In 1961, Rudolf Dreikurs self-published a manuscript entitled, “Social Equality: The Challenge of Our Times”.  It is amazingly appropriate for today.  Here is an excerpt.

“Conflicting ideas, by themselves, do not cause hostility: a person with opposing interests is not necessarily an enemy.   He becomes so only in a struggle for power, for superiority.  Hostile emotions spring generally from fear, fear of losing out, of having no chance, of being slighted and deprived of respect and dignity.

Here is the crucial point in human interaction: It is not the issue that determines the form, kind, and outcome of a meeting of minds, as much as the attitude of the participants.  As soon as – or as long as – they are hostile to one another, no agreement, no satisfactory solution can be found irrespective of the issue. In a democracy, which requires cooperation instead of traditional submission, agreement is the only means of settling an issue in the interest of the common welfare. However, differences of opinion and of viewpoints can enrich the thinking and knowledge of all participants in a search for solutions.  They widen the perspective and broaden the understanding. Opposition then can be stimulating, not frustrating.”

It is important that as you read this, you avoid the temptation of applying it just to those who  oppose your view. What Dreikurs describes is occurring on both sides of the issues that we are all facing. The question is, can we put aside the desire for power and superiority and instead work together to solve the problem? Speaking from a position of power and superiority leads either to hostile conflict or no response to avoid the hostile conflict. I want to solve the problems, but I often find myself shutting down in the conversation because I believe that hostile conflict is not productive.  

How do you feel?

Susan Pye Brokaw, LMFT

Founder of the Adlerian Network