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Internal Conflict and Its Consequences
Editors’ Note: Have you ever been in a negotiation where you (or the other side) seem to be acting instinctively, but perhaps not helpfully? Have you wondered what was going on inside your counterpart? Deutsch summarizes how psychological theory applies to basic negotiation, and explains how negotiators’ internal conflicts affect them and everybody else in the room. In a coda about our global community, he adds an analysis of how powerful individuals’ internal conflicts have increasingly played out with disastrous consequences on the world stage.
In situations involving interaction between individuals, groups, or nations, the internal state of the individual, group, or nation will often have profound effects on the interactions which take place. The reverse is also true: the interactions that take place will often have profound impact on the internal states of the interacting entities. In this chapter, I shall provide an example of the effects of internal conflicts upon negotiations and consider some ways of managing the difficulties they often create. The example will be of negotiations about conflicts between a husband and wife. Although the example is about interpersonal conflict, I shall draw some general conclusions that may be applicable to intergroup and international conflict.
Before discussing the husband and wife conflict, I briefly consider some relevant aspects of Psychodynamic Theory to provide a framework for understanding such conflicts.
Psychodynamic Theory: The Effect of Internal Conflict upon External Conflict1
Psychodynamic theory, as developed by Freud and other psychoanalytic theorists, (Greenberg and Mitchell 1983; Rycroft 1995; Smith 1999) emphasizes the role of unconscious internal conflict as critical to the understanding of human development and behaviors. There are seven basic ideas in psychodynamic theory that are relevant to this chapter. They are discussed below.
An Active Unconscious
People actively seek to remain unaware (unconscious) of those of their impulses, thoughts, and actions that make them feel very disturbing emotions (for example, anxiety, guilt, shame).
People may have internal conflict between desires and conscience, desires and fears, and what the “good” self wants and what the “bad” self wants; the conflict may occur outside of consciousness.
Control and Defense Mechanisms
People develop tactics and strategies to control their impulses, thoughts, actions, and realities so that they will not feel anxious, guilty, or ashamed. If their controls are ineffective, they develop defense mechanisms to keep from feeling these disturbing emotions.
Stages of Development
From birth on to old age, people go through stages of development. Associated with the stages are normal frustrations, a development crisis, and typical defense mechanisms. Certain forms of psycho-pathology are likely to develop if severe frustration and crisis face the child during a particular stage, with the result that the child becomes “fixated” at that stage; in addition, some adult character traits are thought to originate in each given stage.
The Layered Personality
How someone has gone through the stages of development determines current personality. One can presumably discover the residue of earlier stages of development in current personality and behavior. Thus, a par...
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Deusch, M. 2006. Internal and External Conflict. In The Negotiator’s Fieldbook. Edited by Schneider, A.K. and Honeyman, C., eds. Washington, DC: American Bar Association.
Deutsch, M., E. C. Marcus and S. Brazaitis. 2015. Developing a Global Community: A Social Psychological Perspective. In Handbook of International Negotiation: Interpersonal, Intercultural and Diplomatic Perspectives. Edited by Galluccio, M. New York: Springer.
Fisher, R., W. Ury and B. Patton. 1981. Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. New York: Penguin.
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Johnson, D. W., R. T. Johnson and D. Tjosvold. 2014. Constructive Controversy: The Value of Intellectual Opposition. In Coleman, P.T., M. Deutsch and E. C. Marcus, The Handbook of Conflict Resolution: Theory and Practice, 3rd edn. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Marcus, E.C., M. Deutsch and Y. Liu. (In preparation). Some Research Findings in Individuals’ Willingness to Participate in the Development of a Global Community.
Raworth, K. 2012. A Safe and Just Space for Humanity. Oxfam Discussion Paper.
Rycroft, C. 1995. A Critical Dictionary of Psychoanalysis, 2nd edn. New York: Penguin.
Smith, D. L. 1999. Approaching Psychoanalysis: An Introductory Course. London: Karnac.
Tjosvold, D., A. Wong and Yi Feng Chen, N. 2014. Managing Conflicts in Organizations Constructively. In Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior 1.