How to Confront Inner Conflict Instead of Ignoring it

Sometimes David Bohm says so much with one sentence, that I feel the need to take it a bit apart.

It is a line in the first chapter of the book On Creativity.

He describes how the mind tries to avoid contradictions. It is often too confusing or painful to stay with a certain problem, so the mind looks for a way out.

Either it continues to dart from one thing to another, or it reacts with violent excitement that limits all attention to some triviality, or it becomes dead, dull, or anesthetized, or it projects fantasies that cover up all the contradictions, or it does something else that makes one momentarily unaware of the painful state of conflict in which the mind is.

In this one sentence, Bohm gives 4 examples of how we are inclined to deal with this inner conflict. So if we want to avoid conflict we might do one of the following.

1. Go from one thing to another.
We avoid problems. As soon as a problem arises, we go do (or think about) something else.

2. Limit all attention to some triviality.
We get excited about some minor thing. Or someone did us wrong, so we just keep repeating that and blow it to huge proportions.

3. Get dull or anesthetized.
We try not to feel. We use medication, drugs or alcohol to suppress our feelings and pain.

4. Cover up all contradictions.
We watch tv, read fairytales, go to parties and play cheerful music. We only surround ourselves with happy people.

Or search for something else that takes our mind away from that painful state of conflict. That way we will end up with this ‘self-sustaining confusion’. This confusion slowly takes over and eventually the whole mind degenerates.

A better solution

So avoidance is not the real solution. But if that is not the solution, what is? Well, if avoidance is not the answer, it must be confrontation.

And it is. But it is very subtle.

We need to give patient, sustained attention to the activity of confusion, rather than attempting to promote creativity directly. Giving simple attention – a finer, faster process than confusion – is itself the primary creative act.

According to Bohm, it is the only way to get out of the problems we are in as a human race. The only way to get out, is for the individual to go inside and confront their own contradictions.

To make room for creativity. Because we need that creativity to respond to the ever changing challenges around us.

How to confront inner conflict instead of ignoring it


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