A further point about the conflict state must now be made. We know that the conflict is located in the interaction between the individual and his total situation, and from our own observations and the report of the individual or someone else, we have an idea about what the conflict is. We also need to know why a conflict exists between this individual and his total situation. At a rather simplistic level, reserving detailed understanding for later sections of this text, the “why” of the conflict is because someone or something is causing it. The conflict is itself within the interaction between the individual and his total situation. However, the cause of the conflict is due either to the individual or to someone or something in his total situation. The point here is that the cause can come from either side of the interaction or can represent some casual mix from both sides.
The Conflict for Ann was in the interaction between her and her family and between her and her school. Mr. E’s conflict is somewhat more subtle. In his past, or “then,” he had a significant relationship with his wife. His wife’s death resulted in the loss of this extremely important relationship. Mr. E therefore became very lonely and developed feelings of emptiness and disconnectedness from his total situation. The conflict, then, has something to do with his inability to cope with the loss of his wife and the absence of other significant relationships in his life. At least when he called the hot line, his conflict had a lot to do with his being by himself and not having anyone to talk with. For both Ann and Mr. E the conflict is in the interaction between them and their total situations. The cause or causes of their conflict, however, are within them and within their total situation. Ann’s conflict is, in part, caused by her drug use and her negative attitude. In addition, her conflict stems from her family situation and from the way Mr. Z dealt with her drug use. The cause of her conflict is clearly a mix of factors both within her and within her total situation. For Mr. E, the most obvious cause of his conflict is the death of his wife. That event occurred in his “then,” in his past, and is clearly located in his total situation. In addition, the problem of not having anyone to talk with is also located in his total situation. Still, we may want to consider the possibility that Mr. E has a drinking problem and that his tendency to withdraw is part of his personality. If this is true, then part of the cause of Mr. E’s conflict comes from within him and his way of coping with the situation. His immediate conflict, however, seems to be primarily caused by his wife’s death. Even though his conflict may be caused by a mix of factors both within him and within his situation, the conflict seems to have resulted primarily from events in his life situation.
In these and other crisis situations, we will see that the cause of the conflict comes from the individual, from the situation, or from some combination of factors within the individual and the situation. A simple point can be introduced here and expanded later. As we work toward reducing conflict, our intervention will need to lead to some change either in the individual or in the situation. Conflict is in the interaction. Change comes through the individual or through modification of the situation.