Meeting 5-1
Focus: Conflict and Me

The basic structure of this meeting is the same as Meeting 1.1 - refer back for more information.

Some issues may have come up during check-in that the group may wish to spend more time on rather than moving straight into the 'focus'; or perhaps some issue is still to be dealt with from the previous week. When it is appropriate the leader moves the group into the main focus for this meeting.

5) The Big Bit in the middle - the leader announces the focus of the meeting

Focus: Conflict and Me

"In this meeting we have the opportunity to explore our personal experiences and issues around conflict."

Exercises

  1. How do you react (ie describe your feelings, any sensations in your body?)
    1. When you see a conflict on the street?
    2. When you are part of a conflict?
  2. Are you reacting now, as you remember and talk about these incidents? (ie describe your feelings, any sensations in your body?)
    1. If you are reacting now, reflect on the power of these 'reactions'/emotions.
    2. Do you have an impulse to do something? What?
    3. Do you wish you'd done something then? What?
  3. If you are not reacting now, how have you dealt with those issues?
    What actions did you take?
    How do you understand them now?
  4. Reflect and share on conflicts in your family.
    1. What were they about? What caused them?
    2. How did each of your family members deal with them? Or avoid? Or deny? How well did anyone take ownership of their issue? What stopped them?
    3. How did they affect your family/relationships? Then? Now?
    4. Did they have an affect outside your family?
    5. Were you powerless to change anything? Did you try? Were you asked? What were your needs?
    6. How did/do you feel about a) through e) above?
    7. Is there any 'unfinished business'?
      How could you resolve it for yourself?
      Do you want to 'change' someone else, hope they could see it your way? Is this realistic?
      What about 'timing'? Are they ready?
      Are you ready?
      How will you deal with it if it still isn't resolved?
      What do you need;what are you trying to get (from them?) from this action?
      Can you give it to yourself?
    8. What would you do differently now, if anything?
  5. How do you deal with conflict?
    1. Is this a trait you learned in your family?
    2. What would you like to do differently?
    3. How could you create this? When?
  6. Reflect and share on a non-family conflict that is particularly significant for you.
    Repeat 4a) through 4h) with respect to this conflict.
  7. Reflect and share on group issues/conflicts that have occurred and are significant for you.
    1. How do you see them now? Has your view changed? Why?
    2. What, in your view, needs to be re-discussed? Why?
    3. What were your feelings then? Now?
    4. What sensations are you experiencing as you reveal what you want?
  8. How well do you feel this group deals with conflict?
    1. What are the rules the group has agreed to around conflict?
    2. Are they being followed?
    3. Is there an 'unspoken' rule being applied? What is it?
      What is its effect? How can the group address this issue?
      Is a rules debate required?
      Will it make a difference - are men agreeing to one thing and then doing another?
    4. How are you taking care of yourself?
  9. Having done the above exercises, can you write down
    1. What the rules for conflict were in your family?
    2. What the rules for conflict are for you personally, as you apply them now?
    3. What the rules for conflict are for this group?
  10. What do you think your new rules for conflict should be? For you? For this group?

Notes for Meeting 5-1

Our consensus reality around conflict is that it can be dangerous - people sometimes get hurt, relationships may be broken, people go away and abandon us, they may stop liking us and stop being our friends. Sometimes (l) we learn dysfunctional rules about how to do conflict, from our families or other people, who themselves don't know how to do conflict well/appropriately. All of which adds up to the likelihood of us isolating from each other to avoid the seemingly inevitable pains of conflict. Yet here we are in group, 'being' together, confronting 'isolation' - guess what's going to happen? - yup, you got it, conflict!

So here we are trying to do good group work - Well it just so happens that groups are good at four things:

  1. Denying that there is indeed a conflict (Why? - because it's scary going into that place - that energy is powerful and potentially destructive)
  2. Avoiding dealing with it, even if it is recognised to exist (Why? - because we all know that conflicts can't be resolved…)
  3. Trying to rush through conflict and get it over with as quickly as possible, without understanding and focusing on exactly what is going on - ie not setting up a good process (Why? - because it's still scary!)
  4. Not wanting to go back and reconsider old issues/conflicts (Why? - because it confronts the status quo and how we got here-someone is usually invested in that)

So conflict will only happen if someone is brave enough to insist on something different from what everyone else seems to want. There may be considerable pressure to 'go along' with everyone else (or one man, who 'isn't ready' and must take everyone along his path…)- and yes all of us do that to some extent -but at some point it will be time to be different and 'do' conflict.

How successful will it be? That will depend entirely on how conscious we can make our own personal issues around conflict (this can be a fruitful source of men's work) - how much of that we are willing to own - and how open we are to considering learning and maturely applying new healthy rules around conflict. And if a mature group can successfully mediate & require ownership from two men who are 'stuck' in their stuff.

Sometimes we get bogged down on what is healthy and/or appropriate for how we treat each other; sometimes this takes us to a moralistic place of right or wrong - of course with 'me' being right, and 'you' being wrong! As much as we can, we must shed light on and be clear about just exactly what is being suggested, ie spell it out - where will it take us? - what outcomes? Sometimes we can't decide and to be fair must try both ways, and see how comfortably each one sits with us. This can take time and require patience on both sides.