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TEDxBozeman-Deidre Combs- Celebrate Your Struggles

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I have been studying cross-cultural approaches to resolving conflict for almost twenty years. I am passionate about this subject. I still, even after all that time get that awful, sick feeling in my stomach when someone is mad at me Conflict indeed is messy, risky, scary and as we all know can be extremely dangerous After all that time I have come to understand that conflict is one of the best things that we've got going for us So, can you think of a time where your life has gotten better, where you have improved somehow without some degree of discord? It might be a battle of ideas, should I take the job, should I not take the job but if everything is going along the same I know I don't change. We need conflict to push us forward The tough needs to come so that the good can occur. It is as Euripides once said there is in the worst of fortunes the best chance of a happy change. So, I find this true in my own life I thought you like a little snippet of me but first we have to stop and look at it wasn't I the cutest darn thing at nine years old? I wanted to be Gloria Steinam when I grew up! So that's the glasses, you've got that! This gives you some of the things that propelled me forward. You'll notice that with all of these there is a battle that ensued before I shifted before I was courageous sometimes I was just fighting with myself like not being ready to go to college at 17 careful when you skip 8th grade you end up young and I was crying in my mother's lap at 17, which was not good and I realized that I probably instead should go to Mexico on a foreign exchange program which has brought me to this work, I probably wouldn't have starting dating my husband if I hadn't had that so that is one example others are when I am fighting with other people like my parents when they moved me to Minneapolis again a good thing over the long haul and I had a whole set of contentious meetings in my late 20's early 30's that drove me to get mediation training and then sometimes we fight with life and in my case you see that a friend died way way too young and our loss of her pushed me to go to graduate school in something that I loved and also to start writing. So I've needed conflict I need the battles to get this far anyway So my job is to look for common tips and techniques that you can find around the world to deal with difficult circumstances. Another way to look at it is I look to see what a wise grandmother would tell me if I was in India if I was in Panama if I was in Italy or in Thailand. What am I told where no matter where I go? The great news is that there is a wealth of tips and techniques that can be found That can help us overcome tough times but today as you know watching a Ted talk I have a conflict! I only have 10 minutes so I get to tell you just 1 cross cultural tip I'm going to tell you what it is why it works, and how to apply it. Are you ready? OK, here we go... The global tip is when conflict grateful. I know right...when a guy cuts you off in traffic give thanks. When the woman thinks your ideas are absolutely ridiculous be appreciative and if you live in conflict or post-conflict zones like so many of my students even then we are counseled to count this as a blessing. As counterintuitive as it may sound, finding gratitude in conflict makes us safer and more apt to find resolution. The advice is clear. If we even just start at the world's major religions you'll find in Christianity they'll say Give thanks regardless of the circumstances In the Islamic and Jewish traditions we are told to stop and give praise for whatever comes our way 3 to 5 times a day. And I appreciate in Hinduism they give us a goal to shoot for "Such people have mastered life" this is the idea that whatever comes along on our path that it is good that it is equal and is part of this greater Whole So why is this a global tip? I think brain research is giving us some clues. Here's your brain, I am going to tell you This is your brain, this is your brain on conflict So here we go. Your brain is actually like three or four brains all cobbled together. You'll notice that you've got the limbic system in the middle and these different pieces take turns driving. The limbic system's job, one of its jobs, is to look for threats. To look for things that might hurt you. It is paying attention, "Is that a problem, is that a threat?" "Is that a problem?" And if it sees something it is hard wired to give control to your reptilian brain. And you can see that, it's that dark part down in the base, like a reptile hiding it acts like it too sometimes! But it's job is that if there is an immediate physical threat is to get you into fight flight. So it's to course adrenaline through your body and get you ready to get the heck out of here or to neutralize your opponent. But the problem is if this is not an immediate physical threat that you are dealing with not such a good place to be when in conflict. Now you may have noticed on the previous chart that I am a mother of 3 and so when I'm in my reptilian brain or in fight flight this is the point where the screaming teenager is yelling at me and I'm screaming right back! and about 20 minutes later I am desperately regretting what I've just said It is the place of, most of the time, very poor parenting skills I know that no one else can relate to this Where we want to be most of the time if there is not an immediate physical threat, we actually want to be in our neocortex. You can see that, it's the light and fluffy part and your pre-frontal lobes There are amazing in that this part of our brain can think in past, present and future where the reptilian brain only in the present only cares about me So this part of our brain -- past, present and future -- and can handle complex problem solving. With teenagers, good plan, right? If this is the place we want to be in conflict, the wonderful thing is that latest brain research shows that that is where we have to process gratitude We have to be in our neocortex to think about things we are thankful for So when something bad is coming your way this cross-cultural tip tells you to think of 5 things you are thankful for and if you do that you have a fighting chance to get your neocortex and in my case as a mother is to maybe be quiet to ask good questions and to see the bigger picture Something I always try to remember when I'm thinking of my brain is that I'm not only fighting with another every time conflict comes, or fighting with life, I'm actually fighting with my brain and if we can remember that and be kind to ourselves that can be a step forward in conflict as well So this cross-cultural tip goes 1 step further it says not only to be grateful for conflict, but also to be grateful for your opponents. We see this in the Jewish proverb, "Listen to your enemy, for God is talking." We also see this in the opening bow of the Eastern martial artists as they step onto the mat and they bow and say, "Thank you for this opportunity to fight, I recognize that you could hurt or destroy me. Teach me what I have to learn." This is the place where our worst enemies have the potential of becoming our best teachers. The problem is that we so often forget, we are hardwired to forget. And we turn our opponents sadly into things. The Jewish philosopher Martin Buber after the Holocaust talked of this terrible propensity of turning our opponents into things We forget that they have value. and that each of our opponents hold the missing information that we need to resolve the conflict. They are a Thou as we see in that opening bow. Yet, the legacy is so long when we forget. When we turn our opponents into things we run into situations that only live with us but with those who follow us. So how many generations as an example for a family to overcome physical and sexual abuse? When do we as a species stop and recover from slavery, the Holocaust and other forms of genocide? And there are the times where we take other species and we turn them into evil awful things that we need to eliminate. And as we've heard and as we know that legacy is long as well. We need to remember the Thou. Because conflict is calling us to our best. I continue to be attracted to working with people in conflict which seems kind of strange but you know I get to see people shine. I get to see, just as the Zen saying provides, that "An unencumbered stream has no song." Sure, I get to see people at their absolute worst. If you've seen me in conflict you've sometimes seen me at my absolute worst, but I also get to see people sing. I get to hear from a young Bahraini woman who was a student of mine, how she held calm how she held gratitude when the police came to take her away for questioning at 2:30 in the morning. Her family was screaming and crying but held calm and she made it through unscathed and the charge? That she had posted on Facebook that she wanted peace and justice in Bahrain. She is now safely in another country studying. I also get to see a man in his 70's who participated in a series of contentious conversations about homosexuality and its place in their church. And he said to me, "Deidre, all my life I have never considered what it would be feel like not to be welcome. I had never put my feet into my gay parishioners shoes. This conflict changed me." So conflict creates our hero's tests. It creates those life defining moments where we like the encumbered stream can sing our proudest souls' anthems. Plato once said, "I exhort you also to take part in the great conflict, which is the conflict of life." May we each meet each difficulty and each opponent, each opponent, with appreciation and may we engage well. Life brings struggles, may we celebrate those struggles and shine. Thank you very much.

Video Details

Duration: 13 minutes and 37 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Genre: None
Producer: Christina Choate
Director: Steve Spence
Views: 507
Posted by: tedxbozeman on Apr 17, 2012

Deidre Combs provides an ancient cross-cultural technique — what it is, why it works and how to apply it -- to skillfully confront the modern challenges that come our way.

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