06 – conflict

Graphic hexagram 06Hexagram 6 – conflict seems to be one of the most unpopular hexagrams at all, because so far I did not receive a single feedback to this answer of the I Ching. Or the answer is so clear that nobody has found it necessary to send me a message…

Some reflections

Be that as it may, conflict is an interesting topic. For who has not yet made experiences with it, either as the actively arguing party, or as the passive-uninvolved observer of an argument of others?

What have I learned so far about conflict, with and beyond the I Ching? And how does this fit with the “Way of the Dao”, the Western-inspired interpretation of the I Ching?

One of the most important phrases I have personally learned so far as a participant, as a warring party, is “I am not your enemy!” (or “You are not my enemy.”). This is because in any dispute, especially in those with close, loved ones, we all too easily fall into the friend-foe pattern: Either you agree with me – or you are my enemy!

Everyone has probably observed this reaction in themselves at some point. But is it the correct one? Does the beloved person, just because he or she disagrees with me on a certain issue, immediately become my “enemy”? The concept “enemy” describes something awful, bad, an enemy is someone who actually wants to harm me, who wants my downfall – so is this big word really the correct one? Or isn’t it more appropriate to continue to call ourselves friends, even if we have different, perhaps opposing positions on a particular issue?

It is a noble art to let different opinions stand next to each other unrelatedly. To allow my friend (!) to disagree with me – and still remain friends with him/her. And, in fact, I chose the word “art” carefully here: We don’t get this ability in the cradle. We have to acquire it!

But if we learn this art, if we master it, if we manage to stay with ourselves, with our position, and still listen attentively to the views of our friend, to follow the arguments that seem significant to him/her, then we not only preserve our friendship (which is in itself a gain), but we also have the opportunity to gain a new perspective on what is happening. Because sometimes there are actually points in my counterpart’s position where he/she is right, where he/she has taken into account things that we have not yet actually considered ourselves. And the “dispute” turns into an – ideally for both parties – enriching conversation.

The ability to allow diverse, conflicting (!) opinions stand side by side unrelatedly makes life easier. It means that we have abandoned the consensus doctrine, the obligation that there must be a common endnote, a common position in a dispute. The consensus requirement is sometimes impossible to meet – and admitting that and joining hands anyway is a big step forward. “We agree that we disagree.” has become a common saying in this sense.

By the way, it is also a misunderstanding of democracy that every decision requires a general consensus. In fact, democratic cooperation requires that all parties and positions be heard, that they be included in the joint discussion and ideally that they be taken into account. But even if the positions of some splinter groups may not be fully reflected in the final decision or are outvoted, these groups were part of the democratic process because they were able to exercise their right to speak and the other participants listened to them respectfully and attentively.

Incidentally, this opening of the dialogue, the willingness to listen to people with different opinions and to take them seriously, requires something else, namely the rejection of what the German-Indian philosopher Ram Adhar Mall called “Vernunftabsolutismus” (absolutism of reason): the narrowing of acceptable arguments to arguments of reason.

One can silence participants in a discussion by telling them that their arguments are not acceptable because they are not reasonable. This includes, for example, religious beliefs, or simply intuitions or feelings. “I don’t want to go to XY because the very idea gives me a bad feeling.” – “I don’t want YZ to happen because my God doesn’t allow it to happen that way.” There is a difference between inviting the participants to explain his/her position in more detail – or wiping it off the table as “unreasonable” and therefore unacceptable….

Yes, there is much to learn in terms of argument culture. And to practice! And when I think about it, I could almost look forward to my next argument, because it will surely show me how far I have developed my skills…

So, again, what are my personal top 3 insights in terms of conflict?

  • “I am not your enemy!”
  • We don’t need consensus.
  • Even unreasonable arguments are permissible.

And at this point, we could have a look at the interpretation of hexagram 6 – conflict, the “Way of the Dao” with its reference to one’s own inner mood… If one pays attention closely to oneself, it is pretty easy to see where the fly is: My own emotional states preventing me from listening calmly to the other person…

The current interpretation can be found here: https://www.no2do.com/hexagramme_en/878777.htm