Article: An Autopoietic Conflict Model (English)
Another layer

This is the immediate cause for an observation that opens another entrance to the internal conflict. In the example of the father with children in the metro everyone will be moved who hears the father, and he will offer help. Suppose, in the incident with the car you would come to know that the other person is with his pregnant wife, who is about to give birth on the way to the hospital. You would tend to clear the way for him. Many examples can be imagined where the bottom line is that if we are asked for help almost always give it naturally, and if the circumstances are such, we are almost automatically inclined to offer help. But that suddenly becomes different when we are in conflict with the other person, or rather if we project our own internal conflict upon the other person. This observation seems contradictory. If our help is requested, or if there is a situation that requires our help, we give that generally unselfishly, even unasked and from inner necessity, but at the moment the other person, the one who asks or who clearly needs help has in us a conflict triggered, this reduces the tendency to give help tremendously. However it has as a consequence that we start to ourselves in not giving help. It looks lik this: yes, but …… and then a reason why we did not help the other person. Why defend yourself for not doing something? You only do this when you know you should be doing something. Apparently is in us humans a kind of instinctive awareness that we need to help others in need or at their request. Neglecting that instinctive realisation leads to its own internal dissonance which manifests itself in the form of a defense.

I believe that this instinctive sense is worded culturally in the so-called Golden Rule and biologically proven by the study of the Dutch ethologist Frans de Waal. The Golden Rule has two forms. The most famous is: “What you do not want done to yourself, do also not to another person.” This is the so-called negative Golden Rule. The second form is the positive Golden Rule: “Do unto others what you would like to see done yourself to yourself.” This form is less known, but no less important. The Golden Rule is trans- and supra-cultural and occurs in all cultures, religions and wisdom teachings.[22] I think that this rule makes a compelling appeal on us, where appropriate, as it were, and gives in fact an imperative [23] framework, and that the neglect of this appeal plays an important role in the conflict.

The Dutch ethologist Frans de Waal comes in his research on the behaviour of primates to the conclusion that the first inclination is to cooperate.[24] Unlike it is often thought of in the incorrect explanation of the popular adage of the survival of the fittest, it is not the strongest that survives, but the person(s) showing the situational best adaptive behavior, and that is cooperation and generosity. We see this in anthills with a large differentiation of roles of the different individuals, but also in human societies.[25] Without cooperation we would never have survived as species. Omitting to provide assistance is an criminal act according to the Dutch Penal Code.[26]

As mentioned, in the example in the metro any well meaning person, hearing what the father says, want to offer help, show compassion or whatever, in short, do something. It may be that you see it as your duty, [27] but usually it is something completely spontaneous. And this is how we humans also are.

I therefore think that the Golden Rule is the representation of a deeply ingrained human need and makes a compelling appeal on us[28] and can not be violated with impunity. Doning this creates a dissonance in the person that begs for compensation. The greater the dissonance, the louder the justification, which basically means that the other person is not really worth to be helped, because of his (alleged) evil character and because yet nothing else can be done or not to help him.

It can also happen that there are others, related to the other party or the person himself. Let me use the example of children in a divorce, but it also applies to colleagues in the workplace. They are not parties to the conflict but are faced with the consequences. With regard to these third parties in the conflict more often than not not only the positive Golden Rule neglected, but also the negative Golden Rule. If the children in a divorce become puppets in the conflict between the parents their interests will be seriously neglected and they are often the real victims of the conflict. The party that does this, or possibly both parties at the same time, know this unconsciously, and this provides additional magnification of the internal dissonance that must be compensated for. Normal people will leave children out of the conflict, but the blindness of the spouses in the conflict of divorce does not seem to allow this. The spouses “know” this very well, but the ignobility of the other spouse justifies to sacrify the children on the altar of being right. The compensation will be done by increasing the conflict to the other party in order to get a kind of internal balance. The other party will be blackened to the extremes, negatively portrayed, sometimes made into an inhuman monster to justify the neglect of the mandatory appeal of these third parties, children, who have nothing to do with it.

It can, somewhat schematically, be said that the parties involved in the conflict are 1st order participants and third parties, such as children and colleagues in this way 2nd order participants. If 2nd order parties get involved into the conflict it becomes dangerous because then even earlier than before the total destruction is immanent.[29]

As already indicated, in addition to the example of children in a divorce, where this mechanism is very clear, it happens everywhere, in the workplace, in social relationships such as associations and the like. What happens often is that the parties in conflict try to find supporters. These supporters have no other function than to soften the internal dissonance of a party in the conflict only by agreeing. This need for allies is a great danger and thus the whole environment can be infected and get sick.[30]

And with that I’m back at the aforementioned human flaws. If the other person is so bad that he does not deserve any help, this is nothing else than to advertise the own (alleged) superiority and the own (alleged) righteousness. If even a third party (that has nothing to do with the conflict itself), and 2nd order participants are such third parties, are sacrificed, any insight in the the own conduct vanishes completely from view.

My observation is that we tend to offer help, spontaneously and that this tendency in a conflict seriously erodes, but that the price to be paid for this is that the internal conflict is intensified, so that the projection will, if you know the mechanism, without any doubt stare in your face. And that makes it a highly effective tool to identify how the mechanism of the internal conflict works. Trying to justify your own behavior is the sure sign that you have neglected the imperative of the Golden Rule.

Neglect of the Golden Rule, so the trans- and supra-cultural precept, meaning that you must do to others what you would like to see done to yourself and should not do to others what you do not want done to yourself, shows us very clearly that we are on the wrong road.

Every human being has in the conflict at any time the choice to step out of his internal conflict. In all the examples given this can be done at the moment of dawning of the awareness that it all does not have to go this way and that there is always a way back, or a solution. Again, it does not mean that you agree then with the other. However, the decoupling of the emotional response of the substantive response is often so difficult that it just does not happen. The entire mechanism is not in your awareness, and often there is no time, or at least time is not taken for that. It is, as it turns out in practice, not so easy to come to the firm conviction that this choice is there indeed. It is possible, however difficult it may seem. This is only a choice that you literally have to make.(31)

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