a superior at work. We usually say "I have a love-hate relationship with this person."

Fight OR Flight; Attack OR Evade; Right OR Wrong; All OR Nothing; Win OR Lose - all are a form of what we can call "The Philosophy of Fear and Confrontation." When we believe that a potential outcome has only two possible alternatives we come from a place of scarcity thinking and invariably add a good deal of stress to the system being addressed and limit what is possible.

In every interpersonal conflict both sides wind up wounded, albeit one side perhaps more than the other. Whenever a person feels that "you must be wrong in order for me to be right," we invariably denigrate not only the other person's point of view, but their overall character as well. We move away from attacking the issues at hand, and get involved in attacking each other. Arguing between right and wrong is often simply an excuse to prove myself somehow superior to you. "With my superior insight, with my superior intellect and knowledge, with my superior position in the world, I look to show you how your perception of reality is incorrect." When I think of you and your opinions as being somehow inferior to me and my opinions, it is no wonder that you are not willing to agree with the opinions I put forth. In order to agree with my opinions, you would have to be willing to believe that you are somehow inferior to me.

When engaging in conflict resolution with others, staying locked into grappling between one of two possible outcomes requires that we both shut down our ability to notice additional alternative realities. When two individuals are locked into a confrontational mode of exchange, both parties to the conflict lose the possibility of acquiring information that might offer generative solutions that either side has yet to think of. We lose the possibility of understanding that in some important way, our limited range of thinking tends to make both of us somehow "wrong." Or, to say it another way, we fail to realize that "We are both, both wrong and right, at the same time." We lose touch with the fact that given new sources of information, both of us might come to a different opinion.

Often, the first step in successful conflict resolution requires that you acknowledge that your philosophy of fear and confrontation limits your ability to notice how a different way of thinking and a different way of using your body, would lead to a much wider field of possibilities.

For the average person, the more you feel attacked, the more you will look to defend. The more you look to defend, the more you narrow your field of vision, tighten up various muscle groups, and limit the flow of blood and oxygen in your system. And guess what happens at such times. When my adversary notices that I am preparing to defend, he perceives instead that I am preparing to attack him. What does he do in this instance? Why the very same thing that I am doing! He tenses up and prepares for the worst. In this moment of entering into mortal combat we get swept away by the vortex of fear and confrontation that is being generated by the both of us. When we react from this place of "high alert" on a regular basis, we quickly wind up weakening our immune system, and severely limit our ability to defend ourselves from the onslaught of physical and emotional disease. In Aikido this leads us to say that "The best defense is no defense," which is another way of saying, "The less defensive you are, the better able you are to defend yourself."


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