Conflict and Peace

I am very pleased to have completed the MAS on conflict analysis and transformation (Department of Sociology, University Basel). 

 The Diploma Advanced Study on “Conflict analysis and Transformation”, the module “Religion and Conflict” and the field trip to Israel, taught me to look differently at realities in situations of peace and of conflict. The reflections and learning experiences with both the professors and students in the MAS deeply changed my perception of my personal experience of conflict and how I view conflicts in general.

The interdisciplinary focus of the training, taught me to consciously choose with which perspective or lens I look at a selected situation. Often I chose to look at conflict or peace with the intention of understanding. By doing this, I am already limiting the depth and breadth and clarity of what I can see. My point of view, my experiences, values and fears – they all influence what I see. 

I have begun to look at conflicts through the lens of psychology, economy, and social theories. Doing this helped me have a deeper understanding of my biography.

Identifying pain as an inner conflict

Johan Galtung describes conflict as “incompatible goals” „Handbook of Peace and Conflict“ Johan Galtung, 2007.  
In this sense I see inner conflicts as realities which create a real and tangible tension or dilemma. My desire to embrace life and yet to realize that my body can’t follow up with the pace of my mind, often created strong inner conflicts which showed in physical breakdowns, pain attacks or manifested in other ways.  

Inner conflict is also expressed in an ongoing dialogue between acceptance and fighting of pain. Pain stands for being in a situation of powerlessness. Being exposed to bigger, stronger and care-less or even evil persons and forces. Somebody said that if we fight monsters too long we become one ourselves. One of the most challenging and fear-riddled transformation processes has been to learn to not fight pain from a “victim” position, but to see pain and vulnerability from a beloved place, where I am able to choose upon my response to pain and to see it as a precious part of my identity. My desire is to love my pains as much as I love my pleasure. I sometimes feel like a mediator in conflict management process where I love all parties and am trying to help mediate a situation of peace. Trying to get a peace accord signed between pains and the better energies in my body.

Pain management and (conflict) transformation

My ongoing experience of pain taught me to see suffering as an invaluable form of transformation. Suffering begins when I am not at peace with the pains. When I fear them or when I lose control and have no or very limited response options. I see pain as an energy and state which conveys different messages. Sometimes it’s a warning that I should change behaviour. Other times it's a warning and reminder of a deficiency. Some pain has an encouraging message to be more loving and gentle towards myself. Pain messages can be alerts to trigger a different response pattern. It can be a whispering hint of a storm to come, giving me time to prepare. Whatever the message, pains are not the central aspect of the story of pain, it’s having options to choose how I respond.

I have chosen to see pain as a trigger, a motivation, a source of inspiration, a challenge, sometimes a nuisance but always an opportunity to grow in love and humility and power to learn to be the “captain of my soul”. Yes, I wish I had less physical pain. Of course I would rather not have these chronic, life-changing and life-threatening pains. But I can’t change that. What I can do is change my attitude, perspective and integrate the pains into the reality of having many stories in my life all shaping this ever evolving version of “Mark Moser”.

When I am powerless and pain has a grip of my body, instead of “fighting” pain I try and go into the pain even deeper, trying to understand both the reality and message, but then also to go into the energy of the pain in which I often find a less dark place. I sometimes get a glimpse of a source in this energy which I believe is a source of love and life. I’m not saying that pain is love. But if I follow its path and go beyond what I perceive as “something gone wrong” making this energy so destructive … I can sometimes find peace and see somewhere in the far distance a place of love and wholeness.

The path of suffering is the fastest one to transformation. We don't do shadow work well, because struggling with our dark side is humiliating. We've been trained to compete and to win. When winning is the only goal, we can't admit to anything that looks like failure, or even allow basic vulnerability. Richard Rohr, Daily thoughts, 24.5.2016

In order to not be destroyed by pain and inner conflict I need to be vulnerable. For only in this state does the transformative power of pain reach my inner places and not turn myself into hardness. It’s an ongoing process which I compare to the work of a potter working the clay. Once the clay is hard, one loses the ability of forming it. Once my pain turns hard – is not touched and acknowledged, not processed and understood – then it turns into hardness and this is suffering in its worst form. The suffering turns cold and hard. Edging its way into my heart and causing damage (collateral damage).

And so I work pain, massaging it, breathing life into it. Being gentle to the pain and letting it flow through and out of me. Permeating every part of me and not resisting.

When I compare this to outer conflicts I have encountered, I see many parallels. Conflicts should be assessed and acknowledged so we can understand the meaning behind them … or to acknowledge the lack of meaning. Many conflicts turn destructive and damaging because the early signs and messages were not understood. I am not saying all conflicts demand an intervention, except that many should be seen and noticed in order to be able to classify and appraise whether a response of some kind may be necessary.

The experience of pain and learning from this has helped me change my perception on conflicts. I used to fear conflict and see them as something “bad” and mostly dangerous. Therefore, my response was to flee from them or then to respond with an activist approach of trying to “solve” them.

To close let me quote Leonard Cohen who says so beautifully in his song, Anthem:
There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in.


Mark Moser