I am of the opinion that psychodynamics play a more crucial role in fueling conflicts and thus is more central in Conflict Analysis or resolution that other factors. In this paper, through relating psychodynamics with all the other factors, I want to show that all the other factors are important; however, I believe psychodynamics are central because they determine the personality of the individual.
Nonetheless, even as I assert the centrality of psychodynamics as a core factor, I appreciate the poignancy of the other factors i.e. conflict style, culture, social identity, communication and power. It is the position of this paper that all other factors are important, however, related issues have to be traced back to an individual’s psychological disposition. The individual’s or society’s collective psyche is determined by many factors but psychodynamics come central when explaining how individuals or society at large respond or reacts to issues.
Efforts to explain human behavior scientifically can be traced back to the mid 1800s (Levy & Ablon, 2008). According to Freudian psychology, human behavior is a function of both conscious and unconscious choices. The conscious and unconscious choices are determined by the mind, ones personality and his or her general psyche.
There are three key parts or elements to an individual i.e. the id, the ego and the superego. The three elements are largely formed or influenced during childhood. The battle between the emotional forces i.e. the id, the ego and the super ego that determines action choices by individuals.
Psychodynamics are important in explaining emotional balance in individuals (Levy & Ablon, 2008). From early thinkers to more modern thinkers, there is relative agreement that individuals seek wholeness and oneness. Individuals have psychological needs and do everything with the aim of achieving emotional balance. Understanding psychodynamics is important in Conflict Analysis.
It helps towards being able to identify behavior and anticipate behavior. Such understanding will help toward communicating appropriately and thus resolving issues. Psychodynamics helps towards individuals being able to deal with their own internal challenges or conflicts. By so doing, individuals are able to deal with others resourcefully without forcing their reality on them.
To appreciate the centrality of psychodynamics in a conflict, one has to look into happenings in prewar German and Europe at large. Most European leaders were egoistic and they toyed around with the ego of their people through patriotic rhetoric.
Looking at what happened in German, Folger et al, (2008, p. 13) agrees that psychodynamics is central in understanding parties in a conflict and what is driving them Each individual in a conflict has a need that he or she has to address. Hitler has certain psychological needs that were driving him. Moreover, he was clever enough to tap into the needs of his people and thus psychologically manipulated them into supporting his course.
Despite the centrality of psychodynamics as an explanation of behavior, such stipulations have limitations. For instance, Folger et al (2008, p.18) using the prewar Germany example, points out that “psychodynamic explanations have been advanced for the transfer of frustration into aggression against the Jewish Community in the prewar Germany.
However, they do not account for why the Jews, in particular, were chosen rather than other minorities and non Germanic nations”. This implies that other factors also play a critical role in determining individual’s perception and channel of action.
Social cultural factors play an important role in determining how emotional forces inside individual get to play out in the society. According to Folger et al (2008, p. 18), social factors can best explain why the Jews were chosen over any other minorities or non-Germanic nations.
Social perception and conditioning comes in handy in terms of channeling our inner energy. Therefore, even though psychodynamics may explain how we feel inside, it is the social or cultural context that will inform how we express the same. Folger et al (2008. p. 43) contends that to understand the social or cultural influences on any major conflict; one has to look into social influence after and during the conflict.
In day-to-day lives, societal norms dictate how we behave and react to situations or issues. For example “Our culture frowns on aggression” (Folger et al, 2008, p. 54). This means that even though ones ego may be hurt to the extent that he or she feels like acting in a given way, the person will refrain from violence or aggression. We all have to find social approval if we are to survive in society. Consequently, society has an unrivaled control or influence on us.
The Germans may have been aggrieved due to ego related needs, however it is the social prejudices that determined what happened. Instead of expressing their frustration in another way or attacking another minority group, the social prejudices that had been entrenched through propaganda and myth led to their attacking the Jewish community.
The role of social perception and culture notwithstanding, what is clear is that psychodynamics come first. Psychodynamics explain why there was frustration in the first place. Culture only explains why the frustration was channeled in a particular way.
Communication is very important in any Conflict Analysis endeavor. It is only when people communicate clearly that they are able to understand each other thus resolving contention. Actually as Folger et al (2008, p. 5) contends, “Communication both intended and unintended looms large because of its importance in shaping and maintaining perceptions that guide conflict behavior”. This means that communication can either aggravate or help towards resolving of a conflict.
In the Germans and Jews conflict, properly tailored communication was used to poison people’s mind and make them believe that Jews were enemies. However, in the final analysis, it was only through communication that individuals realized how wrong abuse against the Jews was. This means that communication in itself is not wrong or right but the intent of communication can aggravate or alleviate an already existing difference or conflict.
Folger, (2008, p.5) points out that “we do not however agree with the adage ‘most conflicts are actually communication problems”. This is a common misconception i.e. people think that conflicts exists due to people not communicating. People may be communicating their needs and perspectives very well but still differ. As Folger (2008, p.7) discusses “the vast majority of conflicts would not exist without some real conflict of interests”.
The big question would be ‘what makes people fixated to given interests or view points and fails to see things as per context?’ Psychodynamics may help us understand what goes through an individual at such times. This means that even though communication matters in Conflict Analysis, communication only works best when individual identify their real conscious and unconscious needs that are motivating them.
Moreover, communication is relative in terms of perceived meaning, intended meanings, actual meanings and apparent meanings of a message. Culture and social ties between people inform communication in itself. For instance, peers may tell to each other vulgar words and yet they do not cause each other anguish. When communicating, individuals rely on “the kind of relationship and his or her life script and culture to help identify the likely intent” (Folger et al, 2008, p. 57).
In the German against Jewish community conflict, the people were told horrendous stories that would be perceived as queer by an independent individual. However, for the Germans, the communication from the party was absolute truth and annihilation of Jews was not an issue for further debate. In the case of peers, when they say wrong things to each other, they strengthen their comradeship. However, the same things if put to someone else would truly be unwelcome and disrespectful.
Power is very important and necessary in any conflict. Therefore, any conflict resolution mechanism has to look at power dynamics in the relationship. The bases of power determine how individuals interact; additionally, the perceived base of power determines others’ allegiance, respect and loyalty to those on power (Folger et al, 2008, p. 111). The Germany against Jews conflict and related atrocities were committed due to the mythological power that the party and Hitler wielded over the people.
Charismatic individuals who wield personal power like Hitler have a way of ensuring allegiance. However, as we seek to understand who has power and what its base is, it is informative to look into why he or she is using power the way it does. Such a consideration points to the fact that although power fuels or prevents conflicts, what is critical are the psychodynamics that determine whether an individual uses power selfishly or altruistically.
Balance of power matters a lot in a group. Conflicts arise in case there are alternatives or competing interests. When there is an alternative to current state or current proposition, then individuals have sides to choose from depending on their interest. Folger et al (2008, p. 117) “if a groups does not know that problems or alternatives exist it can’t very well raise them or promote open conflict.”
Long after much of Germany had been ran over by the allied forces in the second world war, Hitler still hang on. Most Germans still believed that they would conger or win against the allied forces. This kind of self-deception comes with a deep-seated desire not to lose face. People love to feel important and they would do everything not to lose face (Wilmot & Hocker, 2010).
The need not to lose face is exemplified in how people react to any form of embarrassment. It is common to see people “in social distress, including blushing, sweating, blinking fumbling, stuttering and general nervousness” (Folger et al, 2008, 130).
Some people died in the Nazi German due to not heeding others and running away from the Nazi. For some, running away was a cowardly act. Others could not keep their cool when they saw their people maltreated. They fought back so as not to lose face. The same applies to a quite a number of Germans.
They did bad things to Jews not because they supported such behavior; rather, they did not want to look cowardly in the face of others. Efforts at face saving account for much rigidity in conflict negotiations (Folger et al, 2008, p.135). When an individual who enjoys relative prestige or esteem in society find himself or herself in the wrong, they are tempted to gravitate towards grandstanding due to pain of losing face (Folger et al, 2008, p. 136).
Therefore, some conflicts only persist because individuals do not want to lose face. However, it is informative to note that there are given psychodynamics involved when individuals refuse to eat humble pie. Actually, in helping such people, one has to address their needs that make them feel like doing what is honorable and resolving a conflict is losing face.
At the heart of face-saving is a certain self-identity. It is an attack on the given self-identity that makes individuals feel like they lose face or worthy. Apart from the self-identity is the social-identity that informs ones person (Wilmot. & Hocker, 2010). Each a people e.g. the Germans had a given social identity they desired.
Hitler and friends easily tapped into that by asserting that Jews were the only obstacle between the Germans and the kind of self-identity or social identity they felt they deserved. As Folger et al (2008, p. 34) points out, “Intergroup differences often contribute to the persistence, intensity and violence in conflicts”.
This is very true when one considers the Germans against Jews conflict. Simple conflicts between single Germans and Jews were fed into the general prejudices against the whole groups. Consequently, neighbors did not care about neighbors being taken to the gas chambers.
“There are few things as troubling as persistent as a conflict that feeds on group prejudices” (Folger et al, 34). Moreover, the group prejudices translate into self-serving self-identities. Such people are very eccentric and thus only focus on things as they fit into their schemas (Folger et al, 2008, p. 149).
Social identity is one of the key things why individuals would not budge from given stands in a conflict (Folger et al, 2008. p. 151). It is because of established social identity that individuals would do their best to avoid appearing to give in. However, in dealing with given identities, it is important to realize the psychodynamics on which they find anchor. Therefore, psychodynamics can help explain given self or social identities and thus more crucial.
Resolving any given conflict largely depends on the conflict type one is dealing with. Some individual when in conflict decide to use avoidance tactics. Other people will seek or been keen on finding compromise by taking middle point positions. Other parties will seek allies and collaboration in order to win or end the conflict.
In many instances, individuals seek to win over others and use all means as long as they win. In some other instances, those in conflict seek to accommodate others as a response to conflict. All these conflict styles have to be analyzed and understood one seeking to end or manage a conflict.
However, just as mentioned before, the individuals’ disposition plays a critical role in determining how an individual engages in a conflict situation. Therefore, psychodynamics can very well help in understanding why a given individual may choose an avoidance conflict style. Probably, once that is understood, the individual can be helped to deal with the conflict more resourcefully (Folger et al, 2008, p. 191).
From the foregoing discussions, it is clear that all the factors are important in analyzing conflicts. However, it is my argument that psychodynamics are central and determine how the rest of the factors may become manifest. For instance, conflict styles are important. However, the choice of a conflict style has to do with an individual’s psychological disposition.
Folger, J. P. Poole, M. S. & Stutman, R. K. (2008). Working Through Conflict: Strategies for Relationships, Groups, and Organizations. 6th Eds., New York: Allyn & Bacon/Pearson
Levy, R. & Ablon, J. S. (2008). Handbook of Evidence-Based Psychodynamic Psychotherapy: Bridging the Gap between Science and Practice. New York: Springer
Wilmot, W. W. & Hocker, J. (2010). Interpersonal Conflict. 8th ed., New York: McGraw- Hill