by Viki Distin (April 2020)
I wrote this article about 2 years ago but the relevance of it, seems timely now.
While some people are feeling more isolated and disconnected than ever, the
opposite is also true. Spending more time at home and in close proximity with
love ones, relationships issues could be surfacing themselves. The pandemic
didn’t cause these issues. With less distractions available, it is possible that the
truth of relationship issues which were previous ignored, now cannot be…
While I am not sure of the source of this quote, it has stuck with me for many
years. “In most conflicts, the other person is not the problem.” While there are
some cases where there is clearly a perpetrator and a victim, most of the time,
the problem resides within oneself.
A few Thanksgiving’s ago, I had a clash with an extended family member.
(Would it be an interesting sociology experiment to determine how many
skirmishes occur during family reunions?). In the final analysis, I am not sure if
there was any resolution or deeper understanding of each other, but it did allow
me to use the opportunity for self-reflection.
The idea that the “other” person is the issue is usually created from the Ego
mind. In yoga, the “Ego” mind is the source of suffering for us or others. To
dissolve this Ego mind, we continually draw our attention back to our own
thoughts, emotions, sensations and conditioned patterns. Taking responsibility
for our own issues could be the most sane and helpful approach to living in our
world today. The stronger the resistance to doing our own inner work or the
desire to point fingers, the stronger the Ego mind likely is.
Perhaps the conflict is not even someone within your inner circle and someone
who you don’t know, like a leader or celebrity figure. I think the following
investigations still apply.
The first question I asked myself was “Where was I being triggered?”
In psychology and disciplines that study the nature of the mind, there is the
recognition of emotional triggers. If someone is reacting with intensity or
reactivity in a given situation, it is possible that the conflict has very little to do
with the current scenario, but rather a reminder of something from the past which
has created some high-level stress or even trauma. Being on the lookout for
triggers is a super skillful technique in building relationships.
The second question I asked myself was “Did I remain calm and grounded?”
One of the direct carry overs from yoga to our everyday lives, is the ability to stay
grounded when the world around us feels unsafe, unsupported or foreign. A few
years back, one of my students told me that when he starts to feel conflict
coming on with his girlfriend, he concentrates on the feeling of his feet beneath
him and he is amazed at how the feeling of rooted-ness could help to diffuse
negative feelings. Feeling your feet or sitting bones if you are sitting can become
a practical tool to staying connected within yourself. On a larger scale, when
people are in their bodies, they can respond to the actual demand of the
moment, rather than habitual or conditioned responses.
The third area of reflection for me was to witness the pause.
The pause can sometimes mean the difference between wreckage and healing. Pause gives us
time. Time gives us insight. Insight gives us freedom; and freedom brings the
ability to choose a better way of being.
The pause will enable us the ability to witness during the conflict and offer
tremendous support. Witnessing your intentions throughout the exchange will
allow for reflection on your own needs for growth and transformation. Are you
interested in greater understanding or a shift in perspective? Can you notice any
feelings of wanting to win or be right? The pause enables us to check out any
thoughts of judgment, agendas or biasing. These reactions might hinder deep
listening, empathy or the ability to sleep at night.
Doing this internal work does not imply appeasement. There is likely some
action which needs to be carried out, but if there is first some clarity and
understanding around the situation, there is a greater chance for a successful
outcome. “Projection” is a defense mechanism for the ego and if people are not
aware of this tendency, it can wreak havoc on relationships and the world at
The Ego mind will sometimes choose the path of least resistance and play the
blame game. This is much easier than turning the light of awareness back to our
own humanity and vulnerability. Looking at our own thoughts, sensations and
feelings may require self-acceptance and maybe even forgiveness. This may be
the path less traveled and as difficult as this route is, it is the only one that will
cultivate vitality and inner peace. At the end of the day, we can tell ourselves lots
of “stories” about the other person. The story that is most relevant, is the story
that you tell yourself about you.