January 9th, 2010


You Say Tomato, I Say Tomotto . . . Understanding Conflict Part I

Word on the street is beginning writers shy away from conflict. I don’t think it’s just writers.  People avoid conflict.  Here’s the thing . . . come a little closer . . . closer . . . good.  We’re faced with intrapersonal (internal) or interpersonal (with other(s)) conflict every minute of the day.  We don’t always label the various presentations (disagreements, clashes, quarrels) as conflict.  Regardless of our labeling, conflict happens. It is a way of life.  So run if you like, but your emotional and physical exertion is pointless.  Conflict is omnipresent.


Many believe conflict is: 1) a wicked knock down, drag out fight that leaves dishes (or bones) broken or 2) dagger sharp insults jabbed into a loved one’s back (or heart).  In the past ten years of practicing psychology, I’ve listened to clients discuss such scene.  Most smart people want to avoid these situations (interpersonal conflict).  But is avoiding, dodging and weaving always the best thing?  Nope.  I’ll discuss why later.


Conflicts come in smaller packages, too.  For example, when I woke up this morning, I grumbled, pulled the sheets over my head and argued with myself: 


PosT: “Trace, get up sunshine.” 

NegT: “But I’m warm.  My bed is warm.  And I don’t really help anyone at work.”

PosT: “Get up.  When the warm water hits ya, you’ll be ready to heal young minds”

NegT: “blah blah.”

PosT: “Okay, you like eating and indoor plumbing?” 

NegT: “You always pull that argument out.  Jeez!” I tossed the sheets and rays of sunlight kicked my fanny to the bathroom.


That, my friends, is intrapersonal conflict.  And I personally think this brand of conflict is the nasty beast waiting in the alley for us.  But I’ll discuss the why’s of that later. 


People get hung up on the idea that conflicts are bad and people who argue are difficult, unpatriotic, arrogant, self-righteous or insert whatever you’ve heard.  But I’m going to shake things up a bit, expose you to the full spectrum of conflict. The way I see it, if you understand what conflict truly represents, you won’t treat it like some vile monster lurking in the alley, ready to suck your life force. Don’t get me wrong, it can be just that.  However, more often than not conflict stretches our thinking and forces us to define (and stand up for) our values. 

So I’m going to spend the next few Saturdays discussing the psychological underpinnings of conflict.  I could make one long blog, but I want you to truly understand conflict.  This means taking my time and giving you a good tour of the topic.  I’ll spend a week discussing intrapersonal and interpersonal conflict.  I’ll bring out some interesting characters called defense mechanisms for part of this discussion.  I love a defense mechanism.   Next, I’ll discuss the good and the bad ways to deal with conflicts in real life. Hopefully, you’ll learn some good things to use in your own relationships.  And then I’ll look at conflict in writing.  It is so important to write conflict into your stories.  I believe the best stories show the internal and external conflict, with at least one form showing up on each page of the book. 


Before I go, I’ll give you something to ponder.  Think about a time when you argued with another adult and you thought, “I’m arguing with a five year old.”  Guess what. You were.  You are the sum of your life experiences.  Those experiences shape how you interpret every interaction in your life.  When someone or a situation stirs strong emotions strikingly similar to a past negative experience you time travel.  You become five, ten, or the age tethered to the transgression.  So the person across from you was experiencing a time travel moment.  We all do it. Don’t roll your eyes and mumble psychobabble.  I speak the truth. 


Don’t be scared.  I’m going to hold your hand every step of the way.  I know this rocky terrain and the creature that roams here.  More importantly, I know about its soft underbelly.  So take my hand and let’s go explore.



Hello, I'm Tracy and I'm An Addict . . .

As January dissolves into February I am trying to contain my joy over two t.v. shows.  Damages (airs on FX, season three starts Jan 25) and Lost (final season starts Feb 2).  I like t.v. okay.  I can live with or with out it most days.  But you tell me Lost or Damages is coming on and all bets are off. I am glued to the t.v.  I want to watch the shows when they air on t.v., commercials and all.  I don't want to Tivo (or DVR), which I can't do because I don't possess the option.  If you call me during the airing of said shows, you must call during a commercial to commiserate in shock. If you are bold enough to call while the show is on, I'm assuming you are stranded and bleeding on the side of the road.  Leave a message or call 911.  I ain't leaving until my show is over. I'm hard core!

Most of you know about Lost and most of you probably stopped watching it because . . . well . . . when you watch it you feel LOST.  I know. I love it and hate it.  For those of you living under a rock, LOST is a show about a bunch of people who survive a plane crash, landing on a mystical island.  There are ghosts, black smoke monsters, love triangles, time travel, destiny, good vs evil (if you can figure out who is what) and a bunch of unanswered questions.  You can't just decide to watch it one day. You have to watch it from day one.  It is a commitment.  I know . . . I just used a dirty word.  Sorry . . . No I'm not. ;D  My fear about heading into the final season is the writers will pull that "Who Shot J.R.? crap they did on Dallas . . .blah blah many years ago.  This show had better not be someone's dream. I want answers. Real answers.  And they better not pull that drop to black that made everyone mad at the end of Sopranos. 

Damages, is a bit newer to the scene.  Glenn Close is a class action-type lawyer. She is DIABOLICAL.  She is the epitome of the good/evil character. You never know if she's batting for Lucifer or Jesus.  It's wicked.  Each season ends with answers to your questions, leaving one question: Is Glenn Close good or bad?  The first episode always shows you a hint of how the final episode ends and each episode after reveals more of the final scene.  It is maddening and exciting all in one.  I feel tingly just thinking about it. 

So what shows do you get excited about? 

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