Article: An Autopoietic Conflict Model (English)
Perturbations that lead to conflict
When someone enters a conflict, then the perturbations are picked up from the environment and incorporated in the structure of that person with the result that the environment is considered to be unsafe. If there is not sufficient capability for compensation the conflict will start, unless the other party is wise enough to really see what happens. But because his structure may have learned as little or even less, an appropriate response can not be given and the external conflict will start. What happens is that one or both of them are trying to make the environment safe by trying to change the other person by persuading him to share her position and finally, if that fails – because the other, who thinks just as well that he is right, and persuasion is usually impossible – he might in case of emergency or thoughtlessness try to remove the other from the area. The relationship, marriage, the client relationship or whatever, ends. Picking up and firing a gun also is a way of ending the conflict and the further learning in life will take place in prison! The husband in the example given, could do this with devastating results. Many great works of literature and opera are based on this theme!
Perceiving perturbations, both in language or otherwise, is the basis for building a conflict, but not yet the conflict itself. Perturbations are essentially neutral and only become meaningful after being processed within the system. Perturbations are not good or bad. It are our judgments that show them to us as good or bad, but this is a personal jugdment, and in no way an objective fact.
In autopoiesis everything is perturbation. Language is perturbation. Language is not information, as is sometimes thought. Language is a consensual domain (consensual domain), in which the processing of perturbations is coordinated. When I say something in Quechua (the South American Altiplano indigenous language) and you do not speak it, you can not process the perturbation of this language. If you could speak the language this becomes possible. This means that you create the so called information inside your system with the sounds of the language, and I tried with the language spoken to orient you this way. I am giving no information about it, but you make this yourself with the knowledge that you already have. This article contains no information, but letters and words that invite you to create a new concept in your structure, with which you yourself modify your structure. This is a very different approach. If I say something, I seem to transfer information, but what I really do is utter sounds or write words that allow the listener or reader, but only if his structure has already some knowledge to create this information himself. Therefore, it is not convenient to tell only the conclusion of a story. I try in this article step by step to show how this all works. You as a reader do these steps yourself also, and you create in yourself the information that you are in the end using to agree to my ideas (or not). Whether you create the information I had already verbally or in writing in my head, I do not know and that I can notice only when the audience asks questions showing how it went. Only then will I know if I’ve been clear enough and if you understood (what I think you should have understood). It may occur that that a listener has created something completely different from another listener. That is to say that with what I said (only sounds) one listener has created different information than the other, apparently using the same input from my side! The reader can understand the text only if his structure is able to understand it. Furthermore, if you do not understand, it might not be my fault, but only a lack in your cognition.
This goes even further. All the words we hear and read, we only understand based on the content of our individual structure. If you say to a lady: “You’re just like your mother!”, the result will be processing in part of your tone and voice, but more important is what kind of relationship this woman had with her mother. Even words that we think that we know well still have for each of us slightly different meanings, always emotional, because of our past experiences.
The significance of this cannot be overstated. In other words, not what I say, in any language, conveys information. The system of the reader or listener does create the information with what has been said or written in a single operation, but only to the extent that its structure, its cognition, that what has been learned up to that point, makes it possible to do so. And this applies to language and meta-language, such as facial expressions.
Not what we perceive – in the example of the woman talking to her ex – is information. It’s the system in its current state that makes something of it. In the example, the husband is jealous. His structure makes him come to the belief that something is wrong and it draws a conclusion, it passes judgment. So it is the judgment about what we see, hear, and so forth, that provide information for further conduct upon it.
We interpret the perturbations according to the state of our own structure. The information that we think is objective, is only the result of what has made in our structure of the present perturbations. It follows that with our whole structure, that what is learned and processed, gives meaning to what we perceive and if it ends in a conflict, it appears that there are deficiencies in the structure. These shortcomings of the structure of interpretation and as a result of proper behavior accordingly, determine the conflict. In other words, although the person himself thinks he is doing his best and is right, from the standpoint of an external observer it can be seen that the behaviour of that person is not sufficient to control the situation and threatens the conservation of the identity and the adaptation of this person in its structural coupling to its environment (to which the observer also belongs). For clarity, so again, it’s not the perturbations from the environment that lead to conflict, it is the internal operation of the system with the information used by the system that feelings and emotions are created, which lead to behaviour that by an external observer is defined as conflict. The husband in the example sees his wife talking with her ex, (perturbation) and in his internal processing according to the state of his structure, he thinks she is cheating on him. When he lets his actions be guided by this conviction the marriage is at risk. He may have the firm conviction, by his feelings of jealousy, that he is right – and maybe that is ultimately true – but what matters is that his structure apparently is structured in this way, that when he sees his wife talk with one of her exes this evokes in him feelings of jealousy, suggesting an internal conflict. If he takes action the conflict goes goes extern, but before it was already internally within himself.
This said another way: what a person says and does in conflict is always and only about himself. Autopoietic logic teaches that what in the conflict is said and done is only a representation of the state of the structure of that party in the conflict. The Netherlands has a nursery rhyme that says, “What you say yourself, you are” which accurately reflects this. This is true not only in conflict. Essentially everything we think, say and do is an expression of the current state of our structure. We are not aware of this and hereafter I will argue that it is precisely this awareness can get us out of the doldrums.