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The Anatomy of Peace

The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict by The Arbinger Institute

Here are a few of my notes… (and some great diagrams can be found here)

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That strategy will be illustrated by a diagram we call the Change Pyramid. We aren’t yet ready to consider the pyramid in detail, so I’ve drawn only its basic structure. This overall structure will help us to discover a fundamental change that must occur in us if we are going to invite change in others.”

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“But I won’t invite my child to change if my interactions with him are primarily in order to get him to change.”

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“But Camp Moriah is a private organization with no authority of the state,” Yusuf responded, “and no desire to create additional problems by trying to bully people into doing what we want them to do. We do not force children to enroll.” “Then you have a problem,” Lou said. “Yes, we certainly do,” Yusuf agreed. “The same problem we each have in our families. And the same problem countries have with one another. We are all surrounded by other autonomous people who don’t always behave as we’d like.”

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Lou then glanced at Elizabeth but couldn’t read her countenance. He dug in once more, keeping her in his sight as he spoke. “So the secret to war is to have a heart at peace?” he asked mockingly, turning back to Yusuf. “Yes, Lou,” Yusuf answered unflinchingly. “And not just in war. It is the secret to success in business and family life as well. The state of your heart toward your children—whether at peace or at war—is by far the most important factor in this intervention we are now undertaking. It is also what will most determine your ability to successfully maneuver your company through the challenges created by your recent defections.”

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“Saladin, on the other hand,” Avi continued, “saw and honored the humanity of those he conquered. He may have wished they had never come to the borders of his lands, but he recognized these were people he was doing battle with, and that he therefore had to see, treat, and honor them as such.”

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“In every moment, we are choosing to be either like Saladin or like the crusading invaders. In the way we regard our children, our spouses, neighbors, colleagues, and strangers, we choose to see others either as people like ourselves or as objects. They either count like we do or they don’t.

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In the former case, since we regard them as we regard ourselves, we say our hearts are at peace toward them. In the latter case, since we systematically view them as inferior, we say our hearts are at war.”

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In other words, we are always seeing others either as objects—as obstacles, for example, or as vehicles or irrelevancies—or we are seeing them as people.

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“Seeing an equal person as an inferior object is an act of violence, Lou. It hurts as much as a punch to the face. In fact, in many ways it hurts more. Bruises heal more quickly than emotional scars do.”

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“This issue of way of being is of great practical importance,” Avi continued. “First of all, think of a difficult business situation—say a complicated negotiation, for example. Who do you think would be more likely to put together a deal in difficult circumstances, a negotiator who sees the others in the negotiation as objects or one who sees them as people?”

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Generally speaking, we respond to others’ way of being toward us rather than to their behavior. Which is to say that our children respond more to how we’re regarding them than they do to our particular words or actions. We can treat our children fairly, for example, but if our hearts are warring toward them while we’re doing it, they won’t think they’re being treated fairly at all. In fact, they’ll respond to us as if they weren’t being treated fairly.”

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COLLUSION: A conflict where the parties are inviting the very things they’re fighting against

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“And I would wager a mighty sum,” he continued, “that your respective organizations look like this as well—with workers recruiting colleagues and others with the tales they tell, leading to organizations that are divided into warring silos, one group complaining incessantly about another, and the other returning the same. Until finally, your organizations are filled with people whose energies are largely spent on sustaining conflict—what we call collusion—and who therefore are not fully focused on achieving the productive goals of the organization.

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“True,” Yusuf agreed. “But you see, no conflict can be solved so long as all parties are convinced they are right. Solution is possible only when at least one party begins to consider how he might be wrong.”

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“When I choose to act contrary to my own sense of what is appropriate,” Yusuf continued, “I commit what we at Camp Moriah call an act of self-betrayal. It is a betrayal of my own sense of the right way to act in a given moment in time—not someone else’s sense or standard, but what I myself feel is right in the moment.

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He looked around at the group. “A choice to betray myself,” he said, “is a choice to go to war.”

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“So notice,” Yusuf continued, “when I betray myself, others’ faults become immediately inflated in my heart and mind. I begin to ‘horribilize’ others. That is, I begin to make them out to be worse than they really are. And I do this because the worse they are, the more justified I feel. A needy man on the street suddenly represents a threat to my very peace and freedom. A person to help becomes an object to blame.”

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“Justification has some telltale signs,” Yusuf began. “I’ve already mentioned a few—how we begin horribilizing others, for example. In fact, that sign is a subset of a whole category of signs that you might think of as exaggerations. When our hearts are at war, we tend to exaggerate others’ faults; that’s what we call horribilizing. We also tend to exaggerate the differences between ourselves and those we are blaming. We see little in common with them, when the reality is that we are similar in many if not most respects. We also exaggerate the importance of anything that will justify us.

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THE BETTER-THAN BOX View of Myself Superior Important Virtuous/Right View of Others Inferior Incapable/Irrelevant False/Wrong Feelings Impatient Disdainful Indifferent View of World Competitive Troubled Needs me

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THE I-DESERVE BOX View of Myself Meritorious Mistreated/Victim Unappreciated View of Others Mistaken Mistreating Ungrateful Feelings Entitled Deprived Resentful View of World Unfair Unjust Owes me

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THE MUST-BE-SEEN-AS BOX View of Myself Need to be well thought of Fake View of Others Judgmental Threatening My audience Feelings Anxious/Afraid Needy/Stressed Overwhelmed View of World Dangerous Watching Judging me

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THE WORSE-THAN BOX View of Myself Not as good Broken/Deficient Fated View of Others Advantaged Privileged Blessed Feelings Helpless Jealous/Bitter Depressed View of World Hard/Difficult Against me Ignoring me

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“Although it may be true in such cases that you didn’t perform the outward service you felt would have been ideal, you still retained the sense or desire you had in the beginning. That is, you still desired to be helpful. My guess is that there were probably a number of other things that needed to happen, and you just couldn’t do this additional ideal thing. Am I right?” Carol nodded. “And that’s life,” Yusuf shrugged. “We quite commonly have many things that would be ideal to do at any given moment. Whether or not we perform a particular service, the way we can know if we’ve betrayed ourselves is by whether we are still desiring to be helpful.”

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Which is to say that we construct our boxes through a lifetime of choices. Every time we choose to pull away from and blame another, we necessarily feel justified in doing so, and we start to plaster together a box of self-justification, the walls getting thicker and thicker over time.”

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we invite you to ponder what boxes you are carrying, and the nature of your predominant self-justifications. “I also invite you to consider how your box—this warring heart that you carry within—has invited outward war between you and those in your life.

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“While it’s true we can’t make others change, we can invite them to change. After all, didn’t Mei Li help to change Jenny?”

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“First of all,” Avi began, “you need to realize something about the box. Since the box is just a metaphor for how I am in relationship with another person, I can be both in and out of the box at the same time, just in different directions. That is, I can be blaming and justifying toward my wife, for example, and yet be living straightforwardly toward Yusuf, or vice versa. Given the hundreds of relationships I have at any given time, even if I am deeply in a box toward one person, I am nearly always out of the box toward someone else.”

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“This all sounds fairly basic, but most people who are trying to find their way out of conflict and bitterness never think to do it. Finding themselves stuck in bitterness, it never occurs to them that they have access to unbitter places in every moment.

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You need only to identify the relationships, places, memories, activities, book passages, and so on, that have that kind of power for you, and then remember to search them out when you feel war rising within you. When you’ve accessed such a place—an internal vantage point where peace remains—you can begin to ponder your challenges anew.”

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If they had been able to find their way to an out-of-the-box place, they could have pondered their situations anew by asking a series of questions.” Walking to the board and beginning to write, he said, “Like these:”

  • What are this person’s or people’s challenges, trials, burdens, and pains?
  • How am I, or some group of which I am a part, adding to these challenges, trials, burdens, and pains?
  • In what other ways have I or my group neglected or mistreated this person or group?
  • In what ways are my better-than, I-deserve, worse-than, and must-be-seen-as boxes obscuring the truth about others and myself and interfering with potential solutions?
  • What am I feeling I should do for this person or group? What could I do to help?

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“Exactly,” Yusuf replied. “And that is why I cannot tell you the precise thing you need to do. Only you, whose life it is—who knows the offenses, the missed opportunities, the petty un-kindnesses, and so on—will know. I couldn’t have told Avi that he needed to write a letter to Hamish, for example. Only he could have known that. Likewise, he may not have known enough about my life to suggest that I should seek out Mordechai Lavon. And notice, it is not just the sense of what to do but the desire to do it that’s at issue. That desire has to come from within,” he said. And then he added, “As it already has for you, Lou.”

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So the key to staying out of the box once you have found your way out is to do what you’re feeling you should do. It is to act on the out-of-the-box senses you are having.”

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RECOVERING INNER CLARITY AND PEACE (FOUR PARTS) Getting out of the box

1. Look for the signs of the box (blame, justification, horribilization, common box styles, etc.).

2. Find an out-of-the-box place (out-of-the-box relationships, memories, activities, places, etc.).

3. Ponder the situation anew (i.e., from this out-of-the-box perspective). Ask

  • What are this person’s or people’s challenges, trials, burdens, and pains?
  • How am I, or some group of which I am a part, adding to these challenges, trials, burdens, and pains?
  • In what other ways have I or my group neglected or mistreated this person or group?
  • In what ways are my better-than, I-deserve, worse-than, and must-be-seen-as boxes obscuring the truth about others and myself and interfering with potential solutions?
  • What am I feeling I should do for this person or group? What could I do to help? Staying out of the box

4. Act upon what I have discovered; do what I am feeling I should do.

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“But how about other kinds of conflicts?” Pettis asked. “Conflicts with more history to them, for example, or conflicts between many people. A single heart at peace won’t necessarily solve those.” “No, you’re right, Pettis. It won’t. But notice what it will do. Being out of the box will allow you for the first time to see the situation clearly, without exaggeration or justification. It will position you to begin to exert influence toward peace instead of provocation toward war. While you are correct that a heart at peace alone won’t solve your complex outer problems, those problems can’t begin to be solved without it.”

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THE PEACEMAKING PYRAMID (see here for a diagram)

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LESSON 1 Most time and effort should be spent at the lower levels of the pyramid.

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LESSON 2 The solution to a problem at one level of the pyramid is always below that level of the pyramid.

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“This lesson also runs counter to our normal reflex. When our correction isn’t working, we normally bear down harder and correct more. And when our teaching is going poorly, we often try to rescue it by talking more and insisting more. That is, we drone on in an attempt to correct the problems we have created by droning on!”

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“If I am correcting and correcting but problems remain,” Yusuf continued, “that is a clue that the solution to the problem I am facing will not be found in further correction. Likewise with teaching. And if I learn and learn, even going so far as to revise my opinions, but problems persist, perhaps what I need to do is go out and engage with others personally. Maybe I need to increase my efforts to build relationships both with those I am dealing with and with others who deal with them.

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LESSON 3 Ultimately, my effectiveness at each level of the pyramid depends on the deepest level of the pyramid—my way of being.

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“My effectiveness in everything above the lowest level of the pyramid depends on the lowest level.

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the way-of-being diagram tells us that almost any outward behavior can be done in either of two ways—with a heart that’s at war or a heart that’s at peace.”

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So while the pyramid tells us where to look and what kinds of things to do in order to invite change in others, this last lesson reminds us that it cannot be faked. The pyramid keeps helping me to remember that I might be the problem and giving me hints of how I might begin to become part of a solution. A culture of change can never be created by behavioral strategy alone. Peace—whether at home, work, or between peoples—is invited only when an intelligent outward strategy is married to a peaceful inward one.

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“This is why we have spent most of our time together working to improve ourselves at this deepest level. If we don’t get our hearts right, our strategies won’t much matter. Once we get our hearts right, however, outward strategies matter a lot. The virtue of the pyramid is that it reminds us of the essential foundation—change in ourselves—while also revealing a behavioral strategy for inviting change in others. It reminds us to get out of the box ourselves at the same time that it tells us how to invite others to get out as well.”

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“From within the box, passions, beliefs, and personal needs seem to divide us. When we get out of the box, however, we learn that this has been a lie. Our passions, beliefs, and needs do not divide but unite: it is by virtue of our own passions, beliefs, and needs that we can see and understand others’. If we have beliefs we cherish, then we know how important others’ beliefs must be to them. And if we have needs, then our own experience equips us to notice the needs of others.

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“may we remember the deeper lesson as well: that your, and my, and the world’s hoped-for outward peace depends most fully not on the peace we seek or the wars we wage without but on the peace we establish within.

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“It means that however bleak things look on the outside, the peace that starts it all, the peace within, is merely a choice away. A choice that changes everything. You already know this, as you are already beginning to feel differently about your children.

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