Volume 3, Number 3, 2008
The context of a conflict influences how we perceive it. In one situation an occurrence or challenge may look hopeless, while in another it is not a problem. In addition to thinking about the conflict as it occurs in different contexts, we can change how we view the conflict in its actual context. Our awareness of context reminds us of the ability we have to change our perspective when we discern a conflict. Our recognition of a conflict is like a stop sign for traffic. It is an opportunity to stop moving and look around before we proceed. As we are looking, we watch for the perception of others who are moving in different directions from us, to prevent a crash in case they do not see us ready to proceed across their path. Our shift of focus to their sighting is similar to reframing a conflict. By changing how we look at the conflict, we avoid harm during our journey on the path of peace. For example, while hurrying forward and encountering a slow-moving obstruction, we may feel anxiety over the undesired delay. The anxiousness we experience is an indicator of the need for a more focused perception. In addition to deep breathing and other means of reducing associated stress, reframing the situation aids intrapersonal peace. A change of perspective and thought from This is too slow for my schedule to This is a safer speed aids stress reduction that can hinder good decisions about how to proceed. It also facilitates decentering on self. When we move the focus from self to others, we release unhealthy emotions that interfere with good decision-making.
We use three types of shifting to reframe a conflict. The progression of shifting occurs like gears in a machine that transports us up the path to peace. First gear enables decentering. Second gear facilitates a shifting of viewpoint. Third gear cruises us along while we look for options for resolution that are not initially perceived within the context of conflict.
This first gear is useful for switching the focus of a conflict away from the self. Following recognition of negative feelings that indicate the existence of unresolved conflict, moving the center of thoughts elsewhere prepares the mind for analysis. With less stress from concern for one’s self or group, it is easier to identify needs that the conflict has exposed. By refocusing on the needs the conflict has exposed, perception centers on the problem instead of the people who are involved in it. This redirection of the attention to the issue shows evidence of readiness for the next gear.
The second gear allows transition to other points of view. Perspectives of others in the conflict, as well as those outside of it, are crucial in the analysis stage. Solving problems results from understanding of different experiences and needs in a situation. Comparing the same conflict across different contexts as well as through diverse perceptions in the existing context can illuminate the components of it that need attention. Switching to different cultural experiences and worldviews for thinking about the conflict can aid understanding, as well as relationships.
This gear also enables empathy. With understanding of others’ needs in a collective conflict, compassion can replace negative emotions. Such feelings often diminish one’s own suffering, thereby enhancing opportunities for inner peace. With a comprehensive outlook and compassion, the mind is ready for the next shift of gears.
In the third gear, we can consider multiple frames of a conflict for creation of a resolution that will work for everyone. By shifting the resolution focus away from an immediate solution to consideration for others, creativity that has been crucial in the development of lasting resolutions can occur. The aid of outsiders who are not involved in a conflict optimizes the performance of this gear.
In brief, we reframe conflict with the following shifts.
- 1st gear: decenter
- 2nd gear: shift viewpoint
- 3rd gear: generate resolutions
Please take the journey with the reframing machine up the path to peace. We look forward to your companionship at our destination.
Author: Jane Miller
Author: Cathyrn Som
AUTHOR: Rejane Pinto Costa, Ph.D. student, Ana Canen, Ph.D.
Composer: Linda K. Williams
Artist: Patricia Mikkelson
Artist: Thomas Block