Conflict Transformation: A Spiritual Process
By Mark Chupp
This Article Summary written by: Mariya Yevsyukova, Conflict Research Consortium
Citation: Chupp, Mark. "Conflict Transformation: A Spiritual Process." Conciliation Quarterly, 12:3 (Summer, 1993), pp. 6-7, 11.
Conflict transformation is a spiritual process which brings internal, relational and structural change. The author sees seven spiritual aspects to transformation which develop along a cycle. The first aspect is coming together which involves inner work on overcoming fear and distrust. This means that one of the parties or both are engaged in an analysis of his or her feelings and understand the importance of relationships. Commitment and trust are needed to pursue reconciliation. The restoration of trust starts from becoming vulnerable. Opening up, loosening the defenses by sharing one's pain and grief might lead to a reciprocal response from the other party. Listening is also a very important part of the process, as it turns the process toward transformation. Being listened to brings the feeling of validity of one's own needs, and starts the movement toward mutual recognition. Empathy toward the opponent is not an easy task but it helps to establish a true dialogue. When disputants engage in an honest exchange of opinions, individualistic thinking gives way to communal thinking. This can produce restoration in the form of a win-win solution, or it can end in better understanding but a continued conflict of interests.
The author provides an example of transformation from the Camp David negotiations. President Carter personally delivered autographed photographs to Israeli Prime Minister Begin with the names of Begin's eight grandchildren on them. This gesture touched the Prime Minister and they started working on a new proposal, moving the negotiations beyond the stalemate. An inner transformation caused the transformation of the conflict. New trusting relationships emerged from this process of personal transformation. Even if more modest results are achieved, the parties get a better vision of their interests and positions and future actions.
While healthy relationships naturally move along the transformation path, third party intervention can help in establishing such a process for parties in conflict. The seven aspects outlined in the article correspond to the mediation process itself. There is disagreement over whether emotions and spirituality should be introduced into mediation. The author argues that spiritual aspects, sometimes not noticible, exist in every mediation. The mediator's responsibility is to provide a safe and nurturing environment for the parties to work on their personal and conflict transformation. The author calls the mediator the "agent of transformation". The mediator, assisting parties throughout their spiritual journey, goes through a parallel process of personal growth.