How Could She Think That?

“How could she think that?”

We are often amazed by the reasoning or perhaps the lack of reasoning of those around us.

Photo Credit: AWa (Creative Commons)

I’ve been an avid student of conflict for a little more than a decade. But I’ve been a practitioner all of my life.

Only in recent years have I come to realize the powerful role that our thoughts play in the ways that we see, approach, and even generate conflict. For some reason (perhaps because I was trained as a lawyer), I believed that conflict was primarily a product of emotion and that the world of emotions was this “other realm” where critical thinking never entered.

However, I’m rethinking that position.

An increasing amount of attention is being given to the way our brains work and how those inner-workings impact the way we handle conflict. Almost every conference I’ve attended in the last two years has had at least one session on neuroscience.

And my personal interest has been heightened by a collision in 2010, a loss of memory around that event, and my emerging acceptance of the fact that our brains often block our total comprehension of our condition in order to protect us from potential harm. Just as my thinking processes shifted to allow me to recover, I began to recognize the ways that people in conflict have similar realignments in thinking.

I’ve also discovered that there are simply some physical limitations on the way our brains process information and that some moments are better than others when it comes to decision-making. And it excites me that knowing those things can help me to help others find peace.

As I prepare course material for a new course, “Critical Thinking & Analysis,” I thought I would share, from time to time, new things I’ve learned. I’ll be dropping them here on my website under the general banner of “Thinking About Peace.”

I welcome your input and your questions. You’ll soon realize that I’m no expert — just a student of the fascinating power and function of our God-given ability to think. I look forward to hearing from you and thinking about what you have to say.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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2 thoughts on “How Could She Think That?

  1. Joey, this is an excellent venue for exchanging ideas about the physiological behavior of the brain. It makes me wonder if our flight or fight [stem] behaviors could be cohersed into other responses if we would habitually “pause before we say anything negative.” Of course, this is a third response—waiting.

    But is this a resolution? Does waiting end in peace? Or does it just put off the ‘fight’. And will that change the outcome? There are some people that insist on staying the course and duking it out even if they have to wait for the confrontation. Could we catch them at a better moment when their brains are more gracious? More willing to consider new possibilities.

    There are others who will decide that the process is not worth the outcome, particularly when both brains are not thinking of peace.

    I think that one hindrance to this third reaction, then, is the other party. It seems like the person in fight mode will often not let the thinker free (to think). In their perspective, the fight must be had and now. They must have their say.

    Walking away is easy (flight), but does not resolve.

    Moving both parties’ psyche into analysis of the situation and creation of a resolution is the ticket and it is what mediators have been doing these many years. It is also what educators have been striving towards for years.

    Higher order thinking is bound to result in better relationships and “peace maturity.” This is just another valid reason that schools and universities are pursuing core curriculum philosophies in which all disciplines are melded and projects are created that incorporate right and left brain ideologies.

    • Tina, such an excellent statement!

      For several years, I have pushed the idea that peacemaking is creating space for conversation and, to some extent, maneuvering. There is an element of waiting in making space. By waiting and making space, we allow someone else to (1) fully express themselves, (2) vent enough to get all of their often disconnected thoughts out for contemplation (both by themselves and others), and (3) to grow in their trust in us to listen and to give them respect. On the other hand, by waiting and making space, we allow ourselves to (1) fully hear the other person; (2) fully explore our understanding of what is being said AND what our current position is; and (3) formulate a response that is intended to further the conversation.

      One of the difficulties in the model is realizing that sometimes the “conversation” doesn’t occur all in one setting. Sometimes it is carefully nurtured over multiple meetings — and in some cases over an entire lifetime.

      Conflict resolution is very much a journey. While we can point to milestones along the way, a “resolved conflict” remains a delicate organism that must be continually nurtured and fed. Again, waiting — creating space — is an essential part of that process.

      I love your last statement, “Higher order thinking is bound to result in better relationships and ‘peace maturity.'” Many believe that critical thinking removes the emotional content from the interchange. I think your statement regarding relationships and maturity will meld with the emerging recognition of how emotionality and rationality provide the best environment for good decisions and actions.

      Thanks for entering the conversation!