What horses taught me about conflict

Most of us hate conflicts, we avoid them at all cost. It doesn't even matter the scale of the conflict: we will often put up with someone standing a little too close for comfort for fear of making the situation awkward, just as much as we'll avoid dealing with more serious issues. 

It's completely normal. Most cultures favour social cohesion over personal wellbeing, simply because, way back when, we depended on the group for survival. So if Bob the caveman wanted to complain to the clan chief Rex that he was being unfair, he'd probably be kicked out of the cave and eaten by a wolf. 

We have another evolutionary legacy, however, that works in direct opposition to that on social cohesion. It's the fact that conflict is an integral part of our DNA make up. Our brain, like that of all other living beings, believes that the things on which we depend for survival, namely territory, food, and sexual partners, are finite resources for which we must fight each other. It's so deeply ingrained that we don't even know that it's at play. 

If you've ever introduced two horses (or dogs and cats for that matter) you'll see that their first reaction is almost always aggression towards each other. 

Check out this video we've made looking at the natural occurrence of conflict in the life of horses and what this means for us humans. 

In other words, by teaching us to avoid conflicts society taught to avoid something that is intrinsically part of who we are and that is completely natural.

Besides, we no longer have to sacrifice our well being in favour of social cohesion because if Rex is horrible to us, we can now walk out and safely look for another tribe where we'll feel welcome.

But better than that, learning to accept and even engage in conflict situations in a kind but firm and clear way may get Rex to understand he can't be mean to us anymore and we won't even have to find another tribe. Who knows, Rex might even become a really good friend. 

EXERCISE - Putting theory into practice

Teach your brain to re-wire itself so that it learns to 1) spot conflicts and 2) be okay with them.

As you go through your day, pay attention to how you feel. Every time you feel a negative emotion, look around and inside you to see what could be the trigger. Conflicts take many forms, it could be that you want to do or say something but you're afraid of hurting someone. It could be that you were offended by something, it could even be a form of jealousy. Ask yourself: what is this conflict about? Is it an internal one (two parts of me that disagree)? Is it external? Observe without judgement and keep a note of it. You'll start seeing that these are very common and likely occur several times in your week, and perhaps even daily. It is only once you take the drama out of these situations that you'll be able to handle them!

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