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Handling Conflict in Relationships the Aikido Way
Marilyn C. Barrick, Ph.D.
Featured in New Living, Health and Fitness NewsMagazine
New York-Metro Area, August 1999

      Whether we're talking about our own sense of wellbeing or resolving differences in relationships, conflict is a big deal to most of us. Gone are the days when we could simply isolate ourselves or shout each other down-and get away with it. Both at home and at work, the increasingly complex and stepped-up pace of life impels us to find positive ways of resolving conflict.
      Let's take our cue from Aikido, one of the martial arts. An Aikido adept moves with the flow of the adversary's energy in such a way that the opponent is disarmed without being hurt. What happens when we apply this principle to conflict in relationships? Instead of getting into a whirl of emotional reactivity, we enter a dance of give and take that becomes a springboard to transform prickly differences into synergistic interaction and creative exchange of ideas. With an attitude of harmlessness to the adversary, we do not come at each other like a couple of bulldogs, nor do we play the "I know better than you do" game. Rather, we choose to blend our vision, ideas, passions and practical know-how to understand each other better and to discover how our differences may complement one another. As the French say, "Vive la difference!" Long live the difference!
      How do we begin? We start by laying aside our hurt feelings for the moment. We center in our heart and ask our Higher Self to help us be compassionate and forgiving. We greet each conflict with a friend or loved one as an opportunity to learn and grow. And we take turns sharing our ideas, excitement and passion.
      We are kind and respectful while offering our perspective. We also try to understand and appreciate the other person's point of view. Once we have heard each other out, we honor differences of opinion as an opening for brainstorming and synthesizing to create better solutions. When we are tempted to react in a negative way or to argue our point into the ground, we remind ourselves that our goal is creative interaction and a "win-win" resolution for both of us. I remember a sampler on the wall of a friend's house that puts all of this into four words: "Love, honor and negotiate!"
      What can we do if we try our best and still find ourselves at loggerheads with one another? We can agree to disagree-in a friendly, caring way. After all, it really isn't an insult for another person to have a different point of view. Differences can add spice to life and to relationships if we choose to view them that way. What a boring world it would be if everyone were to have exactly the same take on every situation that comes up.
      Nine ground-rules for handling conflict the Aikido way:
  1. Choose your words carefully so that they express your convictions in a positive way that encourages communication and resolution.
  2. Allow interactive sharing to take you "out of the box" of your original position so that you are open to new ideas and concepts that neither of you may have ever thought of before.
  3. Keep your emotional balance by staying heart-centered and remaining true to your higher principles and values.
  4. If you get stuck, feel hurt or draw a blank, take three slow deep breaths, focus on your heart and speak your truth with gentleness and firmness.
  5. Be a good listener. Listen with your heart as well as your mind. Appreciate the effort and courage it takes to be authentic, especially when you have different points of view.
  6. Seek to understand the other person in the same way that you want to be understood.
  7. Try to bring to the surface the deeper message of the soul that may be hidden in words that seem inadequate or clumsy.
  8. When you do not understand, ask questions and listen carefully to the other person's answers. Repeat back what you do understand until both of you know you've "got it."
  9. Keep trying for a "win-win" resolution that allows each of you to be true to the best in yourself.       When we greet conflict the Aikido way, we can generate exciting, creative solutions beyond any simple sum of our separate points of view. Through intertwining our insights, hopes and dreams, we bring gifts of joy and enlightenment to our hearts and souls—and peace in our relationships.

          Dr. Marilyn Barrick specializes in spiritual-transformational work for the healing of soul and spirit. Her illumining books, Sacred Psychology of Love, Sacred Psychology of Change, DREAMS: Exploring the Secrets of Your Soul, EMOTIONS: Transforming Anger, Fear and Pain, SOUL REFLECTIONS: Many Lives, Many Journeys, A Spiritual Approach to Parenting: Secrets of Raising the 21st Century Child, and Everything Is Energy: New Ways to Heal Your Body, Mind & Spirit are available in fine bookstores. To order direct, call 1-800-245-5445 or 406-848-9500 outside the U.S.A.


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