Winter 2023 Blog Update (Part 3 of 6) ~ Lessons Learned: Conflict Management

If we live long enough, it happens to us all: The world, full of cold indifference to our golden-calf agendas, infiltrates our beating heart with its ragged claws—and pulls. With a single gesture, the ego is uprooted, leaving our bare awareness of self throbbing in monolog: “Feel! CONNECT!! Change! GROW!!”

Eventually, we all stumble into conflicts that trigger us, challenging our self-awareness and self-control. It’s inevitable. For the sake of clarification, my use of the term conflict encompasses a spectrum of adversity ranging from simple stress to complex trauma, including any degree of pain, discord, or loss of peace in our lives. Regardless of the context that inspires conflict, the essence of conflict management involves addressing the friction or tension between ourselves and our environment arising from an unmet need, desire, or expectation that we possess. 

There is no end to the ways we can be challenged at work or home, personally or professionally, through words or actions, rightfully or wrongly, intentionally or otherwise. Conflicts are not exclusive to high-stakes scenarios: being mugged in a street; contesting legal custody of one’s kids; struggling with a terminal health condition. There are no conflicts too ordinary to challenge us: slow service at a restaurant; a flat tire on the way to work; an unreciprocated gift we’ve given someone. Ultimately, any event—or non-event—can be experienced as conflict. 

Encounters with our fellow human beings can be uniquely problematic. There are many situational factors to consider when evaluating interpersonal conflicts: people’s motives, communication styles, temperaments, backgrounds, etc. It’s complicated. Although far from comprehensive, I’ve explored a handful of conflict resolution methods below that we more commonly encounter in daily life. Relevant to my recent adventure abroad, the examples used to model each method are inspired by experiences I had with roommates and neighbors while living in Spain. 

As much as the people I encountered in southern Spain excelled at appreciating the immediate carnal pleasures of life, they sometimes fell short of appreciating the potential consequences of their actions. I found this to be true in my engagements with larger bureaucratic systems as well as my engagements with individuals in my daily life.

Pushing into my zone of vulnerability, the examples of conflict encounters that I’ve listed below typify a recurring challenge that I had in Spain while living with people who did not share my same level of conscientiousness. Because certain regions of Spain still observe the siesta tradition—in which people enjoy napping in hot, humid afternoons—they tend to stay up much later. It was common, therefore, for me to struggle with neighbors who were quite restless (read: disruptive) throughout the night. 

After reflecting upon my experiences, I should acknowledge a proverbial truism that applies here: If we can’t change our environment—which is even less likely when living as an outsider in a foreign country—then we must change how we respond to it. This doesn’t mean that we should ignore our environment or dispense with having preferences for how we’d like to shape it; rather that we should be mindful about how we manage our interactions with it.

Within that relational framework, I offer up my life as an illustrative model meant to inform as much as entertain. As trivial as the following examples of my domestic life in Spain may be, hopefully they serve their purpose, demonstrating the underlying conflict resolution principles in question.

  1. DEFEND / ATTACK. In this mode, when we perceive that we are under attack, and a reaction is warranted, we take direct actions to defend ourselves, which is, by definition, another form of attack. The difference between an attack and defense can be ambiguous, often hinging upon the subjective experience of our motive for engagement and method of delivery. Either way, this mode involves rising to a level of formal engagement with someone over an issue that we experience that is compelling us to respond. Considering the cutting nature of the defend-and-attack method, its ethicality and efficacy is highly dependent upon the integrity of the people engaged in the conflict. 

My third apartment was conveniently located within walking distance of the high school where I worked. However, it was inconveniently located between an underground parking garage and a restless upstairs neighbor. Because the apartment floors were marble, the sound of footfall was amplified dramatically at night. I eventually wrote a letter to the neighbors above me, perhaps unreasonably, complaining about the hard-heeled shoes that one of the tenants seemingly used exclusively when inside their apartment. The letter resulted in an awkward confrontation with my two neighbors at our doorstep: a middle-aged man and woman indignantly defended the accusation of their disturbing the neighborly peace. After heated negotiation led by my roommate, who assisted me with my faulty Spanish, the neighbors maintained that nobody in their house owns any formal footwear or stays up late at night. They then marched away proudly, the female neighbor’s hard-heeled shoes clicking with every step. My problem never improved.

  1. IGNORE. In this mode, we pretend like the catalyst for conflict never happened. Ignoring is like the ground force militia of conflict styles. This method benefits from being easy, or at least simple because it requires little energy investment. For a while, it can give us the illusion that the issue doesn’t even exist. It can also be a statement that the issue is your problem, not mine. Ignoring can be an ideal response in some cases requiring self-awareness and self-control to disengage from an encounter that may be more consequential if we confront it. 

My fourth apartment was right in the heart of a lively downtown neighborhood. The centralized location was an exciting change of pace. Everything I wanted was within easy reach: grocery stores, bakeries, a bustling row of restaurants, even a trolly. Although I adapted fairly well to living in a bedroom beside my doctor roommate who worked night shifts, I struggled (again) with my upstairs neighbors. I eventually delivered a noise letter plea to my upstairs neighbors about their late-night routine involving TV binges and group socializing activities. I understood that they had a right to their fun and festivities, but need it be so uproarious and so frequent? I never heard back from them. My problem never improved.

  1. EVADE. Evasions are tricky, elusive modes of conflict resolution. They can involve sleight of hand deceptions that seem pulled out of a magician’s top hat—watch your wallet, guard your back, and stay vigilant. Sometimes we can leave an encounter with someone feeling like we’ve won, or at least feeling like we’ve been heard and our position considered, but later discover that we’ve been misled into turning our heads away from our issue and settling for some slick non-resolution. When our attention is redirected, we can become subjects of someone’s performance. At its best, an evasion can be used as a preventative measure, anticipating a conflict that might arise in a way that motivates a thoughtful response through an action or non-action. Like the conflict resolution mode of ignoring, the legitimacy of the evasion mode is dependent upon context and intention. 

For my fifth living arrangement, desperate for a simpler living arrangement, I found a one-bedroom apartment on the top floor of an apartment complex. As usual, there were surprises. My landlord didn’t inform me that the building had an attic floor above my own with two apartment units on the rooftop. During my first weekend, I discovered that my roof-dwelling neighbors were twenty-year-old boys who, not surprisingly, loved to party. Over the first few weeks, I approached the upstairs neighbors twice with noise complaints. When I spoke with one of the young men about my issue, he invited me, both times, to sit down and join in their festivities. He was always friendly; he was also quick to evade the discussion about his party-loving nights, redirecting me to their food and fun. Although he eventually promised to be more mindful of my quiet time request, ultimately, my problem never improved.

  1. DEFLECT / PROJECT. In this conflict resolution mode, we turn one issue into fuel for another issue. This mode pairing is particularly devoted to re-directing criticism from ourselves to someone else. Although I’m pairing together the methods of deflection and projection, they are subtly different. As Berkley Well-Being Institute explains via the insight of psychologist Sigmund Freud, “Deflection is similar to projection, in that it involves putting a negative focus on somebody other than ourselves. But when a person deflects, they are consciously aware of the negative characteristic in themselves, whereas in projection, this awareness is not present.” To the extent that these defense mechanisms both fail to accept accountability for legitimate criticism, they tend to be underhanded.

For my sixth and final living arrangement, I found an artists’ community on the outskirts of the city. Our backyard bordered a lemon field, and a nearby bike trail ran for miles alongside a meandering creek. All of the roommates generally got along together well; however, one roommate didn’t quite fit in our harmonious community. The misfit roommate was mostly unemployed, isolating herself in her bedroom where she talked for hours on the phone every day, often late at night. More problematically for me, she defied the house rules regarding indoor smoking. When I confronted her, informing her that her second hand smoke was traveling through the ceiling and into my room, she immediately denied the accusations. Then, perceiving herself as a victim of environmental circumstances, she countered with the argument that I’m not a perfect roommate myself. Despite her critiques, her deflections sidestepped my issue and my problem never improved. She was eventually kicked out of the apartment by my landlord due to a variety of reasons besides my own issues.

  1. ACCEPT. By far the rarest method of conflict resolution, acceptance isn’t for the meek or faint-hearted. Acceptance isn’t a matter of merely nodding one’s head in agreement; it can’t be evidenced by verbal approval or lack of resistance. It is demonstrated directly by someone’s changed behavior. Acceptance requires a fundamental humbling of one’s being: the surrendering of one’s ego, with a degree of grace. This method involves equal parts strength and flexibility, adapting oneself to a world that challenges and prompts us to change. Acceptance, as noble as it appears, requires one caveat of caution: sometimes people can accept something too easily, quickly, and submissively without fighting to represent the truth that they believe in. Considering that human nature is more complicated than textbook generalizations can encapsulate, even acceptance requires moderation based upon context.

I had only one confrontation with a neighbor in Spain that ended positively—or, at least, that was received sympathetically. In my fifth living arrangement, in the one-bedroom apartment, my next-door neighbor coughed compulsively in his apartment, on the other side of my bedroom wall, without end. At night, it was easier for me to sleep on my living room sofa. Desperate for relief, I wrote a letter to my neighbor explaining my predicament. A couple of days later, my neighbor surprised me by knocking on my door to introduce himself. He was also an English teacher: a British expat who had been living in Spain for many years. He was sincerely apologetic about the disturbance, explaining that the hacking was due to an autoimmune disorder; he apparently couldn’t afford the proper medicine required to treat his condition. He promised to be more mindful of the coughing. Additionally, he loaned me a floor heater to use for the upcoming cold snap in southern Spain. Although I continued to hear him at night, I could tell that he was doing his best to keep it quieter. And his best was an improvement which I greatly appreciated.

The above list of conflict resolution methods is hardly comprehensive. For those who prefer a little more substance, Healthline offers a list of the top 10 defense mechanisms along with a helpful overview of how they work. As Kentucky Counseling Center puts it, “Defense mechanisms are a normal part of our psychological development. Whether they are used to avoid unwanted thoughts or deal with anxiety, defense mechanisms will always be a part of our everyday life.” Some of the ways we regulate our emotional balance in moments of conflict may involve subtle acts of manipulation of one’s self and other people. Then there are other ways we rarely think of as defensive; humor, for instance, can be a very dynamic defense mechanism.

As trifling as my case examples with my neighbors may seem—trust me, I still cringe when I review them—it’s vital to accept our truths with genuine compassion. In the West, displays of vulnerability, even in cases where displayed in a way that is respectful and respectable, tend to be associated with weakness. While we appreciate the complexity of flawed characters in literature and cinema, we don’t tend to have the same interest or tolerance for character complexity in real life. 

I get it. It can feel risky to share our gems of vulnerability with people. We know so because we’ve been hurt by doing so before. It’s also revealing. Vulnerability requires letting one’s guard down in order to be present, as we are, owning our authenticity, with a world that cannot ensure our safety or security. When we toss our gems to the world, we never know how they’ll be used. Sometimes we find them later on in unlikely places. Sometimes they appear in the mouths of serpents we confront, wielded with the intent to harm us. Who among us hasn’t been caught with a belly full of gems that don’t belong to us? We have all been that serpent before. 

Regardless of the issues we cough up—or choke down—we often associate conflicts as problematic times in our lives. This association seems logical when our experiences with conflicts often involve the triggering of primal emotions such as anger, disgust, fear, or sadness. However, our emotions cannot be simply labeled as either good or bad and then categorically dismissed. As Mark Bracket puts it on Brené Brown’s Unlocking Us podcast, emotions are “signals to approach or avoid” something in the world. As such, every signal has a message to send us.

Anger is a particularly urgent, energy-intensive response commonly evoked when we feel the need to react to a challenging, or possibly threatening, situation. The emotional drive that underlies anger may be embodied with some degree of displeasure or annoyance. Though often misunderstood in strictly hostile terms, every shade of anger points the same way: towards action. 

Hungarian physician Gabor Maté has spent much of his career studying how the brain’s biological programming occurs in a lifelong interaction with the environment. Drawing from the research detailed in his book The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness, and Healing in a Toxic Culture, Dr. Maté explains the nature of this interaction on a variety of popular podcasts: The Joe Rogan Experience, The Tim Ferris Show, Impact Theory, and Rich Roll—choose your favored host, or listen to them all; we neglect this subject at our peril. Dr. Maté explains that our immune and nervous systems are entwined with our emotional command system: the integrated network negotiates responses to our environment for the sake of our safety and wellbeing. The process involves an endless balancing of boundaries between our individual selves and the world. In each case, the role of boundaries remains the same: “to let in what is nurturing and healthy and to keep out what is dangerous and toxic.”

Although we have an individual responsibility for our wellbeing, Dr. Maté rebukes our social environments for interfering with the healthy development of our minds and bodies. Unfortunately, life is full of conflicts that not everyone is currently prepared or willing to face. The trouble is that unreconciled wounds fester into trauma. And the traumas we inherit during our upbringing—from our families, communities, and nations—influence our health and wellbeing later in our lives. Unless the underlying traumas are addressed and integrated into our psyches, then they will persist, disconnecting us from our authentic selves. Warning: This is not woo-woo psychobabble that we can afford to dismiss with cynicism. The chronic suppression of our emotions will, eventually, manifest as bodily pain, distress, and disease. To raise the stakes, since traumas are contagious, they can be transmitted to other people. In conclusion, Dr. Mate advocates that we cannot, and should not, separate our emotional life from our physiological life.  

Within humanity’s evolutionary history, our emotions have been programmed into our physiological systems for a purpose. Although our primal emotions sometimes get branded as immoral scapegoats, they have historically assisted us in adapting to unpredictable environments. 

Even in the 21st century, we have good reasons to consult our emotions for guidance. Our emotions, along with our intellect and instincts, are a fundamental part of who we are as human beings; they can either aid or hinder us in our development. Likewise, the conflicts we engage in reveal to us the nature of our psyches—including how we relate to what we hold dear in our life—exposing us to forces of resistance that can help us better understand ourselves and each other. 

As informative as our emotions can be, they should not be followed blindly. We are wise to pause during moments of conflict before giving our emotions free rein; however, sometimes we experience lucidity only after a conflict has ended. Apart from the guidance of various self-reflection methods—such as meditation, prayer, and journaling—it can be helpful to seek additional support by consulting with an objective third party. In the court of law of human nature, we are not inclined to act fairly and effectively as a simultaneous judge and jury, lawyer and witness. 

When we turn to the counsel of other people, we should be honest about what we truly desire. Are we seeking validation of our feelings or objective feedback? Although validations and feedback are not mutually exclusive, they have different natures. It may be difficult, therefore, to find counsel that is equipped to satisfy these two desires in an effective way simultaneously. 

Regardless of our contribution to a conflict, the validation of our emotions nurtures a basic need for human connections. In times of need, it can feel like no small miracle to be simply seen and heard as we are. In contrast, invalidating words and actions dismiss our emotions as inherently wrong or neglect to acknowledge them at all. Unfortunately, chronic invalidations of our emotions may be linked to mental health issues. At its foundation, relating to our emotions in a healthy way requires mindful awareness of how we conduct our interactions with ourselves and other people. 

Besides seeking a compassionate witness for our emotional wellbeing, receiving objective feedback from other people can help us untangle the wider context of a conflict from our individual role in it. Good feedback considers all sides of an issue and prioritizes the situational truth from an impartial position with dispassion. The focus should be on revealing to us what we can’t see or appreciate on our own because it’s obscured by our individual bias. As a consequence, while feedback can expose us to valuable new insights that may be beneficial for our growth, some feedback may be contrary to our own will or understanding, making it difficult, therefore, for us to accept. 

To complicate matters, not all feedback is equally true and beneficial. The type of counsel we seek influences the type of feedback we receive. As John Lencioni cautions in Emotional Intelligence 2.0: Learn to Master and Improve your Social Skills and Emotional Agility, for a Better Life, Success at Work and Happier Relationships, “Choose your third party wisely. The people you invite to help you shouldn’t have a vested interest in the situation.” We often turn to friends and family in times of need, relying on them to comfort us. However, our dearest familiars may be biased by their affection for us, preferring to spare us the potential pain caused from sharing their hard-to-hear truths. 

Additionally, it’s natural for us to seek confirmation from people who share our background, value system, or worldview. By doing so, we can sway the response we receive in accordance with our subconscious bias. Keen to the corruptive power of human motive, Lencioni continues his cautionary appeal, “You should also avoid someone you know will simply agree with you. While their support feels good, it keeps you from seeing the entire picture. Sitting down with a potential devil’s advocate may irk you in the moment, but you’ll fare far better having seen things from a unique perspective.” It’s good to have some variance in the feedback we receive. If the majority of people agree with us, or with each other, then it may be a sign that we’re either trafficking in mathematical proofs or front-loading our inquiry for our self-serving benefit. 

Besides the type of people we seek feedback from, the way we narrate our side of an issue also influences the type of response we receive. In How to Decide: Simple Tools for Making Better Choices, former professional poker player Anne Duke explores the tools and techniques of better decision making. Poker is a game that is all about risk, where decision making carries immediate consequences. Good feedback, Duke concludes, begins with good questions, “You want to be careful about the way you frame the question, because the frame you choose can signal whether you have a positive or negative view about what you’re trying to get feedback on. Try to stay in a neutral frame as much as possible.” 

Regardless of who we’ve sought counsel from and the way we’ve framed the question for consideration, we must still turn inward within ourselves to reflect upon our contributions to the issue in question. Finding a healthy perspective involves balancing responsibility for our role in a conflict (nothing more nor less) with compassion for ourselves and others. 

Human nature is complicated. Sometimes we judge what we hold most dear to us the harshest. One moment we’re turning to our beloved family and friends for comfort. The next moment we’re tearing them apart. If we’re not careful, when our conflicts escalate, it can feel like we’re leading a battle between nations that are defying the U.N.’s protocols for ethical warfare. Our engagements on these domestic battlefields can be especially conniving and ferocious. 

Occasionally we’re lured by dirty tactics to get our way. We’ve all been there before. Sometimes angry outbursts result in childish name-calling. Other times resentments drag up sideline issues from the past. It’s never dignifying or productive. We deceive ourselves if we justify such tactics as acts of “tough love.” The problem is, when we retaliate with psychological nerve gas, we allow our headless emotions and heartless logic to take us hostage. In the process, we compromise our moral integrity. 

If we care to contribute to the positive growth of someone or something, instead of plotting for our egoic benefit, we must first confirm that we love our subject whole-heartedly. Our love, like our truth, need not be unsoiled or uncomplicated to reach for higher peaks (or deeper valleys) of our inner being. Our love does benefit, however, from being hospitable. When navigating conflicts, I’ve coined a term to describe a conceptual model for relating to each other in a way that merges clarity with solidarity: rounding up

In rounding up, we respond to an issue by building bridges to other lives that differ from our own, spanning the gap between individual selves. Rounding up takes a bird’s-eye view of a subject that cultivates harmony through highlighting our shared connections. As a type of mindfulness practice, this large-scale perspective requires discipline to implement without blind idealism; if taken to an extreme, it can gloss over valuable differences in our identities that contribute to our collective diversity. However, at its heart, bridge building is the basis of redemptive human abilities such as empathy, compassion, and altruism. 

Neel Burton clarifies the emotional basis of this noble triad in Heaven and Hell: The Psychology of the Emotions, “Compassion, or ‘suffering alongside’ someone, is more engaged than simple empathy, and is associated with an active desire to alleviate the suffering of its object. With empathy, I share your emotions, with compassion I not only share your emotions but also elevate them into a universal and transcending experience. Compassion, which builds upon empathy, is one of the main motivations of altruism.”

In contrast, rounding down burrows away from our universal grounding and into the diverging particularities of our individual selves. Rounding down takes a worm’s-eye view of an issue that highlights differences of our identity including demographic criteria such as education, nationality, religion, gender, etc. This inward-scoping perspective is especially helpful in alarming us to righteous indignation about glaring inequalities in the use and abuse of collective resources and opportunities. However, if taken to an extreme, rounding down can accentuate the divide between ourselves in a way that generates alienation and ill-will.

To be clear, both our similarities and differences are worthy of consideration, providing equal sources of concern and celebration. Balancing bird’s-eye and worm’s-eye views is an ambiguous judgment call. The human psyche relies upon both perspectives in order to stay well-grounded and well-rounded. Neither view is right or wrong; the connection between them is deeply complex, perhaps even contradictory. The challenge is discerning where to place our weight when we are traversing uneven grounds. 

With that said, during times when the world is experiencing intense polarization, surges in cultural extremism signify that we may be off balance collectively. As malaise and outrage have become chronic symptoms of global disharmony, it’s tempting to ignore or fester in our differences and wounds. Instead of reacting compulsively, invalidating people with whom we don’t agree, or seeking comfort in siloed groups, we can adopt a less visible—or, at least, less visibly appealing—sensibility: the middle path. The middle path skirts prevailing moral extremes, inviting us to confront an issue with clear-eyed candor while still celebrating faith in open-hearted renewal.

We are all magnetized by a past and future on a path that is unique to each one of us. So, in moments when we find ourselves disconnected from other people, or from ourselves, it can be helpful to reflect upon what we all still have in common: Our shared humanity. 

Obviously, life isn’t always easy and conflicts are never one-sided. We may have valid reasons for feeling hurt or wronged within our circumstances. Sometimes the time and energy we’ve invested into our relationships can create the illusion that we’re entitled to compensation. We’re not entitled. We never are. That doesn’t mean that we should settle for anything less than basic respect in our relations with the world. We should not condone acts of deceit, betrayal, and aggression.

When considering the reciprocity of our relationships, our hearts attune to frequency and intention. It’s unnatural to keep count with a spreadsheet. Outside of legal courts of law, expecting a return in a particular way or timeframe will lead only to frustration and disappointment. 

Boundaries are foundations for our health and wellbeing. But healthy boundaries require healthy narratives. And our narratives can be easily misled by a web of self-defense mechanisms known as cognitive biases. These biases are systematic errors in thinking that occur when we are processing information in the world. These errors can be influenced by a variety of factors: limits on the mind’s attention, individual motivations, mental shortcuts (called “heuristics”), social pressure, and emotions. SimplyPscyhology explains the role of these ingrained error systems, “Cognitive biases have direct implications on our safety, our interactions with others, and the way we make judgments and decisions in our daily lives.” (Consulting a visual list of our biases can help us appreciate just how impressionable, if not error-prone, our default nature can be.) While we may be alert to some of our biases, many more linger beyond our awareness.

Cognitive biases can interfere in harmful ways with our relationships, undermining our agency. Biases become even more subversive when we rationalize them, building a narrative framework around self-limiting beliefs. For example, when we interpret our role in interpersonal conflicts, our ego tends to reinforce default narratives that label ourselves as victims or heroes, and other people as saviors or villains. Discerning our true role involves discerning our true intention, a slippery task requiring vigilant attention. Even after we uncover our errors, we’ll need humility to accept the truth as we encounter it.

As usual, when it comes to implementing our life principles, it’s often easier to indulge in extreme beliefs and behaviors than to maintain balance in the middle. To reason through an answer abstractly on the sidelines of life can be done at our comfort and convenience; it’s much harder to disengage from reigning passions or mindsets when we’re tangled in their grip.

Engaging with life deeply will inevitably expose us to challenges, especially in the realm of human relationships. Fortunately, many of the challenges we encounter can be effectively addressed by managing our individual expectations and boundaries. Executive and organizational coach Anne-Marie Marron defines the terms of boundary management and delineates between internal and external boundaries. Elizabeth Earnshaw, licensed marriage and family therapist, examines examples of boundary needs and offers guidelines for accessing our inner voice to create the changes we want. And Tom Karl, founder and CEO of the evidence-based self-help site R1 Learning—an organization inspired by personal Tom’s background with addiction—addresses our underlying belief about our self-worth and the role of boundaries in our relationships. Regardless of the authors’ differing backgrounds, the varied resource agree in union that boundaries begin with self-awareness and are the rightful expression of self-care.

But boundaries aren’t one-off, one-size-fits-all. They need intelligent application and on-going upkeep. At its most basic level, a boundary represents an either-or dichotomy: an entrance or an exit: embrace or release.

While it’s possible for us to be overly permissive with our boundaries, saying yes so often that we fall into a sacrificial well of martyrdom, we can also be overly rigid with our boundaries, saying no so often that we erect a calloused wall of disenthrallment. Idling into either extreme can be equally toxic. Unlike the realm of mathematics, where equations can be resolved with certainty, cultivating balance in one’s life is an ever evolving process—it’s not a condition that we can attain conclusively. 

Indian spiritual leader Sadhguru reminds us that moving on from life’s challenges is not about forgetting the bad things that happen to us in order to appease moral principle. With that said, we must discern the differences between living in our memory versus living in the present experience. Why do we choose to suffer what no longer exists? After we have been hurt, we are confronted by a decision between carrying on wise or wounded. Is it not wiser to use our intellect for us rather than against us? 

In self-help circles, there’s a buzz phrase about merely “letting go” of the parts of our life that are no longer serving us. In light of such platitudes, Sadhguru cautions against letting go of our intelligence for the illusion of enlightenment. To surrender the very instrument that empowers us would be not only foolish but self-destructive. If we are seeking solutions rather than solace, then whatever issue we are addressing must be managed from within ourselves with conscious awareness.

At the end of the day, as indifferent—and sometimes even hostile—as the world may appear, the responses we receive are rarely personal. We are wise to appreciate the programming behind our ignorance and pain. After we have cleared space in our minds and hearts to bring our presence to the present, then we can press on with awareness and grace. If discernment is the compass, integrity is the map. Each step of our journey falls always on our side.

(The featured image is used by courtesy of Tetyana Kovyrina on Pexels.)