by Rosemary Gray-Snelgrove
Conflict – a recurring theme in this and other blogs. How do we deal with it, how do we humanize the Other, the one we want to poke in the nose? How do we get what we want without resorting to violence (violence? like I would know how). Or by means other than cheating, stomping on the Other’s rights, being a bully (and creating more conflict)?
I haven’t been able to empty my mind to let this week’s Blog take shape. Usually strands of thought coalesce around a particular stimulus and there it is – the topic I’m going to try to write fewer than 500 words about (haven’t yet succeeded). But this week, my head has been buried in a real-life situation echoing a fixture from the late-night detective and law and order shows I still watch avidly – a court case, of sorts.
In this case, my task is to get into the head space of the person bringing charges, to anticipate what the main arguments might be. This has taken over whatever mental processes are available to me now I’m no longer receiving pay cheques. (I do think that retirement nurtures a more creative and free, but not particularly efficient, Mind).
So because I want to stay in touch with you, dear reader, I’m going to try to let you in on what I’m working on. It’s helping prepare a ‘case’ defending an organization from which a former client wants a small pile of money for grievances. The litigant is someone who has a gift for creating conflict around himself.
The Lover of Conflict
I know such people – lovers of conflict – who function among us, but I think as we get older, we choose to avoid spending a lot of time with them. And are startled when we run into them again. And have to give lots of mental energy to understanding how they are thinking. And what they really want.
Individuals of this temperament draw others to themselves through their energy, presence, intelligence, verbal ability. Strong personalities, I’ve noticed. They are potentially contributors to a better world – they have the goods to make positive things happen. But until they get the quirks out – which may be never – they cause lots of trouble for other people
I am allowing myself a couple of paragraphs of negative description. Must need the outlet because trying to negotiate with a Conflict Lover requires repression of feeling. So you’re getting it instead.
They stir up dissension all around. It seems a matter of pushing a little hard to get more out of a situation than the situation has to give. Or of complaining that someone else is getting more than they are. Simply put, if the rules say “No more than three of these free loaves of bread per household”, they’ll argue that they should have five because they have more at home to feed than does the neighbour.
Escalating the Stakes
With greater success at being winners, they go for bigger game. “Let’s try law suits”. There’s an arena for conflict, writ large, where they can maybe come away with some money.
“If the place that gave me shelter and support raised my rent when I got work even though I needed the money for new expenses – go after them! And if they didn’t tell me enough abut the income rules when I moved in, maybe I can take them to that Small Claims Court I’ve heard about. And isn’t there something called a Rental Tribunal?”
A little learning about the right terminology comes with the game of litigation and representing oneself as a victim can be done skillfully.
And once into the big game of suing and going for bigger money, I can get myself into the papers with my stories!!
The temptation is to see the Lover of Conflict as an Other – someone far out of one’s own orbit. Ah, but I know that’s not the truth. It’s why I’m always imagining Continuums. It’s a more true way of seeing. It places the awful qualities that may indeed be out there onto the extreme end of fine qualities. A ‘good’ taken to an extreme to become a ‘bad’. And I’m capable of being positioned anywhere along the continuum, given the right circumstances. That’s the reality.
So that guy who wants to sue to get his just deserts is an extreme of trying hard to always be fair. Good, but it can go nuts taken to extremes. He has to be controlled in his case – doesn’t deserve a pile of money for having been supported and cared for. But he needn’t become a pariah either.
Ah, but he’s a pain in the whatnot!!!
Once again, Leonard nails it:
We find ourselves on different sides
Of a line that nobody drew
Though it all may be one in the higher eye
Down here where we live it is two.
I to my side call the meek and the mild
You to your side call the Word
By virtue of suffering I claim to have won
You clam to have never been heard.
Leonard Cohen, Different Sides