Always a choice....

I'm reading a fascinating book that I wish EVERYONE could read about the nature of conflict between people called, "The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart with Conflict" by The Arbinger Institute. I was prompted to seek out an in-depth analysis of the nature of tough problems between stepmoms and moms because, I must admit, I'm still sometimes stumped by the folks who ask, "But what do I do if the other woman absolutely refuses any of my efforts to improve things between us?" Both Carol and I can throw a million ideas out there to try that often center on just trying to create peace in your own inner circle, but I sometimes feel bad, knowing that the listener still feels discouraged, hopeless, and like they're stuck at the bottom of a very deep, black hole. What do I do when I'm stumped? I look for a book on the subject!

Back to the book.

Before I tell everyone you should go out and buy it (Hey! Run to the bookstore NOW and buy this book!), first, a short overview.

I'm not sure who actually WROTE the book, or whether the characters in it are simply fictionalized versions to help move things along, but the book is written like a story, with lots of dialogue and cliff-hangers at the end of each chapter. I stayed up 'til almost midnight devouring this thing.

The story centers around two men, an Arab and a Jew, who run a wilderness camp for drug-addicted teens. They have both lost their fathers at the hands of the other's ethnic cousins and they've learned a thing or two about hatred, violence and war. The tension begins on the first page, as the two men interact with the parents of the teens for two days, while the kids are driven off in a van to begin their treatment.

Let me see if I can wrap my head and words around one of the concepts in the book that is most making me go, Wow....

The book discusses ways of being and whether one operates with a "heart of war," or a "heart of peace." Even in simple, daily interactions, we often operate with a heart of war. This means we are seeing someone else as an object and not as a human being, with needs, fears, hopes, and their own equally valid agenda.

Essentially, you can't feel them....

When someone is an object, your emphasis is on what you can get from them, or getting them to do something for you. I have been guilty of this myself on my blog, focusing on our readers as simply numbers climbing (or dropping) on our stats page. Sometimes, I struggle with what to write about and lose my connection to the actual emotions, needs, fears and hopes of our readers as I instead lament the drought in my brain and self-imposed writing schedule.

We always have a choice about how to react in any given situation.

When we choose to go against what we think is right inside ourselves (something we do all the time out of convenience), we put ourselves in the position of having to justify our actions -- and there you have the beginnings of objectification.

Once we find ourselves there, we forget we had a choice to make in the first place --- and that we actually MADE one. Usually, we'll see ourselves as being forced to act as we did by outside circumstances and feel victimized.

You can see this at play in simple domestic disagreements between parent and child, between spouses, between friends, co-workers, countries - all around us.

Ring a bell at all?

I know it does with me, as uncomfortable as it feels to see it in myself.

Hopefully, this is not too analytical and dry for y'all... :-)

The book is absolutely riveting and I think some of the concepts have enormous ramifications for transforming conflict in our families, at work, and in the world at large.

Where are you making someone in your life an "object?"

More as I plow my way through this thing later. I'd love to hear your thoughts as well!

Here's the book at Amazon.

Happy reading!

© 2009 Jennifer Newcomb Marine    All Rights Reserved

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