Session 1 – The Dynamics of Conflict


Unit 1/6 – Redefinition of Conflict

In most cultures conflict is somewhat of an undesirable occurrence. To share and to collaborate are the main precepts of today and there’s not too much space left for fighting and arguments. This attitude is of course very productive: it helps us interact with other human beings and work together. However, it also has negative sides. Shunning away from conflict as something that should be avoided and even suppressed gives rise to unnecessary tension and fears when the conflicts do – inevitably – arise. Learning how to deal with them can be beneficial for all the parties involved and for the system at large. 

The core of the approach we propose is to treat any conflict as an invitation to changeThe origin of the notion itself is the Latin con- ‘together’ + fligere ‘to strike’ – two or more elements clash together and come into temporary disagreement. When conflict occurs it simply indicates that something inside a system is going out of sync. If we try to ignore the symptom or try to cover it up, then it will grow out of proportion or simply reappear somewhere else. And while those symptoms can be unpleasant, they also perform a very important function by slowing down metabolism and giving the body the time and space to transform itself and to heal.
Conflict is simply a sign that a system is undergoing through some sort of change. Therefore our role is to help that process of change evolve in a favorable direction (for everybody involved).

In order to do that we need to focus on the dynamics of conflict rather than on the particulars. It doesn’t matter who started what. What matters is that situation evolved in a certain way and now it is time to deal with it. At the most basic every conflict is about differences. One side has one charge and the other side has another. This polarity can produce a flow of energy or it can cause an explosion – depending on how we deal with it. If we learn to modulate this force, we can transform it into something that is constructive, generative and creative.

In the units that follow we will demonstrate how conflict can be modulated in ways that promotes long-term stability, evolutionary development, and innovative change. We will also demonstrate how the absence of conflict can in fact make a system weaker, less robust, and more susceptible.

We will first introduce theoretical concepts that provide interesting insights on the dynamics of conflict: getting our inspiration from mathematics, ecology, physics, anthropology, psychology, organizational and management studies. We will then move on to somatic and cognitive practices that work to modulate conflict dynamics in order to direct it towards a desired outcome.

  

“If you resist, you will create more tension. If you follow completely and fully, you might be drawn into something that you do not really desire. If you interact with attack as a proposition, adapt to it, and channel it into the direction that is of benefit, then you will harness a force that is productive and that can lead to your personal growth and development.”

 

Practical Task – Conflict as Invitation

Next time you encounter a conflict – an internal one because you feel “stuck”, “dissatisfied” or “angry” with yourself, or an external one where you feel that somebody is attacking you, try out the following strategy:

Think of it as an invitation to change and notice how it affects your perception of the situation and your actions. Take particular notice of the dynamics that this invitation produces, what are the protagonists (your different needs? yourself and your friend? some random people?), what are they actions, and – most importantly – how are those actions changing in time (the dynamics). Feel free to write your observations below, so we can discuss your situation if you wish…

Unit 2/6 – Prey-Predator Dynamics

Let’s begin from looking at a very simple model of conflict, where there are only two parties involved. Instead of taking the sides (or trying to understand them) we will instead look at the dynamics of conflict, trying to understand the system itself.

In our approximation one party will be the predator (the stronger specie, a corporation with more resources, an individual with more power, etc.) and the other one will be the prey (the specie, which is “consumed” by the behavior of the predator). Both predators and prey live at a certain habitat, which contains resources. The “prey” consumes the resources to survive, while the “predators” consume the “prey” to survive. 

There’s obviously a conflict in this system: if predators are allowed to do what they want, they will exterminate prey. This may or may not lead to extermination of predators as well in the longer run. For example, if the wolves eat all the rabbits, they might have no food left and their population will start to decline. If a big corporation takes over all the small ones, they will lose their ability to adapt to the changing environment and will lose their position at the next paradigm shift (example: Microsoft and Google). 
On the other side, if there are no predators, then the population of prey may increase to the levels that are not sustainable (because they will deplete all the resources)

Most systems, however, have a built-in interdependence that do not allow prey-predator interactions spiral out of control. In the example of wolves and rabbits, a decrease in the population of rabbits will make it harder for wolves to survive in winter, because there is less food left. Their population will also decrease, which will ease the load on the population of rabbits, who will multiply again, and – in turn – give an impulse for the population of wolves to increase in size as well.

What we’re witnessing here is a typical example of prey-predator dynamics, which can be represented as two periodic lines following each other with a gap along timeline. Over the long run the system finds itself in homeostasis – dynamic equilibrium in changing circumstances.

Prey-Predator Relationship, picture WildLifeNews.Com

Prey-Predator Relationship, picture WildLifeNews.Com

Moreover, research in this field has shown that systems where 2-3 parties compete for resources may lead to some of the most stable dynamic constructions. Changes might occur locally with a certain periodicity, however, in the long run winnerless competition ensures the survival of the whole system. Because none of the elements is allowed to spiral out of control.

Prey-Predator dynamics, Bazykin

Prey-Predator dynamics, Bazykin

If we extrapolate this metaphor to intersubjective or social relations, we will see that it’s implemented in many stable formations: such as the US political system or the relatively “old” markets. Therefore, latent ongoing conflict is in fact allowing the system to survive and slowly develop (without any revolutionary or innovative changes). It might be not the most energy efficient or morally correct way, but it’s definitely proven its robustness over centuries.

Therefore, a stable collaborative formation is not necessarily the one where there’s no conflict, but, in fact, it will often be the one with a latent ongoing conflict, which stabilizes the system in the long run. 

The level of conflict within the collaboration will determine the direction of its development. A low level of conflict will often sustain the differences that are present within and stabilize system at its current state. A high level of conflict may render one of the groups obsolete and either destroy the system or lead to revolutionary transformations.

Prey-predator model can be very efficient for understanding the oscillatory nature of conflict. It can be used to better understand where to apply certain actions in order to modulate the dynamics of systems driven by conflict.  

For example, it shows that an efficient survival strategy for a weaker population is to not actively fight the stronger one, but, rather, to appear to be losing in order for the stronger group to lessen its efforts, which will, in turn, lead the system back into equilibrium.

In the next section we will demonstrate an example of this dynamics in action on a personal level using the examples from psychology proposed by the great anthropologist Gregory Bateson in his explanation of the double-bind.

Test Question – Prey and Predators

Please, list some examples of prey-predator relations below, where 2 or more parties are involved.

Big established religions vs emergent small ones.
Rival ideologies
Chinese-Japanese war

* Mandatory

Practical Task – Reconfiguration

Next time you’re reading about a conflict try to see it in terms of prey/predator relation. Identify, which element is the actual “resource”, who is acting like “prey” and who is acting like “predator”. Think what would happen if the prey or predator would suddenly disappear. Would the whole system stay the same? Would it collapse? What would be changed? Feel free to share your thoughts below…

In my country there is a huge socio-economic and political conflict. There are two position, let’s label them as A and B. Both groups are made up of multiple sub-groups, but one of them has been more successful in keeping its internal cohesion.

This more cohesive group is, my opinion the predator. The other, the prey. There are many resources in dispute, one of them is the oil rent.

If the more cohesive group dissapear, there would be many little pradators, because these little groups want to control the resources. The system will go again in a new cycle of inestability. If, by the contrary, the inestable coalision dissapear, the system would remain stable for a very short period

Unit 3/6 – Schismogenesis in a Relationship: Pacing and Leading

Schismogenesis is a term coined by an influential anthropologist Gregory Bateson to describe a process of deviation from equilibrium in the context of a relationship. It describes a feedback loop in a relationship.

A classic example of schismogenesis is an imbalanced couple where one person dominates the other and where an increase in submission leads to an increase in domination until the relationship is destroyed. It’s a real-life example that can be found in relations between parents and their children, between companies at competitive markets, as well as politics and international relations.

This dynamics is similar to the prey-predator dynamics described in the previous unit. The only difference is that if there’s no balancing mechanisms in place, the whole system is very unstable and eventually collapses.  

Bateson proposed specific mechanisms that can help avoid escalation that may be detrimental to the whole system. 

An example of complimentary and symmetric schismogenesis feedback loop

 Examples of complimentary (+–) and symmetric (++) schismogenesis feedback loop

He defined two types of schismogenesis: symmetrical (++) and complimentary (+–)In complimentary schismogenesis both parties exhibit opposite behaviors: for example, one party dominates and the other party submits. In symmetrical schismogenesis both parties mirror each other’s behavior, increasing the stakes and expending resources until either one or both of them are depleted (a relationship fight or an arms race is a good example). Bateson proposed to introduce balancing mechanisms by

1) detecting schismogenesis;
2) identifying its type (complimentary or symmetric);
3) reversing the standard logic;

Reversing the standard logic in this context means to act in the way that is opposite to the expected trajectory. For example, if one is involved in a verbal fight where both parties are escalating (symmetric schismogenesis), reverting the logic of this dynamics and diverting towards a quieter, calmer tone of voice will help dissuade escalation and bring the conflict into a more productive flow (that of a discussion). This is a strategy of deceleration in the context of mutual acceleration. In case of complimentary schismogenesis the response would be to start mimicking the the other party’s behavior instead of complimenting it with the opposite. This is a strategy of mirroring.

Short-circuiting schismogenesis feedback loop dynamics through mimicking or reversal

Short-circuiting schismogenesis feedback loop dynamics through mimicking or reversal

Both deceleration and reversal are very efficient techniques that can help dissuade any conflict and redirect interaction into a more peaceful realm. 

It is important to note that those two strategies function much better when they are based on pacing and leading. A certain dynamics has to be acknowledged before it is to be reversed or decelerated. For instance, if somebody is shouting then choosing to decelerate from the very beginning might be not very efficient, because it may be interpreted by the other party as a +– dynamics and they may simply escalate even further. So it makes more sense to take an invitation towards escalation (pacing: responding to + with +) and to then gradually start de-escalating (reversal) in order to dissuade the conflict.

A good example of this approach can also be found in history: the arms race between the US and USSR. The United States were the first to grow their nuclear arsenal and the Soviet Union followed (++ dynamics of escalation). As soon as Russia started to decrease its nuclear potential (deescalation), the US followed as well. An interesting moment here is that this dynamics could also be seen as a sort of provocation on the part of US contributing to the Soviet Union collapse (engage into a nuclear race, as soon as the tendency of the opponent to escalate is stabilized, stop escalation but do not withdraw, wait until they reach the maximum of their capacity, then guide them towards de-escalation). 

nuclear-warheads-dynamics

 

Another case we would like to look at is a classic example of pacing and leading from politics. Here the strategy is to first engage into the polarity that is proposed by the situation (+ vs. + or + vs. -), but to then take the lead in the process. During the presidential debate of 1992, Bill Clinton and George Bush were asked how they can actually do something about the national debt if it hasn’t personally affected them. While the question itself was contrived (the person who asked it implied that it affected her much more than them – introducing a +– complimentary dynamics of “I’m different then you are”), Clinton used it to his advantage by acknowledging the fact that the audience member who asked the question was, in fact, affected by it and then suggesting that in fact he, as a governor who has to talk to people on a daily basis is affected by it much more than she is (reversing the roles in the +– dynamics that was established). 

 

It is important to note that it might still be necessary for the system to occasionally shift out of equilibrium in order to give it a chance to reconfigure and to restructure itself. This behavior is often implemented both on social and personal levels: e.g. days off work on weekends, various cultural rituals, etc. Bateson observed that some tribes were engaged in habitual reversal of roles between different groups on a regular basis to ensure social homeostasis. Such schismogenesis maintains differences (which can be beneficial for the community), but does not allow it to spiral out of control.

A similar approach is described in panarchy – a social organization, which is based on regular reversal of dynamics: from growth to conservation, from release to reorganization. Such constant rotation allows for sustainable development and it also ensures that interests of all the different groups will be catered to by the system. 

panarchy-capital-connectedness

The prism of schismogenesis can give us a more precise point of view on the development of a conflict and its trajectory. Is it accelerating or decelerating? Is the conflict we are involved in symmetrical or is it complimentary? Depending on the answers given we can then take the right course of action to direct situation in the direction that is beneficial for all the parties involved.

In the next unit we will demonstrate other efficient strategies that are normally associated with pathologic behaviors using the examples from psychology.

 

Test Question – Schismogenesis Type

What type of schismogenesis are you witnessing in the first 30 seconds of this video?
 

  • Symmetrical
  • Complimentary

Test Question – Dynamics Reversal

In the same video, what type of schismogenesis are we witnessing starting from the 30th second?
 

Test Question – Short-Circuiting Strategies

How would you describe the dynamics of the fight shown in the video below using the model of schismogenesis? What are the stages the fight is going through and what was the key point for it to dissuade?

The 3 last vids are not available

* Mandatory

Practical Task – Transforming the Context

In order to test out the strategies presented above try to implement them in a real-life situation. The easiest way to do it would be through making an experiment either in a social network or in real life. In order to perform the experiment, choose a politically charged but a slightly controversial statement that you can associate with (e.g. “I don’t think anyone should vote for Bernie Sanders because he will lose to Donald Trump, so even though I don’t like Hillary I will vote for her” – or something along those lines). Post it online or say it out loud and wait for a conflict to happen. When it occurs try to escalate for a moment (engaging in a symmetric ++ dynamics) and after two or three steps start to decelerate (responding with – to +). See what happens. You can write your observations below. 

Very effective!

Unit 4/6 – Schizophrenia & “Crazy” Response

So far we looked at the examples of prey-predator dynamics and schismogenesis. Both demonstrate oscillatory wave-like nature of conflict dynamics and propose concrete strategies that can help modulate this dynamics towards equilibrium or away from it.

In this unit we will look into a particularly interesting strategy that is derived from Gregory Bateson’s study of schismogenesis. It is based on the notion of double-bind and proposes an interesting point of view on schizophrenic and “crazy” behaviors. In fact, it turns out that those behaviors are very effective for dissuading internal and external conflicts.

Double-bind is a term introduced by Gregory Bateson to describe situations where every possible outcome is undesirable (commonly referred to as catch-22). For example, imagine a person who has just boarded a plane and wants to spend some time on their own. If they have a talkative neighbor they are faced with a double-bind: refusing to talk may be perceived rude, accepting a conversation will be going against one’s will. Bateson refers to this psychological dilemma as “double-bind” and postulates that this phenomenon can often lead to schizophrenic and “crazy” behaviors. When somebody has a limited overview of the options available in a certain context, they might have to do something outside of that context in order to resolve the inner conflict that they are facing. This act will often be perceived as “crazy” simply because it does not fit in the context. If the conflicting situation persists for a long period of time the crazy irrational behavior may become pathological and exhibit schizophrenic properties. The proposition that Bateson made was that schizophrenia is simply the most available response available to a person faced with a situation where they do not see any other options to communicate. 

The dynamics of double-bind / catch-22 interaction and circumvention strategies

The dynamics of double-bind / catch-22 interaction and circumvention strategies

That “crazy” act or a response is in fact a very efficient tool to dissuade any conflict. Imagine a situation when somebody is threatened with a knife. If they start fighting back they might scare the attacker and he might stab them simply out of fear. If they give in, they also expose themselves to a risk. However, if they play a violent epileptic attack or start talking nonsense they may leave the attacker confused and unable to proceed simply because they are faced with a context they could not predict. 

Another, more “rational” option that Bateson proposes in double-bind situation is to “zoom out” and shift to meta-communication. The general procedure is to acknowledge a situation in an explicit way and to honestly claim one’s desires in relation to it. In the example of the plane the passenger who’s not willing to talk could simply say to their neighbour that they appreciate talking to them but at the moment they are not in the mood and would like to rest in silence, no offence taken. This often requires communicative abilities that not everyone is capable of, but it is a very efficient way to escape the context that is imposed.
 
 

For the purposes of our course we can define a “crazy” response as something that falls outside of the proposed context. This can be used as a strategy to change the dynamics of conflict and to shift it into a different context where there are more options available. In order to perform these shifts consciously one needs to be aware of the dynamics of the situation, to have a “zoom out” meta view on the situation. In case of a verbal attack, for example, one could simply start talking about aliens in return instead of falling into predictable escalation or submission routes. On the level of inter-group interaction (for example, stalled collaboration or violent competition) it’s possible to shift the dynamics by doing something that is unexpected in a given context. A sudden move sideways that will be surprise for all the parties involved, including the one who made the actual move.
  

Test Question – Transcending the Context

You enter a stage to give a presentation and the audience is booing you. What would be the possible strategies of reaction that can transcend the context that is created rather than falling into it?

  • Wait until the audience stops and continue as if nothing happened
  • Walk off the stage and cancel the presentation
  • Wait until the the audience stops and ask them why they were booing
  • Wait until the audience stops and keep still and silent for 1 minute
  • Start to boo with the audience
  • Acknowledge the situation and describe your feelings about it
  • Start saying “thank you, thank you” as if the audience was applauding
* Mandatory
1 of 4 correct

Practical Task – Stepping Out

Next time you find yourself in a conflict situation, try to start talking about it instead of engaging into the dynamics that is proposed. For example, next time you have an argument with somebody, acknowledge that you are having an argument and say how you feel about it instead of focusing on the topic of the argument itself. Observe what it does to the argument itself. You can share your experience below if you want to discuss it with us.

dsffsdafads

Practical Task – The Unexpected

Next time you engage into a conflict (be it internal or external one) try to slow down and be silent for a moment (or choose any other unexpected way of dealing with it). You will disrupt the dynamics and it will be affected. Let us know about your experience if you wish…

fdsdafsda

Unit 5/6 – Going Meta and “Getting to Yes”

In his international bestseller “Getting to Yes” William Ury proposes an effective way of conflict resolution. It is based on taking a meta position, actively acknowledging each party’s interests, finding the underlying values, and proposing another solution, which would satisfy all the parties involved on the basis of values that they adhere to.

Conflicts often emerge because of this gap between what the parties really want (their values) and the means that they subjectively think are available to them to realize those values.

Two groups may argue about a way to proceed with a project. One may insist on a particular implementation that may be against the proposed idea of the other group. If they both stay on that level, they will be entrenched into disagreements about very peculiar and specific things forgetting about the big picture. However, if they both shift to a meta level, acknowledge the conflict, and ask themselves and each other to admit their real interests the situation may change dramatically. Perhaps one group is more interested in a certain idea of consistency – not deviating too much from the previous implementations of the project. Another group might be interested in innovation, that’s why their propositions don’t fit at the surface level. However, if both groups agree that what they both want is to protect the general well-being of the organization and that they both want it to grow and to develop, perhaps they can work together to find the strategy that will be both consistent and innovative. Not as a way of compromising their vision, but, rather, working together on the bigger picture, making sure that they address their core values instead of mingling small unimportant details. The importance of “zooming out” has also been demonstrated in all the previous units, particularly in case of circumventing the dynamics of schismogenesis. 

This approached is exemplified very well by William Ury himself in the first 2 minutes of his TED talk: 

 
 

 

Unit 6 – Metastability & “Winnerless Competition”

In the previous units we looked into the different practices demonstrating various aspects of conflict dynamics: starting from prey-predator relationship, moving on to schizmogenesis, and further towards the double-bind dilemma. 

All of those models take a closer look at the dynamics of conflict development, showing its oscillatory dynamics and the importance of having a “zoom out” perspective that can help see long-term patterns behind short-term fluctuations. Specifically, any conflict has several ways it can escalate and several ways it can be dissipated. The path towards escalation is often through a symmetric response (e.g. arms race, counter-attack, increased tension) or through a complimentary one (submitting to pressure, giving in).  The path towards dissipation is through short-circuiting the dynamics by way of providing an unexpected response. This response can either stay within the existing context (by way of reversal, deceleration or acceleration) or shift into a different context (by way of meta-communication or an unexpected “crazy” response). 

In this unit we will discuss the importance of conflict for maintaining a certain type of non-equilibrium stability, which is referred to as metastability.

 metastability-dynamics

We have mentioned before in the unit on prey-predator dynamics that many stable formations that can be found in nature and in society are able to exist for prolonged periods of time because of the inherent conflict within them.

In fact living systems have a natural tendency towards entropy or disorder. It is important to understand, however, that entropy does not equal “mess”. In fact, the disorder of entropy is to be understood literally: a system that has no order inside. Order is based on differences. If everything is like everything else, there are no differences, then there is no order = maximum entropy. 

In this context conflict can be seen as a process that helps maintain differences and prevents any system from sliding towards entropy.

An example of that is a group of people with opposing beliefs. If we were to equalize all individuals in a group, it would quickly become homogeneous and lose its ability to hold different opinions – and with that it would lose its ability to evolve and adapt based on its internal resources. A more homogenized group would increase its reliance on the environment in order to survive. This would make it much more susceptible to external influences and further reduce its adaptive capacities. 

If a group maintains a certain degree of heterogeneity, it is much more robust and adaptable as it can draw on internal differences in order to be able to deal with the constantly changing circumstances in its environment. 

At the same time if the differences within the group are too high, it may lead to its dissolution or escalation of conflict.

Several studies show that small-world social networks (groups that consist of loosely connected tight-knit communities) are the most stable formations in the long run and they are also the least susceptible ones to external influences (rumors, epidemics and such). Small-world groups are the kind of formations that maintain a certain degree of difference: the subgroups that they consist of are distinct.Yet there are also links between the different groups, which allows them to communicate and interact together.

Small World Organizational Cross Group Cliques Network Graph

The small-world principle is best exemplified by our brain, which has a small-world structure itself. That’s why we are able to be aware of the meaning of this sentence (processed one group of neurons) while at the same time feeling the temperature of the air (another group of neurons) and hearing the sounds around (the other group of neurons). All those experiences are happening at once and combine into a coherent view of reality, but they are also in conflict and competition with one another for our conscious attention. The presence of this conflict makes our experience more diverse and intensified. It also produces stability in the long run as we shift from one activity to another in order to be able to maintain ourselves (if it gets too cold we make ourselves warmer; if we are tired we stop reading and rest, perform some other activity or sleep).

In fact, this natural ability to maintain several states at once and shift between them was studied in detail by mathematicians who worked in the field of psychology. It is called “metastability” and it’s the basic operating principle for our ability to shift between different states. 

small-world-brain-network-metastable-dynamics-metastability

The origin of metastability is winnerless competition. Different states shift in between each other successively to give space to a different activity. After a while, a new state sets in instead of the old one. It has been shown that during the state our systems and inner rhythms are in sync, during the change they go out of sync (when body/mind is searching for a new temporary equilibrium). Therefore, an internal conflict is simply an indication that something is going out of sync. In order to synchronize it again we either need to shift to a new state (going meta and / or transcending the context) or make some changes to the already existing one (reversal or deceleration). 

Strange attractors within the brain produce local areas of metastability through synchronization

Strange attractors within the brain produce local areas of metastability through synchronization

In the next session of this course we will look closer at those biological rhythms and show how they can be used to modulate shifts between different states, which is a key element to maintaining latent conflict dynamics that is benevolent to a system and not destructive to it. 

 

 

Test Question – Group Design

Let’s suppose you are building a small team to work on a project. The project will be long-term and it will require expertise from across different fields and backgrounds. The participants will encounter various challenges and may need to be inventive and change their strategies as they go.

You have two possibilities to choose from when building your team. One (A) is a group of 15 people who worked together before and they all know each other. The other one (B) is 3 groups of 4-6 former co-workers / friends and only a couple of people from each subgroup know some people from the other subgroups. 

Which team formation would you prefer for your project and why?

 

.

* Mandatory

Practical Task – Metastable Position

Think of 3 different types of activities that you normally do during the week: for example, working, meeting friends and reading (you can choose any other ones as long as they are sufficiently different from one another). Try an experiment that will last 9 days. Spend the first 3 days doing all three activities every day, giving them more or less equal amount of time (e.g. 2-3 hours each) – stage A. Then spend another 3 days where you designate each day for only one task – stage B. Finally, spend another 3 days where you do all 3 activities but constantly shifting from one to another – stage C. Observe your emotional state, satisfaction, and progress. Share your experience with us, if you wish.

In this proposition time is the resource and because it’s required by each activity you will put them into conflict to one another, especially in stages B and C because they will be competing for a limited resource – time. However this conflict may generate interesting experience for you personally because you might discover different correlations between the way you organize your day and your progress / emotional state. It is different for everybody and we urge you to find the constellation that works for you, depending on what you prefer. Maybe you will like all 3 for all the different benefits that they bring…

Unit 7 – Biodynamic Waves and 8-like Oscillatory Motion

We constantly operate in a medium full of waves. In fact, it will not be an overstatement to say that the world around us (or how we perceive it to be) is comprised of waves. As it has been already shown in the previous units intersubjective relations are subject to oscillatory dynamics. Therefore, in order to better understand how we can modulate these relations in the context of handling a conflict, it is important to know how waves function. 

In physics, a wave is an oscillation that transfers energy from one point of space to another. Waves can propagate through a medium (mechanical waves like sea waves or sound waves) or they may consist of periodic oscillations of electrical and magnetic fields originally generated by charged particles (visible light waves, radio waves, etc.) 

sea-waves

On the most basic level the experience of a wave is not that of a constant unidirectional force. Instead, it is often oscillating between polar opposites – think of the sea waves that are amplified by the movement of water back from the shore or of electromagnetic waves (sine curves indicating a smooth repetitive oscillation.   

sine_wave

This oscillatory motion is the basic property of a wave and of energy transfer in general. In fact, this constant difference and modulation is what makes it possible for information to travel with much less effort and in a more efficient way. 

There are different wave frequencies that affect us in different ways. For example, we are exposed to sun rays whose intensity also changes following a wave-like pattern (change of seasons). Ocean tides also occur in phases that follow moon cycles. Collective human behavior has oscillatory dynamics (e.g. a price of a commodity, stock or currency exchange value as well as cycles of economic growth and decline) as well as intersubjective relations (see previous Units – on Prey-Predator dynamics and Shismogenesis).

financial-market

Finally, on the personal level we are subjects to wave-like oscillatory motion and phases. From the mood swings and “good” vs “bad” periods in life to our respiratory rate and blood circulation (following the heart beat rhythm).

Further research shows that there are other kinds of oscillatory dynamics within human body that is not detectable through scientific means, but only through the direct experience or palpation. So-called cranio-sacral impulses can be observed within human body at the rate of 6-12 oscillations per minute (5- to 10-second long phases). In cranio-sacral therapy longer waves are also detected, referred to as mid-tide (24-second cycle) and long-tide (100-second cycle). Both mid-tide and long-tide are said to synchronize human body with a healthy “natural” rhythm that makes healing process possible. On the very basic level this synchronization is about slowing down the fast pace of modern life. On a more advanced level we’re talking about accessing some archetypical rhythmical patterns that support life processes. 


Therefore, for our study of conflict dynamics it may be useful to derive some concepts from healing practices, such as cranio-sacral therapy that works to alleviate tension by
deceleration,
synchronization,
equalization 
natural body rhythms to help regenerative processes.

We have already discussed deceleration in the previous lessons. The notion of synchronization can be further enhanced with the notion of harmony, as it is used in musical theory. In music, two sounds (of constant frequencies) will be said to be harmonious if they synchronize in phases, such as 

SoundWaves

In this example, all 3 waves have different frequencies and wavelengths. The wave with the highest amplitude goes through 1.5 iterations, while the other two waves go through 0.5 and 1 iterations respectively. There’s a recurrent regular stable point in time where all these waves meet, and this, in effect, produces what we refer to as “harmony”.

One of the important principles from wave dynamics is that of resonance: two waves that align together to produce stronger amplitude as is shown below: the oscillations are stronger when the impulses of the two waves align and weaker when the impulse is opposite at the same moment of time.

sine_waves resonance 

Therefore, in the study of conflict dynamics it is important for us to be aware of synchronization, resonance and equalization as very important processes can be effectively applied to modulate the oscillatory dynamics of a process. 

We will look at the practical implementations of this approach at the end of the next Section.