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The Power of Humility: Choosing Peace over Conflict in Relationships

The Power of Humility: Choosing Peace over Conflict in Relationships

by Charles Whitfield, Barbara Whitfield, Russell Park, Jeneane Prevett, Whi

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"The Power of Humility is a remarkable book that presents profound tools for changing your life in simple, practical steps. . . . It will help us see the solutions that were there all the time, hidden from view by our own habits."

-Bruce Greyson, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry, University of Virginia School of Medicine

  • Do you


"The Power of Humility is a remarkable book that presents profound tools for changing your life in simple, practical steps. . . . It will help us see the solutions that were there all the time, hidden from view by our own habits."

-Bruce Greyson, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry, University of Virginia School of Medicine

  • Do you shy away from conflict?
  • Do you tend to over- or under-react during disagreements?
  • Is it difficult for you to rise above a painful problem in a relationship?

If so, you're not alone. We all experience conflict on a daily basis, whether it’s with another person like a coworker or boss, or in a "triangle" with two other people such as in a family relationship. Dealing with strife isn't easy because most of us don't clearly understand one of the most critical yet overlooked skills to successful relationships: humility - and how to best express it.

From four of America's top experts on emotional healing, spirituality and recovery, comes a new approach to solving the conflicts that cause us both physical and emotional stress. Bestselling author Charles Whitfield and three leading experts explain that having humility doesn’t mean being a doormat or turning the other cheek - it's about being authentic, open and understanding.

Using case studies, cutting-edge clinical research and compelling narrative, they show you how to harness the power of humility in your own life—at home, at work and in your community. By doing so, you will be able to speak your mind, get things accomplished more harmoniously and feel more satisfied with yourself and your relationships.

Let The Power of Humility show you how to have peace in your life.

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Health Communications, Incorporated
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Read an Excerpt

Introducing Humility

Our Global Story

The pain of unresolved conflict is common. Many of us live with it every day. For example, on 9/11 our prior world-view of the safety within our shores was shattered by fundamentalist religious terrorists. These people are polarized against anyone not like themselves and locked into a primitive view and way of handling conflict. This conflict is a double-edged sword—it both unites us with each other and separates us from them.

How can we best handle this painful time? What possibilities and choices do we have? What are the implications, both personally and collectively, of our choices in creating our future? Could the tragedy of 9/11, in a strange way, be the beginning of a new era?

Perhaps if we each work to heal ourselves, eventually and collectively we can help to heal our world. We start by listening to the conflicts within ourselves. Then we work with others to heal our personal relationships. In this book, we offer new skills for a new way of peaceful being with ourselves, others and the God of our understanding. We take this new knowledge into our lives and world and watch this fresh way of handling conflict develop, evolve and spread.

The following is a history that demonstrates the constructive use of humility in a personal conflict.

History 1.1: Sandra's Story

Sandra, a fifty-five-year-old 'adult child' of an alcoholic has been in recovery for four years. She has three married children and is in a second marriage of ten years. She told her psychotherapy group after she and her husband returned from a ten-day visit with two of her children and their families in another state:

My husband and I were together constantly for several days and spontaneously started to argue as we walked into my son's house. My grandson and son were standing there, and it was quite embarrassing, but we couldn't stop snapping at each other. After several minutes I said I was going shopping with my grandson, and my husband took off with my son, who said as we were all leaving, 'I'm convinced that all couples fight, and it's no big deal.'

I could feel my embarrassment fade away, and I started to examine my anger at my husband. I knew we had been together too much or much more than we are used to. I spent the rest of the day with my kids trying to stay away from him but not being obvious. Driving back to our motel, I looked at him and again replayed in my mind what he had said and how he looked when I snapped at him. I remembered our discussions in group about the feelings that are painful boiling up from our unresolved anger from when we were kids. My anger at the moment we snapped at each other was much bigger than what was going on between us, and it felt like we were both out of control. I felt a tinge of compassion for him. I know his family background and suddenly realized how much pain he must have been in to snap at me like that. In a moment of humility, I made a conscious decision not to focus on my anger and to focus instead on my compassion for him. When we got back to the motel I told him about that, and he then told me why he had snapped at me. It wasn't the mean reason I originally believed, and so I told him why I got angry back. He didn't know I felt that way either. We talked it out, making sure we listened and believed each other's reasons. We ended up embracing and saying how much we love each other and even expressed how we wanted to walk through the rest of this lifetime together.

I think the whole situation turned around for me when my son said, 'All couples fight,' which removed my embarrassment and got me grounded. He didn't try to rescue us, although I believe his action was the beginning of some motivation to change our bickering into something better. Later, we became empowered instead of rotating the roles of victim and persecutor. It was an important experience of learning not to focus on anger. We have choices now. If we just look carefully at the people we love, we can allow the compassion in our hearts to well up and help us shift away from anger and into something that is so much better for us all.

This is what we call a Level 1 conflict. The use of humility by both members of the conflict allowed them to move from conflict to Level 2 co-commitment, and thereby let go of the tension in the conflict and feel peace.

No matter what kind of conflicts we may have, key to naming and working through them is identifying the potentially useful role of humility. Once identified, we can then use the power of our humility to handle conflicts as they come up for us individually, within our family or workplace, or regionally and globally. In this book we develop the power of humility through its use in the common conflicted relationship of the classical psychological and emotional triangle (which we explain in Chapter 5).

Handling Conflicts

How can we achieve peace? How can we best handle a personal conflict? A family conflict? A group or a national conflict? One solution is to cultivate an attitude that allows us to develop what psychologist Arthur Deikman and others call our nonjudgmental observer self4 (also called our Sacred Witness). By doing so we can thereby raise our thinking and functioning to higher and more efficient levels. These conflicts then become challenges. Some of these challenges include: our unconscious conflicts (including the effects of trauma), addictions, cultural prejudices, family dysfunctions, cultural and community breakdowns, competitive survival and coping patterns, defensive and territorial posturing, and ultimately, personal and group spiritual crisis. These and other core issues commonly reflect some of our unresolved conflicts that keep us in chronic stress and distress, and thereby stuck in what we call the first, or Level 1 triangle.

If we can cultivate our personal and collective or global observer self/Sacred Witness, we can embrace our individual and group preferences and uniqueness, cooperating rather than competing with each other, and developing an attitude of inclusion instead of exclusion, self instead of ego, soul instead of personality, and 'we' instead of just 'I.' Through this shift in identity, we begin to empower an attitude of unity through diversity.

As individual and group growth and personal spirituality emerges, one component is community. Community can act as a container that allows us to freely share our view of a conflict—of what is challenging us. If we can learn not only to 'actively listen' to each other, but to hold 'divine respect' for each member, we can begin to see more options to handle a conflict.

In this book, we will give examples of handling conflict from several perspectives, including (1) cross-cultural or anthropological, (2) relationship or system dynamics, (3) some clinical histories, and from (4) spirituality. Thus, we lift ourselves out of Level 1 triangles into new and progressively more expanded and peaceful levels. Using triangle dynamics we will propose three more levels of functioning: Level 2, Level 3 and Level 4 (see Table 1.1). In Part Two of this book, we describe the most conflicted and Level 1 triangles in some detail because they are the most difficult and painful. Then, in Part Three, we describe and discuss the expanded more peaceful levels of functioning and being.

Different World Views

For an example from a cross-cultural view, we can look at levels of consciousness described in some Eastern medical and religious models. These levels or energy centers are called chakras in Sanskrit, which means wheel and describes energy centers or transducers that convey energy from one dimension into another. Each chakra is located in the energy body of each of us and mediates a different level of consciousness with the outer environment (see Figure 1.1). The first chakra, at the base of the spine, mediates survival. The second chakra, at the level of the navel, is passion. The third chakra, at the level of the diaphragm, mediates mind/ego. The fourth chakra, at the heart level, is acceptance/heart issues. The fifth chakra, at the throat, is a synthesis of head and heart and mediates understanding. The sixth chakra, between our eyebrows, mediates compassion. The seventh chakra, at the top of the head, funnels unlimited spiritual energy in and mediates Unity Consciousness.

Figure 1.1 Schematic of the Seven Chakras

Related to the chakras is the idea that the earth is evolving in yet another way: from an ego-bound (third chakra) position to a heartfelt (fourth chakra) sense of awareness. In other words, we are moving from struggles with survival, control and power to issues of the heart: power over others versus empowerment within ourselves. At the heart level we begin to see our glass as being half-full instead of half-empty, to see our conflicts and styles as co-creative stimuli rather than polarized posturing, and to know ourselves and the power of our choices rather than feeling victimized by our situations. We can thereby begin to feel our stress decreasing. We can start to see our conflicts and crises as opportunity.

Another Cross-Cultural Example

The Hopi Indians model a community that takes the time to weigh out each important decision that they make in accordance with how it may impact the next seven generations.5 The Hopi seem to understand and experience the interrelationship of all creation. Can we take time to learn—as these and other indigenous peoples do—from our elders and from our children? With humility, the Hopi recognize children and elders as being the ones who are closest to God, thereby honoring their wisdom and guidance.

As we begin to integrate this attitude of natural spirituality into our everyday lives, our awareness and consciousness expands, allowing us to experience our abundance and move out of scarcity thinking or never having 'enough.' We begin to see possibilities revealing themselves, and a new worldview or myth unfolding. 'Problems' become simply 'situations,' and now we are open to new choices. We begin to identify with our 'goodness' rather than our conflicts. Synchronicities (meaningful coincidences) and at times miracles (unexplained positive events), can take their natural place in our lives.

If we are about to go into a new world personally, nationally and globally with multidimensional implications, what will be the result of our choices? Consider looking at your daily activities. What choices have you made? Are there incongruities in what you say you are and how you live? Are you walking your talk?

Psychologist Carl Jung said that we are living in a time when the worldviews (archetypes) are shifting and that the most difficult times would be when the old worldviews leave center stage and the new have not yet revealed themselves. Our great challenge will be to relate from our hearts, having compassion for each other, as we birth a new era and leave a living legacy for our children.

Can we be mindful of our next seven generations? The Hopi Elders prophecy can guide us: We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For

You have been telling the people that this is the eleventh Hour.

Now return and tell them the Hour has come, and they must now consider:

Where are you living?

What are you doing?

What are your relationships? Are they right relationships?

Where is your water?

Know your Garden.

It is time to speak your Truth.

Create your community.

Be good to each other.

And do not look outside yourself for the Leader.

This could be a good time!

The river now flows very fast, so great and swift that some will be afraid, and will suffer much. Know the river has a destination. We must now let go of the shore, push off into the middle, keeping our eyes open and our heads above water. And see who is there with you, and celebrate! At this point in our history, we must take nothing personally, least of all ourselves.

For, in the instant we do, our spiritual journey comes to a halt.

The Lone Wolf's time is over. Gather yourselves! All we do must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.

We are the ones we've been waiting for.

Hopi Nation Elders

Oraibi, Arizona, 2000

We believe that this is not a goal to leave just for our politicians and other authority figures (who we know are often inconsistent and unconstructive in their actions). The Hopi elders concluded, 'We are the ones we've been waiting for.' We start within ourselves. We take our conflicting thoughts and move them up—eventually to peace. We touch others with this action—the empowerment of our own humility. And then, hopefully, it spreads to include our political system, and then it moves out and spreads to include everyone on the planet.

©2007. Charles L. Whitfield, M.D., Barbara H. Whitfield, R.T., C.M.T., Russell Park, Ph.D., and Jeneane Prevett, Ph.D. All rights reserved. Reprinted from The Power of Humility : Choosing Peace over Conflict in Relationships. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.

Meet the Author

Charles L. Whitfield, M.D., is a physician, psychotherapist, and internationally recognized expert on mental illness, behavioral problems, and recovery. He has been on the faculty of the Rutgers University Summer Institute of Alcohol and Drug Studies since 1978, and in private practice of medicine and psychotherapy since 1976. He has been voted by his peers as one of the Best Doctors in America every year since 1994. He lives in Atlanta, GA

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