Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What's the Value of Conflict?

Most of the effort we put into interpersonal relations, and most of the effort our governments put into international relations are aimed at reducing or eliminating conflict. The tensions in our lives are caused by the many conflicts we perceive and encounter. Obviously, conflict must be a bad thing because we always try to eliminate it. This statement is not necessarily true in life, because we gain most of our benefits from negotiations due to the conflicts that ensue during the bargaining process. When you write fiction, as I do*, you learn that nobody will want to read your book if it doesn't contain enough conflict. People find books that are all happiness and void of conflict to be boring and uninteresting. Thus, we have a paradox between life and fiction. In life, we try our best to avoid conflict, while in the selection of fiction to read, we go out of our way to search for it. To resolve this conundrum, we have to look at the impact of conflict. If conflict impacts or affects us during the course of our lives, we seek to avoid it because conflict costs us in many ways: money, sleep, friendships, etc. When conflict occurs in a novel, it impacts fictional characters, and we can find that interesting without working up a sweat over it. It is the same principle that lets us enjoy a football game between two teams that aren't our favorites without caring who wins. We have no stake in the outcome. When one of the teams comes from our home town or college, we go through a psychological roller coaster process when our team looks as though it is on the way to winning or losing. The next time you find yourself in a personal conflict with someone, tell yourself that the outcome really doesn't matter that much, and you will find yourself able to think your way through it more objectively. If you don't let conflict emotionally suck you in, you will be more likely to be able to work your way out of it.

*To enjoy some conflict, read my "Lord's Prayer Mystery Series", books out to date: Lead Us Not into Temptation, Volume I, and Give Us this Day Our Daily Bread, Volume II. (written as Richard Davidson)

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