Hopefully you caught the end of my previous blog post. Here it is again since it's what I want to follow up on today:
"I understand sometimes situations require a fast response and a decision. When we practice the above on a regular basis, we discover that the time we need to 'be in the unknown' and arive at a solution becomes less and less.
We are also empowered to more quickly recognize when we're making sub-optimal decisions, and therefore, correct course more effectively before it's too late."
Many times when we are experiencing conflict, our values and integrity are also being challenged. What makes it "a rock and a hard place" is often that two or more things of importance to us are not playing nicely together.
Maybe our parents want one thing and our spouse wants another.
Or perhaps we are sick and feel torn between conventional medicine and natural medicine.
Even more compounded could be that while we personally might be fine without pain-killers because we don't want to use over the counter medications, our child is in excrutiating pain.
We then have to ask: What's more important? Relieving a child of pain or not using unnatural pain-killing drugs?
Sometimes it could be wanting to purchase two things we really really really want, and only having enough money for one of them.
We could be torn between trying to maintain a peaceful relationship with an ex-spouse while wondering if that is really what's best for the child.
It can even be that we're torn between what we want for somebody else and what we wants for ourselves.
And in one of my favorite plays, Les Miserables, Jean Valjean who steals a loaf of bread to feed his starving family.
Whatever the conflict is, when we get to the heart of "rock and a hard place" we realize that our values and integrity are being challenged.
What's more important: Letting our families starve or breaking the law and violating somebody elses' boundaries?
Jean Valjean chose the latter. Hopefully, your "rock and a hard place" decisions aren't as dire as Jean Valjean's were.
Each difficult situation challenges us to make a choice: Will we live in alignment with what is most important to us, or will we sell ourselves short?
(even if it's just a tiny little bit)
One of the gifts of allowing ourselves to remain in uncertainty, in the unknown, is that our most important values naturally become clearer. As we explore different options, we can feel within which of those options feels better or worse.
Sure stealing the loaf of bread may resolve the conflict quickly. But what if there's another solution… that could be discovered if only we allowed our discomfort to reveal more information to us?
Les Miserables is a play, so we can't really suggest what possibilities Jean Valjean could have chosen instead. However, we can acknowledge that if he had the presence of mind to pause before stealing, he might have found a new possibility that both fed his family and didn't break the law.
We can't know for certain. But we can see that the choice he made landed him in prison, made him an outlaw, and burdened his soul for a lifetime.
And a lifetime is a long time to live with the inner conflict that comes from making hasty decisions that comprlmise our core values.
Circling back: Many of our deepest wishes remain unconscious. We may not always know exactly what we want or need most in a given moment.
That's one reason why conflict challenges us so much: because it is often a pull between what we subconsciously don't know we want and what we consciously think we want.
Being present and pausing allows us some space so that our subconscious wants can come to the surface. Then we can look at them and consciously choose a path that is more congruent with our values.
Over time, as our priorities and values become clearer, we gain the ability to prioritize more effectively. We find it easier to act in alignment with what we truly want. And we can do it much faster than ever before.
Therefore, next time you are facing a real conflict, one question you can ask yourself is simply this:
"What's more important to me?"
An extreme example of this is a hypothetical situation.
Terrorists have kidnapped you and your family. They tell you: "Either kill one of your family members, or we'll kill two of them."
Talk about a rock and a hard place! How do you decide what to do or not to?
This is where your integrity and values come into question. You might start asking things like:
"Who is likely to do the most / least good in the world?"
"Are two peoples' lives more important than one?"
"Will I be able to live with myself by not choosing, knowing that my lack of choice killed somebody who I could have chosen to save?"
"Will I live with the guilt of knowing I personally murdered one of the people closest to me in this world?"
Underneath that are your values. Maybe you refuse to harm another being, and choosing to "not kill" is more important than saving an extra life.
Or maybe you close your eyes, randomly choose a family member, pull the trigger… knowing that the rest of them will be saved.
Or perhaps you decide who is likely to have the least positive impact in the world and shoot that person.
I don't have an answer to that question. I hope nobody ever has to be in that extreme situation.
Still, that example shows very clearly how when we're between a rock and a hard place, what's really happening is our deepest values are being challenged.
And when we get clear on our values over time, those difficult situations are resolved with increasing ease and speed. The only way to get clear is this:
Pause and be present
Resist the temptation to rush to the quickest possible solution.
Ask difficult questions that clarify our values
When we give our inner world enough space, the right answer will always come to us. Maybe not as quickly as we'd like, but it's there waiting to be discovered.