Checkmate of Pain
by Ronen Divon
Children can give us great insight into our own conflicts. They have not yet refined the art of deceit and thus their emotions are presented in a clear and straightforward manner. When they want something they simply say (or scream) it. When they are hurt, their entire being shows their pain. And when they are happy, their smile and laughter are authentic.
Listening to children argue gives us further insight. They each make claims to their stand of injustice without listening much to the other children. Their voices state loud and clear: “I am right.” There is not even “you are wrong,” just “I am right,” and nothing else really matters much. Sometimes it’s the bigger kid that “wins”, sometime it’s the loudest. But ultimately, as we know all too well from our own adult life, when it comes to resolving matters by force, everyone loses.
In assisting my children find a way to resolve disputes, I have implemented a strategy composed of several elements beneficial for adults as well:
- Each party in the dispute gets a set, and usually short (e.g. 60 second), amount of time to present their case.
- When a party presents their case, the other parties must sit quietly and look them in the eye. No response in words or gestures is allowed.
- Most importantly, before a party starts to present, the listener(s) must state in a clear loud voice: “I promise to really listen to you, irrespective of what I thought was right until this moment.” This step is the single most important element of dispute resolution.
- The parties are not allowed to leave the room until the issue is resolved. They can continue the presentation rotation as many times as needed. Yes – getting tired sometimes helps one see the “light.”
As a parent I initially had to enforce this strategy, but once the children realized it works, they started doing it on their own. Even the biggest issues they face ultimately get resolved and they can move on.
Touching again on point #3 from the above, the art of listening to another, especially when you are busy with your own pain and injustice, should be taught in school. It should be a skill children learn right from First Grade, heck, even from Daycare. Unfortunately most of us grow up without this quality, and, as we grow up, we learn other skills of concealing and deceit, of manipulation and super-ego. We abide by the saying “I’ve already made up my mind; now please don’t confuse me with the facts.” We can no longer resolve conflicts with words. We resort to attorneys, lawsuits, and wars. We play a checkmate of pain – whomever inflicts more of it on the other, wins.
We all have an eternal inner child still inside us; a somewhat innocent child that wants to remain authentic with his/her feelings. This child does not want to play the grownup game anymore; this child wants to freely express the world as it is seen through eyes not yet shaded. If we can connect with this sense of authenticity but also add the mature compassion to others we hopefully developed over the years, there is hope. We start to change, not by force, but rather by self-observation. We can suddenly become listeners, real listeners. And when we really listen, regardless if we agree with the other person or not, we can no longer play this sort of checkmate. The game is broken.
What happens when the game is no longer played? The outcome is similar to an argument where one side of the conflict is no longer arguing. As the saying goes – it takes two to tango. Weight of arguments suddenly waters down, and icebergs of titanic proportions, melt.
After all, if you look back at all those dramatic moments of conflict in your life, was it really necessary to suffer?
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About the author: Ronen Divon is a spiritual seeker of many years. Ronen teaches Hatha Yoga, Tai Chi and Qigong and is a co-founder of the Paths to Shanti Retreats and Workshops (www.PathsToShanti.com). Additionally, Ronen is the founder and main instructor at Monroe Yoga and Tai Chi (www.MonroeYogaTaiChi.com) located in the Hudson Valley, NY, as well as an author of stories for children and adults.
Extra special thanks to Star Galler for her generous and mindful assistance with making this article what it is. Your patience and insightful comments are a blessing. Star is a Yoga instructor and an exceptional classic realist artist. Her phenomenal work speaks for itself. Click here to visit her site. Star is available for commissioned work.
© 2011 Ronen Divon. All Rights Reserved.