We live in a culture which values knowing the answers. Our entire schooling system rewards those who seemingly know the answers and punishes those who appear not to. This answer-centric conditioning translates into our personal and professional lives – not knowing the answers in any areas of our lives becomes a source of anxiety and feelings of inadequacy. If we don’t know the answers, we are supposed to “think about it”, “analyze it” and thus arrive at the answers by mere expansion of mental energy.
Not knowing the answers scares us. In fact, the greatest fear we have as a human race is the fear of the unknown. Doesn’t the fears of public speaking, the future or death all come to that? And in conflict, isn’t it the fear of the unknown that drives us into reaction and (self-) destructive patterns of behavior when we fight for getting what we think we want or try to avoid loosing what we have (even if both are just stories)?
The fear of the unknown locks us into ways of thinking and behaving that fuels conflict instead of dissolving it. Added to that is the stress of having our story challenged, a story so powerful, we believe it to be who we are. No wonder we react to conflict with fear and aggression, seeking to attack, to manipulate or to avoid conflict.
But, what if instead of fearing the unknown, we embraced it as just the place we are at right now? What if we weren’t so mentally focused on the answers, but instead could fully experience the unknown by asking questions and allowing ourselves to directly experience the discomfort the process of asking questions brings without telling a story about it or trying to “get” an answer?
What we would discover is that posing questions without being concerned with the answers would bring out a knowingness that we are exactly where we need to be, that not having the answers is the field of endless possibilities and that the answer will come – right on time (which doesn’t necessarily coincide with when we demand it). We would also discover that the experience we are having in conflict – be it doubt, anger, resentment or fear – doesn’t define us in any way and when fully embraced unveils the unknown for us as the untouched space for it all.
In experiencing the unknown for what it is, we can fundamentally change our experience of conflict, viewing it as an invitation to grow and learn, instead of a challenge or onslaught to who we think we are.