Lost in America

Analyzing Conflict through the Source of Our Emotions

Posted by 'Tine Zekis on May 31, 2015 · 5 mins read

Assignment: Cultural Blog | Conflict

I've heard that the way we analyze conflicts (both major and minor) in life can be comparable to the way we analyze problems in our code. If we look at the overall problem, we can get swept up in the overall result, anger or frustration in the case of a conflict, unknown broken code in the case of our programming. But if we look deeper at the source of the conflict, or narrow down which pieces of code are or are not working, we can begin to problem-solve. In the name of further exploration of this notion, I will analyze a conflict from my childhood.

When I was in high school, shortly after receiving my driver's license, I drove some friends to a mall further out into the suburbs than I had previously driven without a parent. I didn't know the way, but my friends told me they could direct me. (Mind you, kids, this was before smart phones with GoogleMaps, or wide-spread cell phone use of any kind.) We went to the mall, had our fun, and on the way out, I wasn't sure which way to turn. A friend said that if I made a left out of the lot at the light, then I would be on 22nd, a road I knew would take me to a familiar route home. However, when we turned, I saw that the street sign said something else. When I asked about this, my friend said, "Oh, well, this turns into 22nd later." I continued, hoping my friend was right. More time passed than I was comfortable with, but embarrassed that I didn't know the way myself, I said nothing. Eventually, when the road had still not turned into anything familiar, I said something. Long story short, we ended up calling our parents from a pay phone in the next state over before we had clear instructions on how to get home. I was livid. And my brother made fun of me for literally 10 years (until he did something equally, if not more, embarrassing).

If I analyze my emotions further, I was not just angry with my friends for having the instructions wrong, but I was also angry with myself for not knowing where I was going. Why had I trusted people whose navigation skills I knew nothing about? Why hadn't I looked up directions beforehand and gotten the feel for a map of the area on my own? Why didn't I say anything as soon as things started to feel off? By the end of the evening, my friends and I were all yelling at each other. I also realize now that anger wasn't the only emotion I was feeling. Part of yelling at them, showing my anger, was to hide the other underlying emotion: fear. Where were we? What if we never figured out how to make it home? What if something terrible happened to us and no one knew where we were?

Eventually, we had to work together to figure out where we were so we could describe it to a parent on the phone. Additionally, we had to work out whose parents would be the most likely to be helpful and not just completely worried and/or angry themselves. We also had to provide phone numbers to those parents so they could let the other parents know what was going on. We learned a lot that night. We also tried tracing our journey on a map later, and my sense of local geography had never been better.

But on a more personal note, I learned a lot that night about myself and how I deal with others. I learned that I need to be self-reliant, first and foremost, when it comes to my own safety. For instance, even after getting an iPhone, I still look up directions before I go to a new place and make sure that I have a general understanding of where I'm going and how to get back. Also, when I am feeling uncomfortable in a situation, especially with close friends, I speak up. I have learned to trust my intuition, rather than worrying about seeming stupid or unsure.