External conflict

This is Phil Runkel replying to Bjorn S of 2005.09.09 and Martin T of 2005.09.09 on external conflict.

I realize that almost two weeks have gone by since your kind and helpful replies. By now maybe the topic feels to you stale. I find that I require a week or two to do what other people do in an hour or a day. My silence does not mean that the topic has fled my mind. But somehow the days go by and I fail to get words on paper -- or off into the GSGnet.

After I wrote my original questions, I remembered that I had given one sort of answer on page 324 of “People As” in a discussion of cooperation and competition.

I quite agree that external (interpersonal) conflict is a label we give to a perception we have when we watch two or more persons action (though one of them can be oneself) and observe (or conceive the interpretation) that the goal-seeking action of one hinders the goal-seeking action of the other.

It is, of course, often the case that an animal encounters difficulty in progressing toward a goal while quite ignorant of the fact that goal-seeking actions of other animals would be perceived by third parties to be causing the difficulty -- as in the case of the cattle grazing on the commons.

It happens, too, that persons can believe (perceive) themselves to be in conflict with others (as in the case of two persons grasping the same shirt in Filene’s basement) when actually (where “actually” means perceived to be the case by a some appropriately placed third parties) there is an adequate supply of the wanted thing for both (as in the case of two dozen more of the wanted shirt under the counter at Filine’s).

It frequently happens, too, that we get into conflict over the MEANS to a goal. That is, we may agree that there is enough of what we want so that we can all have what we want if we can only get to it, but we may perceive that the means of getting to that supply is limited. Sometimes some of us persuade others of us that such is the case when it is not -- as in the case of manufacturers of breakfast cereals persuading us that their boxes contain the only (or the most convenient) way to get the vitamins we need.

It is even possible for some people to persuade other people that they want something that doesn’t even exist and that certain other people are preventing them from getting it. (I am sure you have your own examples.)

I guess what I am saying is that the permutations of perceptions and perceptions of perceptions lead to marvelous complications and mysteries in our lives, as is only to be expected in an animal possessed of several orthogonal layers of perceptions of perceptions.

And as Martin pointed out, it is easy to derail ourselves with the verb “be,” as in: I am in conflict with him, or I am a Baptist, or you are in charge here, or he is a communist. In all cases, we are perceiving a situation or a story that comes partly from our own imaginations (associations with memories of what we believe to be similar situations or stories) and our conceptions (perceptions) of words that we believe (perceive) to be relevant to those situations or stories. But there’s many a slip twixt cup and lip, etc. It is a marvel to me, with all these complications and the chasms between our conceptions and whatever reality is out there, how we can ever manage to get the cup to the lip -- or even continue to want to do so.

I know, I have strayed from the core of the topic of conflict, intra and inter, but I think it is marvelous that PCT can continue to offer an ordering of such topics without multiplying explanations and calling down the deus ex machina.

--Phil R.