Reflecting on any kind of conflict can be a learning experience. Epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana too portray the internal conflict between family members. Several decades later, we still derive so much learning from such epics. Such epics prove to be our lifelines in the midst of any conflict.
They anchor our minds and our hearts and direct us along the right path amidst all our internal confusion and turmoil. Such epics are ageless and timeless. The works of Shakespeare too successfully portray the different facets of human behaviour.
Most of us confine our amongst family members within the four walls of the house. That is perhaps our greatest mistake. When we seek the counsel of an objective person, the learning can transform our lives.
Krishna was one such mentor. Always neutral. He never directly counselled or advised Arjuna. He only pointed out Arjuna’s erroneous thinking pattern and made him confront the reality. The learning that Arjuna got was that there was no place for any emotions in a battle field.
We must be willing to accept the learning that is coming our way in the form of a personal experience.
Why do we get along so well with our neighbours, friends, roommates and total strangers but not with our immediate family members? We will just instinctively and intuitively help total strangers – we will give them a hand while boarding a bus, we will offer to share our food with co- passengers, we will rush a sick friend to the hospital, ensure that he is getting the right medical treatment and wait till his family arrives.
This happens because there are no further expectations to be fulfil. It is a one-time affair done out of a gesture of good will and kindness.
But do we spare a few minutes to enquire about our mother’s fever? Oh! She is up and about today. She is a strong woman. She gets irritated when we enquire about her health. She is rude, aggressive and curt when we ask her out of genuine concern. True. Very true. She is tired. She is ensuring that her ill health does not disrupt your schedule.
Instead of superficial courtesy, try extending that helping hand to her. Yes, she wants things done in a certain manner and in a specific way. Over years this pattern has been set in place because it is the quickest and most effective way of getting the work done. She does not want you to enter the kitchen and toss around your views and opinions or criticise her work patterns. If you can render the kind of help that she is looking for – she will welcome you and lean on you for support.
If you are unable to help her, it is fine by her. Don’t add to her stress level by creating a conflict when she is sick. Look at her limping around slowly. Look at her sagging shoulders. Accept her the way she is and respect her for what she is doing. Glean some learning from her.
And then at the root of it is our fear that our mother will start expecting us to help every day. We may well take our mother’s help and role for granted every day but we are fiercely protective when other people expect the same of us. In short we want to get the benefit without making any investment. We do not want to live up to the expectations of other people but we will impose our expectations on them all the time.
There was this marriage counsellor who made an extremely thoughtful statement. He says that for every couple that he counsels, two entirely different stories emerge out of the same situation. What is the learning that we can derive from this statement? Does conflict happen because the value systems, beliefs, perspectives of two people are completely different?
Or is it because our enormous fragile EGOs are our biggest hurdles in our learning process? I know everything. I am always right. I am the head of Tom, Dick and Harry organization. I have a double degree and was a university topper. My salary proves my worth. I – I – I- ……….always I, Me, Mine……yeah yeah – the other person is learning some tactics to avoid you at all costs.
The other person is learning to zoom you out of her life. The other person is learning to nurture his/her identity and retain it even if that is an extremely unpalatable experience for you. You may not like being ignored. But you may well be ignored all the time if you are so self-centred all the time.
EGO clashes may indeed bring about a complete breakdown in communication after a conflict.
Being rude, passive aggression, cold silences, shut doors, closed rooms are all signs……that are clearly saying that some serious discussions need to take place within the family.
But if we refuse to communicate – we are no different from our uncivilized ancestors and animals – who do not have this ability of talking and expressing their thoughts like human beings.
Why are we so scared to talk and discuss things with our family members? Is it because we do not want to open the Pandora’s Box of secrets or unpleasant truths?
Learning is for life folks. Life in itself is an ongoing learning process. The truth may well be bitter. But unless we confront the harsh reality about ourselves, we can never prepare ourselves for the next stage of our lives. We need to accept our mistakes and humbly apologize. We need to make amends and be willing to change ourselves. Learning to forget and forgive can only happen if we master the art of saying a simple genuine sorry. How many – oh – how many of us struggle while saying this simple five letter word.
Conflicts also happen due to the many cultural trends and norms that are embedded within our psyche at a subconscious level. These beliefs were passed down at a subconscious level to the successive generations. We may not even be aware of our own confining habits. The women’s primary duty is to look after her home and hearth.
Our great great grandmother thought like this. Our great grandmother used a stone and a pestle to grind her spices. We now live in a highly mechanized world. Women are educated and are leading highly professional busy lives. Tuition fees are sky rocketing. Instead of scrimping and saving every penny at home, women prefer to use their education and intellect to earn a decent salary and live in comfort.
Times are changing. The youngsters are right. Working outside the four walls of the house gives them so much experience and exposure. They leader fuller and richer lives. Their happiness quotient is at an all-time high. Instead of learning to accept the changed scenario – we prefer to thrust our opinions and outdated beliefs on them.
We will resort to using harsh words. We will insist on complete obedience. In such classic wars of wills, every single person involved is bound to be a loser. Respect is lost. Bitterness seeps in. Hatred is evident in the eyes. Frustration is a part of our daily lives. Copious silent tears become our best companions. No one understand us. We feel totally totally alone.
After all, nobody really won in the war of Mahabharata. Rama did wage a war with Ravana to win back his wife Sita, only to ask her to leave his kingdom at a later stage.
Yet, the learning is always for us to rise against the odds and fight for what we believe in. We need to speak up and stand up for ourselves. We need to fight our own battles. We may have to master the oh so difficult skill of saying ‘No!’ We may have to redefine the boundaries of every relationship that we value. We may have to ask people to not take us for granted all the time. It may be unpleasant but it is most necessary for our mental and emotional equilibrium.
Yes, some conflict is bound to be a part of our lives. But if we reflect on our learning and implement it in our daily lives, we may be able to lead more blissful lives. We need to keep the channel of communication open at all times. Conflict does not necessarily mean angry loud voices and a personal attack on other person’s character traits.
If we are indeed mature in our outlook, we will discuss things neutrally with the other person and leave it at that. Ultimately all of us need to live and lead our lives in a way that works best for us. Conflict happens only when one party wants to gain an upper edge on the situation.
As usual, all views, suggestions and opinions are most welcome!