Article: An Autopoietic Conflict Model (English)
Martin Buber and the transition from I-Thou to I-It and vice versa
What will happen now, ideally, is that one of the parties can look at his own story really sees what it is, a story, essentially invented, and that the other party is also a human with his own needs and shortcomings that do not make him a lesser person, but someone who is equal to yourself. This is what is called by the philosopher Martin Buber: From I-It to I-You. This is the view of the other person, not as an obstacle to ones own peace and happiness, but as a traveler on the path, just like yourself. Then it is possible to resolve the conflict, not only about the “facts”, but rather the inner conflict. If the latter is not reached, the first will never happen. Of course the conflict may end in a number of formal agreements, but as the internal conflict is not resolved, these will not be lasting. Gottman says something like this, that the foundation of a lasting relationship in marriage, but that also applies to outside the marriage, is located in the “positive sentiment override”. The state of I-It and I-You is, according to Buber, an attitude, a state of being. In very powerful poetic language he has painted how the state of being in I-You makes it possible to love the other person, even if he has done something stupid, or something much worse.
As an example of this process I describe a true story of a mediation. An older couple, she was about ten years younger than he, asked me for a mediation in their pending divorce. The husband had a handful of papers on what was wrong with his wife and she complained about his lack of support for her, mainly financially. They were married 10 years ago, after their previous partners were deceased. Both said that the financial problem was the most important. When I saw the financial statements it dawned on me that it could not be the financial situation itself, but must be something else. We parked the subject and talked about money in general. When I ask where her money was for, she surprisingly said that it was intended as a sort of compensation for her children losing their father at a young age. When I asked the husband about his view on his money he answered about the same, it was for his children. After a long conversation about money and related issues, it became clear to them what script they played. Outside their active knowing they were steered by a particular attachment to money. Because when I asked if they still loved each other the answer was an emotional “Yes!” of both. In this case both were linked to the element of the human flaws that we call avarice of greed at its worst. So it was about money, as they had said, but in a very different way than they initially thought. Once this was clear, the problems were largely resolved and the separation canceled.
The following true story is the link with cognitive gap different for both parties. Two neighbors had a dispute over the construction of a fence between their houses. Neighbour Fred had it all arranged, with the consent of neighbour Alan, but had paid more and then it went on to the settlement Alan said he did not want to pay. So Fred accused him of avarice. The conflict was not resolved. Six months later, it came to a collision on a related topic, on the parking of cars and Alan was very angry, started cursing and walked away, leaving Fred stunned. A few minutes later the very young child of Alan talked to Fred and said, “Neighbour, my father never behaves so, and he calls you king-neighbour.” At that time it was all clear. The pairing of Alan was not the money that had been the linking of Fred. That of Alan was something very different, that he felt inferior and that he had felt commanded. The internal conflict for both was thus very different! Fred was not going to explain this of course to Alan, because that would be exactly the interpretation of the role of king-neighbour. He has done nothing and remained friendly to Alan. Two years later, on New Year’s Eve at 24.00 Alan approached Fred with a bottle of champagne and two glasses and said that he hoped that they would henceforth be better neighbours. Problem was solved so when Fred could solve his internal conflict and later Alan could do this too.
The different links to the human deficiencies, not known to both parties to the conflict, is steering them in the conflict, and leaving them to continue the conflict. Because what each has done will be seen and interpreted through the lens of his own link. Even if one of them does a step to resolve the conflict, this is often seen by the other as meaningless and sometimes as a sign of the fact that the other party is now at last beginning to see that you were right all the same. The only thing that counts, is to resolve the own conflict. You are not responsible for the internal conflict of your adversary!