The Heroic Act of Escalation

Posted by on Jun 11, 2015 in Conflict Theory, Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Heroic Act of Escalation

silhouetteConflict in this sense can be compared to bacteria in the body.

We all have bacteria in our body that could prove fatal if it reached a certain level. Our immune system plays the role of keeping the bacteria in check. Conflict also needs to reach a certain level before it can impact a system. When conflict is kept at a low level, it is easy not to deal with it because it isn’t potent or strong enough to get the attention of the system. Even if one person keeps acting out because of it, the conflict may stay hidden behind the actions of the person. Yet, we all know individuals who are effective in the role of an immune system. It is their job to keep the conflict down. Their agenda in keeping it down may vary from not wanting anyone to suffer to they don’t want to deal with it themselves. Sometimes, a system will even demand the role.

We have all seen individuals who have played this part in the intricate web of roles established in families as well as in offices. After Uncle Hank blows up at a family gathering, Uncle Jed is in there telling jokes and softening the impact of Uncle Hank’s outburst. There are times when de-escalating a situation is needed. It makes good sense to de-escalate a situation when it is emotionally, verbally or physically harmful. Productive resolution becomes almost impossible when the conflict is so intense and the issue is lost in the turbulence of emotional outbursts. Refocusing to the issue, stopping to agree on rules by which to argue, or taking some time out to gain control of emotions so a path to resolution can be pursued are possibilities in dealing with a de-escalation. Unfortunately, there are so many individuals who utilize this as an opportunity to follow their own agenda, which often includes side-stepping the conflict.

But, one of the most courageous acts a person may do is to escalate a conflict that needs to be addressed. It is taking it to that point, the critical mass stage, where the problem cannot be ignored. In terms of social change, it is the moral imperative, which means that some power may slow it down, but it cannot be stopped. The Civil Rights movement is an example as well as the women’s movement. Too many individuals committed themselves to the issue for it to be ignored. Consider the situation in which we were trying to talk to an alcoholic about quitting and this person was actively drinking. No matter what we said, this person would have a response. “I can handle it,” or, “You have a problem, not me.” If we were to get too pushy, he may even respond so forcefully that to counteract him would be a set-up for him to get out of there: “If you don’t shut the hell up, I’m out the door and I mean it!” The point is that this person is not the one who wants to deal with the problem, so his focus is on keeping the other in check. His agenda is not to have ANYONE deal with the problem.

As I said, it takes real courage for some people to keep raising the issue until it is resolved. In many cases, it is one’s position and responsibility to do so. Supervisors need the skills to address issues in the workplace. By doing so, other employees do not pay the price for something which affects them but is being overlooked. As parents, we are responsible for addressing behavior that is not healthy or appropriate for our children. Setting good boundaries and enforcing rules may seem an endless task, but it is a requirement of good parenting.

Taking a stand against unjust and unfair practices or laws is a requirement of being a good citizen. It is what our country is based upon. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas expounded that everyone had the right, and the responsibility, to dissent. We have to continually surface and address issues that erode our government and, ultimately, our own lives.