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A Path Out of Conflict

We all have conflict. For some, it's life-threatening--literally. For most, it's life-threatening in a different way: what Ripley calls "high conflict" takes over our lives. It not only divides nations and ethnic groups, but spouses, friends, and siblings.

Ripley chronicles a number of powerful cases of conflict: a gang member, a guerrilla fighter, a divorce counselor, an anti-GMO protester. She deftly analyzes what can take an ordinary, good conflict--the healthy disagreements of life--to the level of high conflict, which defies solution and takes on a life of its own. Such conflicts suck us in and don't want to let go.

Humiliating the enemy is a sign of high conflict, as is group identity: us vs. them. And often there are conflict entrepreneurs: those who profit somehow from the conflict and have a vested interest in keeping it going.

But all the people Ripley profiles found their way out. It took years and was not easy. Perhaps most helpful, Ripley outlines some key elements needed for a way out of conflict: space, both physical and emotional; time, as in time to withdraw a little and reflect; reaching a saturation point, where you're tired of it and ready to change; and finding a new identity to replace the conflict-based one you're leaving behind. Deep breathing also helps.

Applying some of the wisdom outlined in this book can help us all, from individuals to nations. Thank you, Amanda Ripley and those she has permitted to share their stories.

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