Someone pointed out to me the other day that he thought my hierarchy of needs was missing something.
And in thinking about it, I realized that the hierarchy of needs is more specifically the hierarchy of needs for growth.
So while conflict is a very real force in life, it’s not actually a force that is necessary for growth itself. In fact, it’s the opposing force that inhibits growth.
And that’s totally ok!
It’s ok because the conflicts we face in life are what make us different, unique, snowflakes, as they say. Each unique conflict we face – from our parents being distracted by a friend just at the moment that we start to fall off the climbing structure at the playground, to the challenges we face in our marriage when the upstairs neighbor blocks the path to our backdoor with her car, to being gossiped about on someone’s blog, to being sued in court by people who you love, to having slugs eat all your cucumber plants – all form our self into a particular shape that is not like any other individual’s shape, because their conflicts are always at least somewhat different than our own. Even with identical twins, the minor conflicts in life can create significant changes to their shape, physically, emotionally, and intellectually. And those unique shapes are the puzzle pieces of the universe, which all fit together to create one very complex pattern that puts us humans in complete awe when we look at it all from above and beyond.
This diversity of conflict is what creates art in all it’s many forms. The variety of conflict that different individuals experience allows us to have songs such as Simon and Garfunkle’s Cloudy, as well as Lateralus from Tool. Conflict gives us both da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Picasso’s Guernica. Conflict gives us both the Frog Prince and Hamlet.
Conflict gives us Ghandi spinning cloth and Batman the Dark Knight.
So while conflict isn’t at all a need for growth, it is, quite clearly, something that exists, and it does give us a chance to create something of value, when we are getting what we need to grow reasonably healthfully.
We don’t need conflict, just as snowflakes don’t need to be unique, and anyone giving us conflict intentionally is definitely not helping us grow (no matter what the “tough love” people want to believe), but conflict can be used to our benefit, when we approach it with creativity.
In other words, when we are generally taken care of by the world, including being given the freedom to express ourselves, we can learn to appreciate and embrace the conflict in our lives as an opportunity to turn the negativity into positivity by expressing our unique selves in some creative, artistic way, so that the world becomes even more awe inspiring.
And when we focus on creative approaches to responding to the conflict that is most universal to the people we care about, we make the world a much better place for everyone.