Existential Psychology


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There is a stage in the development of groups commonly called ‘storming’ where the veneer of friendliness and getting along is replaced with conflict. The groups that don’t deal well with this stage either regress back to superficial, unauthentic encounters or disintegrate.

What we can take from the idea of storming as a stage in a group’s progression towards authenticity is that conflict is necessary and can actually be considered a good thing in your relationships if you deal with it appropriately. In other words, a relationship free of any conflict is probably not very healthy. There are surely lots of feelings bubbling just beneath the surface that are not being expressed, and you will never reach a state of real intimacy with the other.

At bottom conflict signifies the push for individuality, drawing your line in the sand and stating consciously or unconsciously that you are a different person with different values and a different worldview who has your own needs. When you view conflict in this light you can see why it’s necessary for the health of a relationship. It helps you push for the conditions that will get your important psychological and emotional needs met.

You can learn to accept and even welcome conflict by considering it an important stage in the growth of your relationship instead of a dead end. Everyone knows it feels great when we can express ourselves openly and be ourselves without fear of censure. This can only happen when we have experienced and moved through conflict and landed at a higher state of connection. We know when it arises in the future we’ll be able to handle it, that we’ll be able to say what’s really on our minds and still be accepted and respected.

When you feel this way in your bones all aspects of your relationship will be strengthened and you will spend most of your time getting along. Conflict doesn’t arise precisely because you know it can arise without destroying your relationship or hurting you emotionally. What’s important then is not avoiding conflict but dealing with it in a healthy way. One means to accomplish this end is to not take it personally and to never globally attack the personality of the other but instead consider yourselves on the same side, facing conflict as a team and trying to solve it together.