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TitleHarnessing the Transformative Power of Conflict to Create Just Relationships
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LanguageEnglish
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Page 1

Harnessing the 
Transformative 
Power of Conflict 
to Create Just 
Relationships  
      

Rev. Dr. Mark Lee Robinson 
Saturday, May 02, 2009 
 

Just Conflict:

Page 2

ii


Table of Contents

Table of Contents ........................................................................................................................... ii

Introduction .................................................................................................................................... 1

What we all already know about conflicts in our relationships ..............................................2

Seeing from Multiple Perspectives ......................................................................................... 4

Sources for this curriculum ..................................................................................................... 7

Some cautions ......................................................................................................................... 8

Part One: Motivation for Transformation ..................................................................................... 9

Chapter One: Becoming a Conflict Resolution Master ................................................................ 11

All relationships experience conflict – all conflict can be resolved ...................................... 11

Strategies, Events, and Qualities ........................................................................................... 12

Becoming More Mature ......................................................................................................... 14

Identifying my “Self” ............................................................................................................. 15

Paths to becoming; adopting constructive practices or disciplines ..................................... 17

Qualities of Shalom and Esuba ............................................................................................ 20

Chapter Two: What Makes it so Hard to Change? ...................................................................... 23

Keeping the focus on Self and letting go of changing the other .......................................... 23

The Power of Culture ............................................................................................................. 25

Awareness: an introduction to the Disciplines .................................................................... 28

Acting in our own behalf ...................................................................................................... 32

Accountability ....................................................................................................................... 33

The Social Construction of Gender ...................................................................................... 34

Families of Origin and Families of Generativity: How the one creates the other ................ 37

Relational barriers to change ............................................................................................... 38

Personal barriers to change .................................................................................................. 40

Chapter Three: Mapping Our Reality .......................................................................................... 45

The Tao that can be named is not the true Tao .................................................................... 45

What maps are for ................................................................................................................ 46

Cognitive Distortions ............................................................................................................. 47

Making Distinctions ............................................................................................................. 50

Expectations and Standards .................................................................................................. 53

Page 139

Chapter Seven: Identifying and Addressing Conflicts: What it means to be 
Assertive 

What is going on in our relationships when we experience conflict 
and what are some of the ways we can respond creatively?  Can we 
come to see what we usually do and identify the things that work 
and the things that don’t.  Can we develop a sense of how we would 
like to be able to address the conflicts which arise for us? 

Many people insist that they don’t have any conflicts because they don’t get into fights
and they don’t let things bother them. “Why,” those people wonder, “would we want to
focus so much attention on conflicts? Isn’t that just looking for trouble?”

In an effort to create what we need by constructing healthy relationships we will be
looking at the conflicts that arise for us. One very important distinction we will make
here is between a conflict and a fight. A conflict is a condition in a relationship in which
each is not as the other wants them to be. This is a near universal condition. It is almost
never true that others are as we want them to be. The question is, when others are not as
we want them to be, what do we do about it?

What conflicts are and where they come from 
Conflicts arise naturally in any relationship and will be the most 
intense in the relationships which are the most intimate.  We create 
intimacy by resolving conflict.  When we fail to address conflict, 
intimacy is destroyed.  Conflicts arise around distribution of 
resources, confusion about identity, and differences about process. 

Dr. Harville Hendrix, in his immensely popular book, Getting the Love you Want,
introduces the notion of an Imago. The perspective he offers is that we each have
unconsciously formed out of the experiences of our childhood an image of “the other we
desire to be with.” This Imago is in some respects a counterpoint to the Ego. My ego is
an image of who I understand myself to be, or at least who I want to be. My imago is
who I want my beloved to be.

When we are without a partner but are hoping to find someone special in our lives it is a
bit like walking around with a map or template in hand comparing the image on the
paper with the people we meet. “Hmm, does she fit? Does he fit?” Of course, we are not
doing this consciously. We may even have a conscious image of the sort of person we are
looking for and then discover feelings of attraction to someone very different from who
we thought we wanted to be with.

When Joe met Jamie at that wedding reception [back in Chapter Two] he felt immediately drawn
to her. She felt safe. She was someone he could talk to. He believed he could depend on her.

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134 Chapter Seven: Identifying and Addressing Conflicts: What it means to be Assertive


When we enter into relationships with others it is because of the things we have in
common. We have to be in the same place—if only in the same chat room—and be
speaking the same language. We have aspects of our life in common.

But we are also different. If we were just the same we probably wouldn’t be so interested
in each other. There are ways in which we are looking for others to be different from
who we understand ourselves to be.

Joe knew that he was not good at naming and expressing his feelings. But Jamie seemed to
know just what was going on with him and could help him understand and express himself.

There are aspects of who we are that we share—that we have in common—and there are
ways in which we are different. Some of those differences are just the things which
attract us to the other. But some of those differences are ones we don’t like. They don’t
fit with our imago and they don’t satisfy what we need.

When Joe and Jamie had been dating for several months and went to the wedding of some of her
close friends, Jamie was so excited to reconnect with some of her old friends she neglected Joe.
Joe was expecting her to be close to him and to assuage his anxiety of being out of place.
Instead Jamie left him alone and he became more upset.

So there are differences we like and differences we don’t like. The differences we like
draw us toward the other while the differences we don’t like tend to move us to greater
distance. We get to decide for ourselves which differences we will like or not like and
what we will do about them when they arise in our relationships.

alone

commonality

differences

openclosed

vulnerability

safety

intimacyalienation

distance

hardening

Cycle Of Intimacy





attraction repulsion

Page 278

272 Index


Joe and Jamie, 36, 133
Joe jumps Jack about the trash, 103

Vignette
Johnsons

elbows on the table, 37
Vignette

rock in my shoe, 41
Vignette

Johnsons
Joe watching the news, 42

Vignette
cutting a board to make it long enough,

48
Vignette

Johnsons
Joe is jealous and Jane is late, 49

Vignette
Tammy and John on Friday night, 54

Vignette
To ride a bike, 59

Vignette
Johnsons

Jesse trying to master third order, 69
Vignette

Anne talks to Christy about sex, 71
Vignette

Johnsons
Jesse breaks curfew and Joe gets hurt,

82
Vignette

reporter and three umps, 97
Vignette

Henry and Frank at Universal Widget, 99
Vignette

Johnsons
Jack rides his tricycle in the street, 110

Vignette
oppression scenarios, 122

Vignette
Johnsons

Joe buys a boat, 127
Vignette

Johnsons
Joe leaves clothes in the bedroom, 136

Vignette
Johnsons

Joe goes to the store, 140

Vignette
Johnsons

Jane helps Jack with homework, 141
Vignette

Eddie and his dad, 147
Vignette

Larry has a birthday, 151
Vignette

Johnsons
Joe runs out of gas, 162

Vignette
Johnsons

Joe listens to his feelings, 169
Vignette

My anger at the kid, 171
Vignette

Johnsons
Joe gets mad at Jane over the TV, 173

Vignette
Johnsons

Jane loses a windshield, 188
Vignette

Johnsons
Joe doesn't go fishing, 189

Vignette
Johnsons

Jane and Joe meet, 191
Vignette

Johnsons
The relationship changes in the early

years, 193
Vignette

Johnsons
Jane and Joe move in together, 194

Vignette
Johnsons

Joe leaves clothes in the bedroom, 196
Vignette

Henry and Frank at Universal Widget,
202

Vignette
Johnsons

in the kitchen with a knife, 203
Vignette

Johnsons
Joe sets boundaries, 218

Vignette

Page 279

Just Conflict: 
Harnessing the Transformative Power of Conflict to Create Just Relationships  

273 


Johnsons

Jesse misses the goal, 220
Vignette

Johnsons
Jack misses curfew, 230

Vignette
Johnsons

Joe leaves clothes in the bedroom, 233
Vignette

Johnsons
Joe breaks Jesse's door, 235

Vignette
Johnsons

Joe leaves clothes in the bedroom, 239

Vignette
Johnsons

Jane goes to group, 244
Vignette

Johnsons
Jane talks to her mom, 249

Vignette
Johnsons

Jane aplogizes to Joe, 252
Vignette

Johnsons
Jane fears Jack's driving, 257

Ways of Being, 164
Wilber, Ken, 64

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