Why Do We Fight So Much?

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Posted by Jill Whalen | Posted in Psychology, Relationships, Thought | Posted on 06-28-2016

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[Jill’s Note: If you prefer to listen rather than read, please scroll to the bottom of this post for the audio version.]

Why Do We FightHave you ever noticed how so much of our day is spent being up in arms about something? (Usually lots of things.)

A friend or lover or stranger says or does something and immediately we jump to the conclusion that it was mean. Or hurtful. Or bad. Or rude. We spend hours, days and weeks (and sadly even years) ruminating on and discussing how awful certain people in our lives are. “How could do they do that?” “How could they say that?” “What is wrong with them?”

And when we’re not bashing those close to us, we branch out to those we don’t even know but just happen to see in the distance. They dress funny. They look funny. They smell funny. They laugh funny. They’re obviously not like us, so quite frankly, they must be just plain weird.

And let’s not forget those who have different political views. Or religious ones. Or a different skin color. Or tattoos. (They’re the worst! 😉 ) We want to keep them out of our lives and sometimes even out of our country.

When we really stop to think about it–and I encourage you to do so for yourself–much of our time here on Earth seems to involve conflict of one sort or another. Our minds always seem ready to spring into action at the tiniest of perceived injustices.

But why? Why do we fight so much?

I’ve been pondering this for awhile because it’s counter-intuitive to what we claim we want. If we’re constantly striving for peace in our lives (and we definitely are), then why are we also continuously judging and fighting with one another?

It’s a crazy paradox, isn’t it?

It’s easy to see the conflict within the world itself. And it’s also kind of easy to see the conflict within other people. But we don’t always notice our own relationship with conflict. If you’re shaking your head thinking that you don’t personally indulge in fighting or conflict, then I ask you to honestly take another look. Seriously. Stop and think about random moments in your day. How many are negative, bordering on fights of some sort? How much of what goes on in your head is judgment and/or anger at someone or something?

Until you purposely start paying attention to it throughout your day, you may not even notice. For me, once I did start noticing, I learned that there was a lot more of it going on in my life than I ever realized.

But why is this so? Why is conflict so prevalent in our lives?

While I can’t say that I know the exact answer (and I’m sure it’s more complicated then this). I do have a theory on why we humans fight so much.

Are you ready?

If life here on Earth is a game (and I’m 99.99% sure it is) then the fighting actually makes sense.

Games–the good ones at least–always involve some sort of conflict. Even with games that aren’t directly aggressive, the competition itself is conflict-ridden. There’s even some internal conflict involved in solitary games. We might be trying to beat our high score, or fight to get to the next level, or solve the puzzle, etc.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying competition is bad. It’s usually where the fun lies. We love a good challenge as it’s the reason we play games in the first place. If there was no conflict or challenge to a game and it is easily solvable, it wouldn’t be worth playing. Pretty sure we’d be bored to tears fairly quickly.

And so it is with life.

While we enjoy living in peace and harmony as much as possible, we seem to need some challenges to keep it interesting and fun. This is why even the best of relationships have their “quarterly fight.” And it’s why we spend so much time trashing and bashing others.

We create our own competition within which we get to (ideally) be right and ultimately “win.”

Sadly, however, nobody really wins these petty games of life. Feeling superior to others because we’re right and they’re wrong does nothing but feed our silly little egos.

So what’s the answer?

Does our competitive spirit mean we are doomed to fighting and conflict as a way of life? 

While it may seem so, there is another way.

What would happen if we didn’t have to be right? What if we simply let others say and do the stuff that they do no matter how ridiculous or dumb or wrong we think it is? And what if once we did all that, we didn’t have to talk about it with others, or even give it another thought in our own minds?

In other words, what if we just let it go?

It seems to me that if we were able to do this, it would certainly put an end to conflict within our own lives. And if/when others joined in and did the same, it would start to spread. It’s difficult to imagine, but what might happen if everyone in the whole world did this?

There would be no place for conflict. It simply couldn’t exist.

So now, you’re probably thinking that if my premise of life being a game and us needing conflict to make it worth playing is correct, then wouldn’t life lose it’s fun edge without the conflict?

Perhaps. But what if we make letting everything go, our new challenge?

Trust me, it’s a lot harder than it sounds.

Letting go of our need to be right and make everyone else wrong would make this game of life much more challenging, fun and rewarding if we have the courage and fortitude to give it a try.

If you’re a long-time reader of this blog you know that I’ve been attempting to do this myself as much as possible. And yes, it’s difficult. For now it often creates conflict within myself. But once I’m able to drop that (which I’m getting better at) situations change. There’s nothing for me to butt into, or make better, or correct.

Things manage to resolve themselves on their own.

What about you, are you up for the challenge? Can you let your disagreements and grievances go? Can you let go of your need to be right? Can you let go of your need to discuss your rightness (and their wrongness)?

Let me know in the comments or via email. I’d love to hear how it goes for you.

–Jill

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It would seem that if I were to engage in any sort of debate on some of the matters of this post, then I would be doing exactly what you are suggesting we not do?!? :O)

I do agree there are plenty of times where conflict is not worth it. Is it worth getting frustrated at my wife because for the umpteenth time I have to explain how to save a document on the PC. No, but I still do it way too many times.

But, is it worth trying to have a frank discussion on why maybe we should be a bit concerned about who wants to come into our country? That probably is a worthy discussion.

Is it worth discussing whether or not free college is a worthwhile goal? Probably, and that of course leads to a discussion on how to pay for it.

Those last two though seem to be almost impossible to solve because there does not seem to be much of a reasonable middle ground.

Yes, conflict can be reduced by looking for those areas that really just don’t matter, but sometimes conflict is necessary. Going into that conflict with the right mind and willingness to be a good listener can help, but sometimes you do have to put your foot down. I always liked Teddy’s quote: “Speak softly, but carry a big sitck”. :O)

He did also have some great thoughts on immigration:

“We should insist that if the immigrant who comes here does in good faith become an American and assimilates himself to us he shall be treated on an exact equality with every one else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed or birth-place or origin.

But this is predicated upon the man’s becoming in very fact an American and nothing but an American. If he tries to keep segregated with men of his own origin and separated from the rest of America, then he isn’t doing his part as an American. There can be no divided allegiance here. . . We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language, for we intend to see that the crucible turns our people out as Americans, of American nationality, and not as dwellers in a polyglot boarding-house; and we have room for but one soul loyalty, and that is loyalty to the American people.”

cd :O)

Thanks for your comment, Chris!

What I’m suggesting is that those conflicts wouldn’t even exist (immigration, free college, etc.) if everyone on the entire planet did what I’m proposing. It sounds strange, but when you think about the ripple effects, that’s exactly what would happen.

ChrisCD,

I really agree with your principle that people who come here should assimilate. But unfortunately, those original refugees from Europe refused to do it and insisted Native Americans learn their language, religion, and values, and used egregiously used violence rather than healthy debate to turn the table and make Native people permanent refugees in their own land.

Perhaps you can start to correct this multi-generational mistake by giving up your language and culture now and by adopting Native ways. Surely, you agree with me that it’s never too late, and you can lead the healthy conflict debate and how to overcome American’s real original sin as well as how to heal from it.

Let the fighting begin!

Sorry Jill. It is just so ingrained. :O)

And TommyLW what if I say ok, sure? Which tribe/ language are we talking about?

(Note this next part was originally at the end, I moved it to the beginning)

Tommy, I wasn’t here back then and either were you. So we can’t really undo all of that. And to be honest and fair, I wasn’t thinking of the past, just the future, which I admit is probably naive on my part. So we are both at least partially right and I am sure both a lot wrong. (Jill, am I learning?)

So if we both admit our forefathers made terrible mistakes, is that a starting point?

(This was originally at the beginning)

Of course Tommy, we could also just move somewhere else and take the trillions we spend somewhere else, too. And at this point, we have made quite a bit of investment into infrastructure and the like? Are the Native American’s now going to repay that or to avoid conflict do we just gift it to them?

And TommyLw are we to believe that the Native Americans weren’t already busy conquering each other and forcing other Native Americans to become part of their culture? I think it really is a bit more complicated than you are making it out to be.

So where can reasonable dialog even begin? Or do we just walk away from the table because neither of us needs to be right?

cd :O)

See again, the point is that none of that matters. (On either side.) Nothing will change in the world by people arguing their side of things.

Change can only happen 1 person at a time. One person choosing love over fear.

And then another.

And another.

Until all the so-called problems of the world are moot because they’ve simply melted away.

Chris and Tommy, you may be interested in this post I just read from a woman named Judith Sedgeman. She has a similar understanding to mine, only with many more years of it under her belt:

Are There Limits?
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/limits-judith-sedgeman

I have read the article. I will need to read a few more times. I do respect her rebuttal to those that view her beliefs are naive and micro-example is beautiful. I do find it much harder to accept it on a macro-example, but I will ponder it over the weekend and see if there is room for an attitude adjustment on my part.

Thank for the follow-up and the link. I do appreciate it.

cd :O)

That’s wonderful, Chris!

I’d love to speak with you more about any of this some time if you’re interested. Would be happy to answer any questions you may have on how I’m seeing and understanding the world these days. Especially after you’ve pondered some.

Just let me know!

I’ve been thinking along similar lines lately Jill – in day to day family situations and here in the UK with the referendum splitting opinions. I just love how you’ve expressed this. I’ve been thinking that in any situation my disagreeing with people never seems to help at all so I’d sort of subconsciously started your challenge already but your article helps me see more clearly what I’d like to do – or not do 🙂

Thanks, Jane!

It’s especially hard with the “big stuff” such as politics. But I can see fairly clearly how it starts with the little stuff, i.e., the way we react with each other individually. Unless or until we can get that squared away without the constant battles and negativity, we have no chance with the big stuff. But the more people who can start to transform the way they react in their day to day life, the more chance we have of the big stuff solving itself. (Probably not in our lifetime, unfortunately! 🙁 )

Thank you Jill!
It´s always a pleasure. Judith´s article was awesome to btw.
All Good!
T.

Thank you!