I came across this recently from an unnamed person in a blog calling themselves “Clarity Liberates”. I felt it needed spreading around.

The Root of Conflict in Relationship

The personality ego structure is vulnerable and fragile. It cannot withstand the narcissistic challenges inherent in routine daily interactions without having it’s deficiencies and insecurities exposed repeatedly. This continual chipping away at the ego structure would soon be overwhelming except for the tactics used to divert and dissipate potentially damaging input.

We all, from infancy, have developed the unquestioned habit of looking outward, to others, to know who we are. They tell us, by their words and actions in relationship with us, what and who we are, our value, and our significance. Other people act as mirrors allowing us to see ourselves. As ego personalities we largely exist as a composite of these external images, mirrored to us by others, internalized and then adopted as identity. Consequently we experience our very beings as threatened when negative, insulting or painful images of us are presented by others.

Thus, using people as external mirrors to better see ourselves, we formed self images and in this way created our ego selves. Without constant vigilance, we run the risk that negative images from others might replace or destroy the positive images we hold of our goodness, value, meaning, and significance.

We are vulnerable because others create our ego selves, good and bad. We are fragile because these ego structures are merely images, without real substance. As ego personality ‘selves’ it is inevitable that we always feel threatened by others in this way.

The most commonly used and universal strategy for dealing with this insecurity of identity is to attack anyone perceived as threatening. Mirror negativity and deficiency to them, as their quality. Preserve one’s own fragile self image by projecting inadequacy onto them. This, of course, will have some predictable effects. First, they will be insulted and wounded. Their ego, also a mere collection of images , will be weakened and the illusory nature of their self, nearly exposed. An immediate counter attack will usually ensue, either overtly or covertly. With both parties constantly maneuvering to protect and preserve feeble, image based, self identity structures, it is easy to set off conflict of this nature in any type of human interaction.

In fact, conflict is an absolutely indispensable component of daily intercourse among ego identified individuals . That is to say, it is an integral part of the coping strategy for everyone, in all of their relationships. The active experience of conflict directs judgmental, critical energies outward, away from your own threatened ego self. It elicits powerful emotions like anger, hatred, rage and contempt. Though distorted and destructive, they give substance and support to the ego. Energy flows. One knows what to do. Action is taken.

Thus, conflict actually serves to convert personality damaging, deficiency revealing , negative mirroring into an experience of self as substantial, and capable. Conflict tells you where you stand, who you are, and what you should do. It gives orientation and is very comforting. Even though the emotions of conflict are negative, they support us when we would , otherwise, experience devastating inadequacy.

Relationships that are structured around conflict elicit this defensive psychic armor; protecting, shielding and defending the fragile ego. If we are to exist as functional, adult personalities we must live, to some degree, in a continual state of conflict. That we all do is self evident.

From early on, we need others and they need us for ego creating, ego enhancing mirroring and support. We also need others and they need us for conflict, and a place to project our own deficiencies, so that we can deny and remain numb to the truth of our own ego vulnerabilty, inadequacy and anxiety. We need contentious others for the armoring, energy, substance, orientation and power evoked in defense of the ego. Ego personalities in relationship simply must have a steady diet of conflict to maintain the integrity of their experience of self.

The inevitability of conflict between ego personalities is best demonstrated in intimate relationship. The ego threat that we seek to defend ourselves against is rooted in our habit of knowing ourselves through others. The one person, historically, that we all most rely on to know ourselves, is our mothers. It is Mom, the unquestioned authority in our infancy and childhood, who informs us about our being, our value, and our significance long before we have the maturity of introspection and self observation. She literally tells us who we are. Later this capacity and right to define us is voluntarily conferred , in large measure, upon our intimate partner.

Because the partner is entrusted with this power to define who we are, our value, and our significance, they exert an immense influence over the quality of the experience of our life. If we perceive them as mirroring us negatively, our reaction is profound. The negativity they are expressing about us may be minor, but the threat that it represents to our self image is major. So is our reaction. In this way, conflict between partners is prone to escalate out of control, even when both parties are well meaning. The stakes are just so high. As personalities , conflict with the partner tends to overwhelm. The experience of fair, informative and appropriately perceived negativity from one’s intimate partner is nearly an impossibility. Again, this is due to the vulnerability of the ego combined with it’s extreme fragility as a structure of images.

An intimate partner is encouraged to express positivity and mirror good images to their lover, but not negativity, even when appropriate and balanced. The ego just spooks to easily. Over- reaction to criticism expresses first as a defensive counterattack. Negativity projected back onto the complaining partner. This will then provoke an over reaction in them. The chance of a measured communication of simple displeasure then goes out the window. Both partners are relating from the space of an extreme threat to their identity. Appropriate handling of the original issue is lost in a desperate flood of emotion and confusion.

Ego’s fragile vulnerability, most specifically to the intimate partner, makes us prone to feeling quickly overwhelmed in any conflict with them, yet conflict will certainly happen. The issue of how to handle conflict appropriately is central to the maintenance of an enduring and authentic relationship. The challenges for ego personalities to attempt this are formidable but unavoidable for couples intent on a mature relationship grounded in truth.

Ego selves just don’t relate to others very well. They’re too fragile, too needful, too easily spooked and too ruthless when they go off. This situation is not presented for lamentation, nor because it needs to be fixed. It is offered simply for consideration. To be pondered. Held by that part of us that is bigger than this. Clarity of understanding evokes healing.