Commonsense Solutions to Our Three Main Conflicts
Bill Cottringer

“Ideologies separate us. Dreams and anguish bring us together.” ~Eugene Ionesco.

To help identify the source that drives our three main conflicts, I am taking the liberty of expanding the meaning of the opening quote to: Ideologies—as the perceptions and perspectives we choose to believe to be most accurate and true or not, and the values we opt to embrace as good vs. the ones we reject as bad—are the combined sources to the harsh divide going on in the world today. And commonsense compromises are the only possible resolutions through the dreams, adversity, and anguish we all experience.

The grand story of life has three main conflicts that confront us all sooner or later, sometimes individually and sometimes collectively and sometimes one at a time or all at the same time. These three conflicts are: (1) Us vs. life (2) Us vs. them, and (3) Us vs. ourselves. Each of these main conflicts are discussed below.

Us vs. Life

This is the conflict that starts it all and is always with us because we are born into a competitive system that controls the game and us with pre-written rules. We don’t like this set up at all. From the beginning, this conflict evolves into a selfish ego protected by pride for being successful in hitting all the curve balls life throws at us. We are programmed to try and beat life, no matter what the odds are.

There is only one commonsense resolution to this conflict. The cooperative compromise is to accept a certain reality that life was here long before we came into the picture. What this realization translates to is the natural law of learning how to fit in first and them making what you are fitting into gradually better from your inside-out contributions. We all have this need to belong to something bigger than ourselves and the longer we resist surrendering our will to life’s will, the more painful it becomes.

Such an unselfish, cooperative compromise may very well be the hidden driver of Darwin’s theory of the survival of the fittest and is certainly worthy of consideration. This is a major paradigm shift from the dominant competitive model in which winners vs. losers turns into winners and winners, without any losers, with cooperation. When we wake up to the special gift we were given, we begin to use this talent for cooperating with life rather than competing against it. This may be the real brave new world.

Us vs. Them

Us vs. them is the conflict causing the great divide in people today: Republicans vs. democrats, optimists vs. pessimists, management vs. unions, Christians vs. Muslims, Prolife vs. women’s rights, science vs. religion, police supporters vs. authority resisters, etc. This conflict seems to have irreconcilable, fundamental differences in perceptions, perspectives and values pitted against each other and quickly clashing noisily into violence and mayhem. Both sides of this divide believe their side is right and the others’ is wrong with no middle ground visible. It is a classic double approach-avoidance conflict and when this unresolved stress persists, it often causes mental illness.

The only possible resolution to this particular conflict requires us to relax our tight grip on our beliefs, as well as how strongly we believe our beliefs are right, and take a more tentative approach to claiming we have captured the real truth. This relaxed approach opens the door for both sides of the divide to agree to disagree, but peacefully and respectfully, not through verbal or physical wars. Perceptions, perspectives, and values are a choice in each new situation we arrive in, despite past experiences shaping us in one direction or the other.

In this relaxed spirit our choices can’t be imposed on others because it is the imposition that causes the defensiveness that shuts down communication. No one reacts well to others forcing their unwanted superiority, control, judgment, manipulation and lack of empathy upon him or her. A more supportive tone of communication—conveying equality, freedom, acceptance, spontaneity and empathy—is the only path to having a rational conversation about such emotionally charged issues.

Us vs. Ourselves

It is easy to miss the subtle interactions going on between the two terrible twins we all have deep inside, but this internal conflict is always sensed. We are all trying to grow into our best selves on our own timeline and in our own way, by overcoming the temptations of regressing into our worse selves. The trouble with this conflict, as with the other two, is it is based on the competitive model of thinking and behaving where there are always winners and losers.

The key to mitigating the stress of this conflict lies in the amount of airtime we allocate to our noisy psychological consciences as opposed to our true North moral compasses. We all have a conscience, but some just don’t allow others to have its due. The result is usually failure because wrong behavior normally gets wrong results.

The cooperative compromise to all these conflicts is the same. Surrendering to something bigger than our puny egos is not a weakness at all. It is an admirable strength of courage and having this perspective is a mighty blow to the conflict itself. And at the end of the day, we are bound to make mistakes, but we are not bound to those mistakes we make.

“Bravery is the choice to show up and listen to another person, be it a loved one or perceived foe, even when it is uncomfortable, painful, or the last thing you want to do.” ~Alaric Hutchinson.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is retired Executive Vice President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue, WA, along with being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer living on the scenic Snoqualmie River and mountains of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, Re-Braining for 2000 (MJR Publishing); The Prosperity Zone (Authorlink Press); You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too (Executive Excellence); The Bow-Wow Secrets (Wisdom Tree); Do What Matters Most and “P” Point Management (Atlantic Book Publishers); Reality Repair, (Global Vision Press), Reality Repair Rx (Publish America); Thoughts on Happiness; Pearls of Wisdom: A Dog’s Tale (Covenant Books, Inc.) Coming soon: A Cliché a day will keep the Vet Away (Another Dog’s Tale). Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (206) 914-1863 or