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This article focuses on an unavoidable personal and social stressor: values conflicts.
Typical adults don't know how to identify and permanently resolve these
clashes. This means their kids probably
aren't learning to do that either.
This brief YouTube clip previews what you'll read here:
defines and illustrates internal and
interpersonal values conflicts
three basic reasons they
responses to these conflicts, and,,,
offers specific suggestions on how to
resolve values conflicts,
relationship cutoffs effectively.
The article assumes you're familiar with...
the intro to
this nonprofit Web site and the premises
"Youre a "night person,"
and I feel most alive and alert as the sun rises."
"Youre a 'Right-to-Lifer,' and I
support womens choices on abortion."
"You're a liberal Democrat, and I'm a
"In child discipline, I believe in
imposing parentalpunishments. You believe naturalconsequences usually work
"I think planning for the future is vital.
You think living in the present moment is more important."
"Niko won't let me play with her Nintendo. I let her play with
These all are differences in
personal beliefs, priorities or
preferences - values - not right/wrong
like "child abuse is wrong - period." Our rich mosaic of human
cultures and personalities guarantees that all people,
families, organizations, and nations will
have minor to major values conflicts.
child and adult (like you) evolves a
unique way of coping with these stressors. Some ways are more
effective than others.
When two conflicted people each
refuse to compromise their values for a greater good, an impasse occurs.
The underlying causes of major impasses can strain or wreck relationships and families, and cause
aggression, legal suits, and wars.
Premise- normal kids and adults develop a group
subselves that comprise their
Each subself has unique talents, limits, goals, priorities, and
views of the world, like players in an orchestra or sports team.
Depending on how well they're led, groups of subselves (personalities)
can range from chaotic to harmonious - in general, and in confusing,
conflictual, or dangerous situations.
One implication is that average
adults and kids can develop
internal values conflicts between their subselves, causing
confusion, uncertainty, ambivalence, and double or
mixed messages. The most complex, stressful situation occurs when two
or more people have simultaneous
internal and mutual values conflicts, and no one know that or
how to separate and resolve them effectively.
Reality check - think of several key relationships in your life
now. From time to time, do you each experience significant
differences in beliefs, preferences, and priorities? Can you describe
how you personally and mutually react to these clashes? Now reflect:
do you also experience internal
values conflicts ("I want to stay in touch Mom, so I'll call her today." / "But that will lead to
frustration and disappointment again, so don't call!")?
Premises - The quality of any relationship over time depends
partly on how effective partners are at admitting and
resolving their internal and mutual values clashes. Minor kids depend on their adults to teach them how to
identify and resolve conflicts effectively. Do you agree? Did your caregivers
do that for you?
there a best way to react to values conflicts? I vote yes:
Common Responses to Values Conflicts
When adults and kids encounter these
unavoidable stressors, they (you) unconsciously choose responses they learned from early mentors, hero/ines, and experiences, like...
Explaining and lecturing - "Let
me show you why your (value is) WRONG, and I am (my value is) RIGHT!
(You must agree with me or you are bad or stupid, and I will scorn,
reject, and/or punish you);" This is a common type of toxic black/white
(two-alternative) thinking. Or we...
Avoid, minimize, deny, and/or withdraw - "Hey, no big deal (if we
disagree), OK?" or (silently) "If you confront me with our conflict,
I'll tune out, collapse, or leave;" Or average kids and adults...
Submit, (pretend to agree) deferring to the other person's value
to avoid discomfort - i.e. discounting yourself and your
(losing self-respect); Or we seek to achieve...
Genuine acceptance and compromise - "No one is right or wrong
here - we're just different
on this point (e.g. a tomato is not "better" than an armadillo.)Let's (a) brainstorm and
compromise or (b) if we can't find a middle ground, let's agree to
disagree for the sake of our
and relationship, and move on"
first three of these strategies inevitably reduce self and mutual respect
and mutual trust over time - i.e. they harmwholistic health
and relationships. The first response implies "I'm smarter / wiser /
you are." This
usually evokes hurt, resentment, and fighting or fleeing
- specially if a
is in charge.
The second and
third responses leave the conflict unresolved, and weaken personal
integrity and the relationship.
If both people choose the fourth response,
they're most apt to keep their self esteems and maintain or improve their
relationship. Even if people agree with this premise, they may not be able
todo it. We'll see why in a moment.
In other words, values conflicts are often not the real
problem. Note that the
way people try to resolve their internal and
mutual values conflicts (e.g. the first three responses above) often
hurt, frustration, anger, and disrespect.
And if child-caregivers
don't learn to...
accept and reduce the three underlying problems above,
internal values conflicts first, and then...
compromise or agree to disagree with each
teach these things to their kids, then...
their young people
enter adulthood vulnerable to major personal and relationship stresses at
home and at work, causing their aging caregivers heartache and stress.
what should people (like you) do about these common disputes?
toward having your subselves trust and follow your wise true Self
(capital "S"). S/He knows how to negotiate inner compromises!
Lesson 2. Give
special emphasis to the skills of
to discern your
at the moment. Learn to
distinguish between values ("I prefer broccoli to sushi") from
need you to admit that my value is 'right'.")
Adopt the attitude that
when values conflicts happen, no
one is "right" or "wrong" - just different.
Learn the concepts of...
mutual values conflicts, and win-win compromises. Then...
agree with key adults and kids on clear
definitions of each of them. Then...
expand your vocabularies to
include these terms and definitions ("Hey - looks like we have another
values conflict here. Let's brainstorm.")
Agree on your rights
as equally-worthy, dignified persons. Then...
Clarify and learn each other's personal
priorities. Many values conflicts are
When internal and interpersonal values conflicts
happen together, help each other...
acknowledge that without
blame ("I have an inner values conflict now.") and...
identify and compromise the internal conflicts first.
That usually requires...
your subselves (personalities) to be
guided by your true Self (capital "S").
you can't find an acceptable compromise, agree to disagree for the good
of your relationship and family harmony - unless doing so
feels like a violation of your
wholistic health and dignity is not your top non-emergency priority, you're probably dominated by a protective false self. When viable
compromises don't appear, a useful tie-breaking question to discuss is...
"Which alternative is
best for our relationship, long term?"
As you learn to use your version of these
options, help each other...
adopt a long-range vision (e.g. the next
25-30 years); and...
patiently explain and model these
ideas for your kids, relatives, and
lay and professional supporters.
Pause, breathe, and reflect - what are your active subselves thinking
and feeling now? If you have thoughts like "Whoa - this looks like a lot of
work!" - you're right! So is living with escalating relationship
stress from the three sources of unresolved values conflicts!
Can you name them?
Experiment with these options and see what happens. You
can tell if they "work" well enough if you and your conflict-partners feel...
satisfied with the communication
between you, and...
you each can genuinely accept
whatever compromise you've agreed on without significant resentment, hurt,
anger, anxiety, and/or guilt.
these options don't work
well enough, review your resolution process a step at a time -
as teammates, not opponents. The two most common blocks to these steps
working are (a) unseen psychological wounds in one
or both partners, and (b) not using the seven communication
Special Cases - Impasses
Two common symptoms of major unresolved values conflicts are impasses
and relationship cutoffs. Have you experienced
these? Let's gain some perspective on them using the ideas above.
Try saying your definition of "an impasse" out loud. How
would you describe this concept to an average 12-year old? Then
your normal reaction to an impasse, and...
whether your reaction is
usually effective or
not (Do you each get your main needs met well enough?). Finally,
decide whether you want to improve how you
Microsoft's Encarta dictionary
defines an impasse as a "block
to progress or agreement:a
point at which no further progress can be made or agreement reached." In a family context,
an impasse is "a stressful situation involving conflicting perceptions,
values, and/or needs in which no one is willing to compromise."
Major impasses can cause or
promote family violence ("rage attacks"), addictions, abuse, affairs,
relationship cutoffs (below), avoidances, criticisms, antagonistic "camps" of
relatives; psychological and legal divorces, and desertion. Each of your family
adults and kids will form their own
opinion of what a "significant" impasse is. Disagreeing over these definitions is
a values conflict!
Do you remember how the adults who raised you dealt
with impasses? Do you feel they did so effectively? Did they teach you how to deal with them? Have you
or others taught the minor
kids in your life how to recognize and resolve them well?
What Causes Major Impasses?
If you've witnessed or experienced a significant impasse, keep it in mind as
you consider what follows. When
someone is unwilling to compromise, one or more of these core reasons
one or both people are...
ruled by a
(wounded) and don't
(want to) know it, or...
A common symptom of this is one or both people feel that
being right or winning short term ("my way or the
highway!") is more important than long-term mutual acceptance and
one or both
people aren't using, effective-communication
one or both people feel that
all perceived compromises will violate their personal
and dignity, and they're not willing to do that.
Can you think of other causes of social
impasses? Note the implication:
impasses are a symptom of the
option is for all people in an impasse to
take responsibility for
assessing themselves for false-self
and committing to
any that they find via Lesson 1 tools. Significant psychological wounds are a core cause of most
(all?) role and relationship problems.
Reluctance to self-assess and/or to follow up strongly suggests false-self
dominance and probably a
equally-valuable option is for all people stuck in a major impasse
commit to progressing at
Lesson 2 - i.e.
to patiently studying
and applying effective communication skills.
mutually-respectful problem-solving doesn't succeed,
agree to disagree.
In my experience, reluctance or
ambivalence about doing this and denying or justifying it, are sure signs of
significant psychological wounds.
Another symptom of wounds + unawareness + unresolved values
become intolerable and hope of resolution dies, people "cut off" contact with the other person/s ("I'll have nothing
more to do with Sarah's family.") The cutoff may be mutual or one-way.
Typically, no one snared in a relationship cutoff is aware of the
impasse or the resolution-options above. Anyone can learn and
patiently apply these options to see if the impasse will free up over time.
essential first step is to work toward
putting your true Self steadily
in charge of your
other personality subselves.
This brief YouTube video explores relationship cutofrfs:
Reflect - have their been any relationship impasses or cutoffs that have
affected you, and/or are doing so now? Try applying what you've read above to
better understand what may have caused them, and what you may do about them. What do you want to do now?
This article defines and
illustrates values conflicts, proposes what causes them, notes two types of
values conflict (internal and interpersonal), and suggests specific steps to
avoid and reduce them. Key steps are...
learning to assess for and reduce
significant psychological wounds (Lesson 1), and...
to practice effective-communication basics and skills (Lesson 2).
The article also offers perspective and resolution suggestions for two
of values conflicts - impasses and relationship "cutoffs." It
includes links to relevant resource
articles in this Web site.
Pause, breathe, and reflect - why did
you read this article? Did you get what you needed? If not, what
do you need? Who's answering these questions - your wise