Self Awareness

Morton Deutsch

E.L. Thorndike Professor and Director Emeritus of the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution at Teachers College, Columbia University

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

A: But, you see, one of the problems in intractable conflicts, is that people get enmeshed in these malignant relationships. Where it's true that the other is a bastard, so to speak, but you don't realize that you're a bastard too in that relationship. It's that aspect of it.

Q: How do you foster that sort of self-awareness to become aware of your own part in creating the malignant relationship?

A: You help each to see that its natural for the other to interpret your action as being hostile, and for him or her to react to that in a hostile way. What is going on is a vicious spiral in which there are self-fulfilling prophecies. You think the other is being hostile to you and you act in such a way to support the other being hostile to you. In other words, there are many relationships, husband wife relationships, where if a wife thinks that the husband has done something behind her back, she might hear something from a neighbor, or someone, and she gets hurt. She acts in an angry way towards him. He feels that there's no reason why he should be attacked. So, he responds with an attack. Rather than saying, why are you angry with me? Can you explain? I don't understand. Trying to open up. People without any sophistication in these kinds of processes often fall into these kinds of traps.