Separation as a Cause of Conflict and Violence

by Lorraine Segal
November 2015

Conflict Remedy Blog by Lorraine Segal201

Lorraine Segal
Misunderstandings, resentments, and differences can fuel conflicts in the workplace or any place. But the longer I work to understand and heal my own resentments and conflicts, and the more I work with individuals and organizations that need help with communication and conflict resolution, the more clearly I see that a huge underlying cause of conflict is separation.

Feeling disconnected from others and one’s own heart, lacking empathy for others, not seeing them as fully human, lacking a sense of how we are all interconnected, causes conflict and enables violence. I believe this is true whether we are talking about acts of terrorism or road rage or cruelty to a co-worker or family member.

Why? Because when people’s hearts are shut down, they cannot feel the impact on another. When people’s hearts are shut down, they are cut off from their own grief, love, and compassion and are capable of horrible acts. The sad thing is that people’s hearts often shut down because they themselves experienced cruelty or horror, felt abandoned and loveless, or had resentments handed down to them generationally. Lacking knowledge about how to forgive and heal, they put deadening walls around their own hearts instead.

People don’t commit terrorist acts against tourists, Moslems, Christians, Jews, gay and transgendered people, African Americans,immigrants, or women because they feel empowered as part of a loving community. They commit them because they have been brainwashed into hate, because they feel powerless, victimized, alone, alienated, or because they have given up on this beautiful imperfect world, seeing it only as a source of pain and pinning all their hopes of joy and peace on an apocalypse/heaven. Do they need to be stopped and held accountable? Of course. But continued violent response without love only breeds more violence.

What can we do instead to stop and heal this pattern? We can start with compassion and gentleness for ourselves and others. We can remember that we are all interconnected, and interdependent, that every person matters. We can start where we are and support opportunities for true listening and dialogue, for forgiveness, and for education, healthcare, living wages for all in our own communities and in other countries. We can support others to let go of their stories of hatred and victimization. And, most important, we can have hope and trust that change and transformation are always possible and our small actions can be a part of that.


Lorraine Segal is a certified Conflict Management coach and teacher, specializing in communication and conflict resolution in the workplace. For many years a middle manager and tenured community college professor, she has her own business, Conflict Remedy LLC.

In her organizational consulting, classes, and coaching, she helps people learn new skills, get “unstuck” from negative stories, and shift their patterns of thinking and reacting so they can learn to: communicate clearly, resolve conflict effectively, and contribute to a more harmonious and productive workplace.

She currently teaches at Sonoma State University, Santa Rosa Junior College, and St. Joseph Health Life Learning Center (Memorial Hospital) and works with various businesses and organizations. 

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