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A Reflection on Conflict

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.

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