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The Corona Experience: The Shadow of Mortality and Skillful Conflict Resolution

Can we leverage the pandemic experience to gain emotional balance and increase our capacity to be emotionally skillful?

Photo by Artem Bali
Photo by Artem Bali

To skillfully resolve conflicts, you need to expand your range of conflict resolution choices and become a strategic problem solver. To do so, you require emotional balance. That is, if you unwittingly bear negative emotions in a conflict situation, you will be thrown off your game. 

Research tells us that negative emotions impair our mental faculties and thereby negatively influence our ability to solve problems effectively. Research also tells us that pessimism may increase the likelihood that we will give up more quickly if we reach an impasse in a conflict situation. Becoming emotionally skillful is central to effective conflict resolution. 

You become emotionally skillful through the act of observation. That is, each time you lose your emotional balance, simply observe that you have done so. As you observe, you detach from the situation, reduce the emotional toll, and make more emotionally balanced choices. By gaining control, you increase the gap between stimulus (the event, situation or person triggering the negative emotion) and your response (your negative reaction). You learn to control the situation as opposed to letting the situation control you. 

In Buddhism, this is called mindfulness. Neuroscientists now tell us through the repeated act of observation, we strengthen an area of the brain, just behind the forehead, called the pre-frontal cortex. That is, we become emotionally skillful at the neuro-cortical level. An emotionally mindful brain requires a decision to observe, a commitment to actually do so, and repeated experience. 

That said, at times the pulse of your negative emotions may be so high that the act of observation may not suffice to tip you over to emotional balance. Letting go of your strong negative feelings towards the object of your wrath may simply prove impossible. If you are driven by past history, it becomes even more difficult to let go. When this is so, the shadow of mortality should be your guiding force. 

In the book, Journey to Ixtlan, Carlos Castaneda reminds us that “death is the only wise adviser that we have.” That “nothing really matters outside its touch.” Pondering death, it becomes ever so apparent that our “enemy” is defeated by the impermanence of life, just as are we. It tells us that we are a point of experience and that we share much with the object of our wrath. The hands of time treat us equally. There is no nepotism when it comes to death. In this manner, we not only regain our emotional balance, but also build compassion. 

This doesn’t mean that we let go of solving the problem or demanding that justice be done when we witness injustice. To the contrary, being emotionally balanced, we are able to effectively use all of the tools of effective conflict resolvers to focus on solving the problem. We are able to exert power through assertive self expression. We seek the behavioral changes we wish to see by sticking to the facts, which are always neutral. 

As the Corona experience follows us, we live in the shadow of our mortality on a daily basis. This serves as a great reminder that nothing is as important as our minds make it to be, including our fleeting destructive emotions towards the object of our wrath. Leverage the Corona experience to gain your emotional balance and become emotionally skillful. 

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