The Spirit of Conflict

By Ger Halpin

“Conflict is a gateway to a deepening of relationship with myself, with others, and the world.”

I’m afraid (in fact I’m terrified) to speak about the spirit of war and conflict, especially at a time when there is so much suffering and fear in the world.  I have not lived through the horror of war.  I haven’t lost my loved ones or seen them suffer in ways that are unimaginable to me.  Attempting to speak about conflict is brazen and potentially dangerous, and a huge part of me questions my right to say anything about any of it.  But something wants me to share my very small experience with you. 

The Fighting Spirit Inside Me

Within me, a warlike spirit emerges from the essence level, from the root of my creativity.  It is often the source of essential changes which need to happen in my life.  My war-like nature has connected me to my personal power, when everything in my life conspired to take it from me.  I’m forged in the fires of my own personal conflict and this has been at the core of my life myth

I feel compelled to explore conflict and my confrontational nature.  I yearn to have a peaceful, Zen-like nature and to emanate peace and reconciliation, but it isn’t my path.  Instead I fight, wrestle, question and trample my way towards moments of peace, insight and enlightenment.  Processwork’s inner-work model, which believes every experience is potentially valuable and transformative, has enabled me to go deeply into this aspect of my nature.  So, despite the horror and desolation of conflict, I own that I’m not yet ready to engage in peace and reconciliation.  

Why is that?  Because I struggle to celebrate and embrace my warlike nature, or to grieve for the pain and desolation I have created for myself and others.  It frightens me to say it out loud, but I am still in awe of the generative power of conflict and I’m not ready to surrender my part in that process yet.  But, because of Processwork, how I engage in conflict is changing.

Processwork Transforms Conflict

The complex nature of conflict is revealing itself to me slowly and in different ways.  Processwork enables me to work on power, privilege and rank.  Now, conflict isn’t about shoring up my identity, establishing my boundaries and creating the world according to my version of reality.  I don’t need to use it to seduce, subdue or threaten others to accept my vision. Processwork is teaching me that I fail when I use conflict to create a world which reflects only my own narrow worldview.  

Engaging in conflict is not about honing my skills and establishing strength in relationship to the weakness of another person.  Scoring points is now an empty victory if it only seeks to exclude or denigrate someone else’s experience or beliefs.  If the result of my conflict with another is to only reflect my perceptions and my experiences, then my world becomes a poorer place.  I have misused the power of conflict.  I have rejected the inherent creativity of conflict and lost the chance to create a world enriched and sustained by diversity.  

Conflict isn’t about marginalising the perceptions of other people, their diverse experiences and denying our shared history as sentient human beings.

Deepening Relationship with Myself

After years of fighting, polarizing situations, and creating stalemate in my personal and professional life, I now realize that conflict is a gateway to a deepening of relationship with myself, with others and the world.  What began as a crusade to establish my identity and to experience my own power in the face of familial and societal oppression, has now become the challenge of experiencing myself as a person and a spirit connected infinitely to everyone and everything else, past, present and future.  This is both shocking, frightening and exhilarating.  This is a world in which I can live, love, fight and explore the experience of being a woman, a mother and a human being.  

Skills for Conflicting Creatively

Processwork motivates me to find new skills to engage in conflict.  The ability to fight and conflict is a great gift to me, changing my life, sometimes for the best and sometimes for the worst.  However, my intention in fighting with someone or for some cause is changing dramatically.  I want to use conflict to learn more about myself, about you and the universe we inhabit.  But I’m fearful that without inner-work, group work and rank awareness, the cost will be too high.  

It isn’t easy to stay connected to my deepest self when I feel frightened or threatened or excluded.  I fear my opponents and their intent when they challenge me or threaten the people or values that are precious to me.  I struggle to get beyond those feelings, and sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail.  Despite this, I know conflict is a powerful path to awakening and I want to become a warrior on this path. 

At its deepest level of expression, conflict is a path of heart.  Having fought for my physical, emotional and spiritual survival, at great cost, I value and appreciate the power of conflict.  I have learned so much about the roots of my own suffering and I have inflicted wounds and suffering on other people.  I’m learning about power, how it is used and misused and its impact on all of us.  I am learning about sensitivity and insensitivity, and how these both facilitate and inhibit our capacity to notice and respond to feedback, in ourselves and others.  

Taking the Other Side

I must always remind myself that conflict loses its transformative power when I fail to take the other side as well as my own.  I am still trying to find ways to creatively engage in conflict, a possibility and a pathway revealed to me by Processwork.  I’m hoping that you and I can follow the nature of conflict, so that it isn’t just about death, destruction and subjugation, but instead becomes a channel for deepening our humanity, and embracing all our creativity and diversity.

by Ger Halpin, MPP, Dipl. Processwork, PG Dip CDRS, Approved Mediator MII

I am an eternal student of change and conflict.  Change and adaption is the key to survival.  Moving through life, negotiating conflicts and flowing with change is my life myth and ongoing challenge.  This requires awareness, a certain attitude and a spiritual practice: a spiritual practice that honors your past, your present and your future.  For me, Processwork embodies all of this and forms the cornerstone of my existence.  It is at the heart of my daily practice as a Community Worker, Facilitator and Mediator.

Ger is on teaching faculty at Processwork Ireland