Comments: Fire As A Metaphor For Conflict

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Deborah Ann , North Hills CA   11/12/09
Just wanted to say I enjoyed the rticle and comments. I've been a healing arts facilitator at the same place for five years. As a therapist of the body, which includes mind and spirit. Well, conflict becomes a daily part of the process almost as if it is an actual substance itself! My take is, yes, I agree that given trust humanity is refining the supposed higher vibrations of love. In support of all that is I work diligently because I believe in that goodness of heart. I dislike the whole concept of "playing with fire". Fire is never a toy. Please God Bless America!

Regina  , Sydney Australia   03/14/05
I enjoyed the article. I am currently studying change management theories. If you substituted change management for conflict the article would be just as valuable. I am planning to use it as a means for personal reflection. Thank you.

Carolyn , Lynchburg VA     03/07/05
John, your article was an excellent example of using John Paul Lederach's model for exploring conflict through metaphor. I use this model frequently in my practice and find it is a very effective stratgy to use with a group that is exploring "What is Conflict?" Carolyn

louann , Oakland CA   02/17/05
John I was glad to read this exploration of the meaning of conflict. I am not sure I have fully given the attention to this article that it deserves - online makes me read faster! I am thinking about the fire metaphor. Although knowing this isn't your practice, from my own framework I can say that transformative mediators have done quite a bit of thinking metaphorically -- I would guess because transformative work asks of us to explore our thinking to communicate beyond more literal representations, getting at a different level of exchange (both because of newness and resistance), as well as helping our own growth. I realize reading this piece that I don't have as much of a foundation anymore about how people not involved in conflict intervention think of conflict -- when running a program and training a lot I was much more connected at this level. However, everyone I know runs into conflict all the time, as well as not welcoming it mostly, although there are a few who find it stimulating and clarifying, and I may be part of that group at times. In training I use the example of getting up in the morning when you are struggling with a big conflict and facing it is like saying "oh great, I get to go the dentist today" --and I think there are probably much more significant examples. I appreciated your thinking that conflict is inevitable, and also probing for what I took as a desire for deeper understanding of conflict dynamics. Responding personally, the negative aspect of conflict for me relates more to connecting to ice (stretching from Robert Frost's poem about fire and ice); for me meaning removal, isolation, deprivation of feeling, slow death. Fire seems much more accessible: it comes, if it is death it is fast; it diminishes quickly (unless it is a major forest or grass fire). Ice is much more long-lasting: one of my own personal fears about deep conflict. From Bush and Folger's work, however, conflict is seen as a destructive cycle -- for years I have avoided accepting the word destructive, because I think conflict is simply a thing that exists, like plants, lakes, air, fire and ice, etc -- but I see what they mean. For example, fire, using your metaphor, can result in total incineration. Nothing is left. Most people do not want to experience total incineration, personally or globally. I think what transformative work offers is an opportunity for people to find a way to talk through the disintegration/incineration , without mediator or intervenor interpretation(because we miss so much of what the unstated meaning is), offering opportunities for people in conflict to strengthen themselves, re-assess what is important to them, think about their own sense of connection to others, no pressure. There is not an expectation that all new responses come in that moment. There is actually a lot of trust that human beings, given open and free opportunities, will travel towards a humanistic and optimistic terraine in which their own expression as well as their recognition of the expression and life of others is in balance. Thank you for this like-minded expression.

ana , Olympia WA   02/15/05
Fire as metaphor.....
Excellent articleJohn. Reminds me of dynamic conflict resolver Mary Parker Follett who said 'all polishing is done by friction!' Happy createaday! Ana Schofield