When There's a Deep-Seated Conflict

When There's a Deep-Seated Conflict
Sergio De Dios González

Written and verified by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Last update: 28 July, 2022

Conflicts begin with a disagreement or opposition of values, beliefs, or interests between two or more people. Lack of agreement is not conflict in and of itself; it is the cause. Conflict arises when the disagreement leads us to act towards eliminating, neutralizing, or minimizing our opponent.

Sometimes the confrontation is verbal. The objective here is to persuade the other person to accept your reasons or impose your logic on them. On other occasions, conflicts lead to direct action. These actions might entail outright or undercover violence. In all cases, the goal is the same: for one position to win over the other. 

Nevertheless, there are circumstances in which neither of the two parties manages to win. In these cases, there are three possible paths. The first is to just “let bygones be bygones.” That means you ignore the contradictions and strengthen the things that the two parties do agree on. Another variation is to solve the problem by coming up with an agreement that takes into account parts of both arguments.

The second path is to set boundaries and get distance. In this case, the conflict ends the relationship. The third path is to persist with the disagreement no matter what. In this last example, the problem festers and ends up becoming a deep-seated conflict.

“Violence never solves conflicts, nor does it diminish its dramatic consequences.”

-John Paul II-

Deep-seated conflict.

Deep-seated conflict

Conflicts fester when neither of the parties involved beats the other. One way to describe it would be that both sides are evenly matched. But, instead of letting go of the confrontation in light of the fact that no one can win, the disagreement persists. The situation doesn’t change and it remains unresolved.

This type of scenario only happens when there are strong bonds between the conflicting parties. If that weren’t the case, each person would just distance themselves from the problem or take decisive action to stay away from the other person.

Deep-seated conflict, on the other hand, involves a whole slew of common values, beliefs, and interests. There is also some element of intense confrontation. These types of problems are very common in romantic relationships and between friends and family.

Wherever there are human beings, there is conflict. In fact, many of the conflicts are unsolvable. However, we learn to deal with them. We know that so-and-so doesn’t agree with us on some subject, but instead of adding fuel to the fire, we decided to not give it so much importance. It is an adaptive and healthy way to deal with these types of problems. What isn’t healthy is to feed the disagreement and always take it to the limit.

Is there a solution to deep-seated conflict?

There are solutions for all human conflicts. Sometimes they just require a little bit of goodwill. Without it, even the smallest disagreements can eat away at a relationship. It’s d eep-seated conflict when both sides value standing their ground more than they value coming to a solution. They believe that not being able to impose their beliefs on the other person is a serious loss.

A group of researchers from the Universities of Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem, and Herzliya discovered some interesting things about conflicts. They looked at when a person is deeply involved in a conflict. In that case, he sees the reasons that his opponent puts forward as threats. In other words, he feels that agreeing with the other person is like going against himself. He is afraid of sacrificing himself or diluting himself. 

A girl sitting in the woods with string lights.

In light of this, the researchers carried out a test. They presented a video to a group of Israeli fanatics, the content of which was related to their beliefs. The material supported their beliefs about Palestinians, but it also took them to new extremes. For example, total elimination, degradation, and even stoning of Muslims all over the world.

The videos in no way disagreed with the beliefs of the study subjects. On the contrary, they took them to the extreme.

The result was that those who watched the videos were more likely to re-evaluate their beliefs. In other words, they opened the door to self-criticism and reflection. The best part was that the researchers proved that this attitude change was a lasting one. Psychologists call this “the thought paradox”: the ability to admit that two opposing positions can live together. Do you think this is applicable to your personal life?



This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.