“Conflict is essential to evolution“
-Paulo Coelho, Aleph
“The thing is that love gives us a ringside seat on somebody else’s flaws, so of course you’re gonna spot some things that kinda need to be mentioned…“
-Alain de Botton
Conflict is an inevitable part of life. We find it in our professional and romantic relationships, in the work we do, in our places of joy and sorrow, and just about everywhere in between. We even find it in ourselves.
Merriam-Webster defines conflict as an “antagonistic state or action (as of divergent ideas, interests, or persons)”. This sounds about right.
Depending on how we were raised, conflict can make us feel unsafe and insecure because we equated conflict to something being deeply wrong with us. Often we’re raised to be agreeable, to not make a fuss, to put on a happy face, and to be seen and not heard. Because of this there can be a tendency to submit to the incompatibles that arise and completely lose ourselves during moments of heated conflict. We give away all of our power and ignore our needs for the sake of resolution. There can also a tendency to run, to check out mentally and emotionally, and to avoid; all for the purpose of not having to deal with the conflict at all. Ancient fears arise during conflict: fears of not having enough, fears of not being heard, fears of being seen as less than, fears of asking for help, or fears of our needs not being acknowledged or met. Conflict can take us right back into the terror of our smaller selves.
Fear often makes us do the complete opposite of what is best for us. But in a world of incompatibles, of yes’s and no’s that are always at odds with each other, conflict will always remain. I’ve always wondered about this in the way I’ve wondered why deep sadness exists, and why pain and suffering are so prevalent.
Conflict helps us to be active participants in our lives. It seems counter-intuitive but conflict helps us to grow and be seen. In the same way that deep sadness and pain can be teachers, conflict can take us to school on how to be a decent human being.
Conflict in romantic relationships can be one of the more challenging arenas because it forces us to show and acknowledge things we may prefer to not acknowledge. It occurs when any number of our maladjustments that we haven’t dealt with or are still processing rubs up against our partner’s. Or when our partner’s maladjustments rub up against us. In many instances things are simply going to rub us the wrong way and we may not be able to articulate exactly why.
This is particularly unique to romantic conflict because there is nowhere to hide. In other arenas we can veil ourselves with busy-ness and obligations. We can keep our own counsel, hide our feelings, hold everything at a distance, and still uphold our responsibilities and navigate life somewhat successfully. Doing this with someone whose heart you occupy is likely to be catastrophic. The best thing to do is to let all of yourself be seen and work from there.
Though it may not feel like it, this is one of the healthiest things anyone can do. We are built to be close to one another and we are all flawed. To be able to say ‘I was only a jackass because I was deeply afraid and I’m working to be better because I care about this’ gains so much more mileage for trust and intimacy than pretending like nothing is wrong or powering through a conflict. When someone you love knows where you are coming from it creates a sense of safety for that person, even though it may be uncomfortable for you. Eventually you may find a sense of safety because in allowing all of yourself to be seen, it allows all of you to be loved. Trust deepens on both ends and allows for everything to blossom. This is something to stay on top of and it’s important to be ever mindful.
This blade was made after a conflict with someone I love. It was a reminder to myself to lean into conflict. Conflict is a Vixen, a lady in red, shining, beautiful, and also extremely sharp and ready to slice the hell out of you if you aren’t on top of it….
O1 tool steel, profiled:
Scribed for grinding the bevels, and a notched blade choil:
Full flat grind:
Sanding the ricasso after tempering:
Many things will often be at odds with each other but being able to be with all of them is at the heart of doing conflict well, and ultimately at navigating the world. This is the lesson of the Vixen.