Conflict is a story. It’s a story you tell yourself about what happened, how it happened, and why it happened. It’s a story you tell others as a way to seek comfort or understanding.
In most cases involving conflict, it’s a story you repeat. You think about it in the shower. You talk about it with a best friend. You ponder it on your lunchtime run.
As you tell yourself this story over and over, themes emerge. Certain words, actions, or events stand out. These themes shape the conclusions you draw, what you do to soothe yourself, and what you do next in the situation or relationship.
The more you tell yourself the story, or narrative, of the conflict, the more you believe it. It begins to feel right as a way to explain the events. It is the truth.
Except it’s not.
It feels like the truth of the matter because repetition of a message increases its persuasiveness, something not lost on politicians and marketing firms. It feels like the truth because repetition creates a neural pathway in your brain, a mental shortcut similar to the way a dirt path appears on a campus quad when students travel the same shortcut over the grass again and again.
It’s your truth, yes. It’s your story, yes. But it’s not the story of the conflict.
And perhaps most importantly: As with any story, you can rewrite it.