any conflict is about integrity

Conflict is a part of life as much as breathing is. Whether it is the quarrels of a teenager with their parents, the little moments in everyday life of a partnership or determining who is right in the conversation with a ticket-inspector guy in the tram.
It seems that we need them… conflicts… to develop, to set boundaries and also to connect with our community.
I believe conflicts are moments of negotiating our integrity and finding ways of how we can be in community while being ourselves.

From the moment we’re born (maybe even earlier, when we’re conceived) we are primed to want to survive. we want to ensure the integrity of our physicality, be fed, safe and connected.
And the more conscious we become, the more we realize that we don’t just want to survive but that we want to live well.

What ‘well’ means, depends largely on our experiences and our values. There are physical basics but even there, personal preferences and needs differ. At the same time, we share values and certain needs with large groups of people.

Sometimes we do get into a fight or conflict for the sake of it… but even then, I’m assuming that we do so in an attempt to establish, maintain or strengthen our integrity.

If we didn’t mind, we wouldn’t have to fight.
If we didn’t mind, we wouldn’t need to rationalize actions that aren’t in line with our values or cut off of feelings that are painful or uncomfortable.
If we didn’t mind, we wouldn’t need to hide our mistakes, our shame or our pain.

Integrity is the word for ‘the state of being whole and undivided‘ (stemming from the latin word ’integer’ which means intact). It is the process we’re striving for, with our whole body – healing wounds, digesting food to integrate, breathing, making sense of the world with our minds.

Often, the difficult part is that integrity isn’t always comfortable. That when we want to stay or be whole, we sometimes have to heal from wounds and that takes time, a moment of realizing that there is something that is ‘off’ and then giving it the time and effort it needs to heal or let it go.

Sometimes it appears easier to stay in a job we don’t like and where we don’t get along with the people. It seems easier to avoid the conflict of confronting this and to numb our own gut feeling.

I’m not arguing for easy.
I believe any conflict is an effort to make sense of our experience of the world and to live in it with integrity.
I’m arguing for integrity and for the intention of maintaining it, for the practice of feeling what my experience really is and being true to that. And I’m arguing that there are tricks and tools that we can use and practice that make it easier, kinder and less lonely to maintain our integrity than making the effort of hiding places that aren’t as pretty as we want them to be.

Integrity isn’t about acting beautifully when I’m seen. It is about living in a way where all of me – my idealism, my realism, my humanism, my need for connection get space and I can stand behind the decisions I make. Sometimes by allowing the pain or regret that comes from ’mistakes’. Sometimes by just simply enjoying the complexity of life and wanting to learn more.


Practice: questioning as a practice to establish integrity
When you find yourself in a conflict that repeats, that you meet again and again, you can ask yourself
  • in which way is your integrity questioned?
  • What do you need to maintain your integrity – is it to do with your values that you need to stand up for?
  • Is it a basic need that needs attending?
  • How can you use this conflict to learn about what is important for you?
  • Is there anything that you’re defending out of principle, or to avoid an uncomfortable sensation?
  • And which kind of support or environment do you need, in order to feel safe enough so that you can dare to allow the uncomfortable sensation and find new way of taking care of your integrity?
And as you ask yourself these questions (in writing/journaling or simply thinking about them), I encourage you to breathe and notice your physical integrity. Notice your body where you are, where you touch the ground and feel the movement of life through your breath.

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