The Anatomy of Peace
Book Review: The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict, By Arbinger Institute
By: Dr. Yashar Khosroshahi, ND
THIS BOOK MAKES ME BETTER. As a doctor, husband, father, coach, and entrepreneur, I have gained new perspectives on how to maintain connection in conflict situations, and how to successfully resolve them.
The Anatomy of Peace reads as a fictional story of a group of parents looking to solve their children’s troubled lives. As the families arrive to drop off their children at the treatment facility, they are greeted with a surprise, they themselves have to stay too. Why? To learn the philosophy behind the treatment program: you can’t ask for change without changing yourself too. This is where the MINDSHIFT for the parents, and you as the reader, begins. The Anatomy of Peace is written as a simple narrative with big lessons.
“If you are going to invite change in him, there is something that first must change in you.” p. 15
The story may be fictional, but the content and philosophy described offer an enlightening look at how we deal with challenges and conflicts – and how often times, we make them worse. Anyone interested in improving a relationship, in any capacity, can learn from reading this book. Here are three highlights from the book, and questions you can ask yourself as you read, to help you do better, by thinking better.
- HOW I SEE YOU
“We are always seeing others either as objects – as obstacles, for example, or as vehicles or irrelevancies – or we are seeing them as people.” p. 30
“We just don’t see eye to eye” – seems like an accepted conclusion to an unresolved conflict. However, this simple statement leaves room for a deeper question. A question that reveals more about your psyche, than that of the person you are in disagreement with. The question is: How do I see you? i.e. Do I value your opinion? Can I see your perspective? or Am I dismissing your views as irrelevant, and/or even annoying? Understanding how you are seeing the other person is an imperative first step in successfully addressing conflict.
Q: Do I see the person, or people, I am in conflict with as having: hopes, needs, cares, and fears, as real to me as my own? (“heart at peace”) – OR – Do I see the person, or people, I am in conflict with as: obstacles, vehicles, irrelevant, or obstructing my end goal? (“heart at war”)
- IN THE “BOX”
“We construct our boxes through a lifetime of choices. Every time we choose to pull away from and blame another, … we start to plaster together a box of self-justification, the walls getting thicker and thicker over time.” p. 136
We love to be right, at times we even construct narratives ensuring that we are right – even when we are wrong. The book describes this as being in “the box”. It is in this framework that we create our world view – and construct our conflicts. In neuroscience speak, these are our mental maps. These mental maps, if not checked, or properly understood, allow us to justify our actions, even when they don’t serve us. Luckily for us, we can gain deeper insight about our “boxes”, and move towards changing them. More on this next month, when we review: Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box.
Q: What choices am I making, or thoughts do I repeat to myself, that allow me to continue to justify my actions or inactions? How is this impacting my chances of solving my conflict or challenge?
- TIME FOR ACTION
“When we have recovered those sensibilities toward others, we must then act on them… We need to honour the senses we have rather than betray them.” p. 196
Once we have understood how we see others, and how we justify our behaviour, it is our responsibility to take action – and to move towards peace. Without action the brain will not reprogram its mental maps, and without reprogramming our brain, behavior change is not sustainable. As the book convincingly demonstrates, all actions can be done with a “heart at peace” or with a “heart at war”. Even what seems to be “nice” can be done with a “heart at war” causing ongoing conflict. You must repeatedly check in with yourself, how you are seeing others, if you are justifying your behaviour, and clarify your intentions. Only then can we do the hardest deeds and honour those around us.
Q: How can I use my “heart at peace” to be a compass for my behaviour?
MINDSHIFT Our Way Towards Peace
“We separate from each other at our own peril.” p. 170
Conflict starts with you. Self-awareness and personal accountability are essential components for resolving any conflict. We must explore our conflicts through these lenses. Our actions must be motivated by positive change if we are to achieve fundamental personal and professional growth. It is easy to dismiss these claims, if we are not willing to embrace the need to change within ourselves first – and instead seek only to change others. In any conflict the first question you should ask is: What can I do? As the book illustrates beautifully, without putting our attention towards these principles we only deepen the rifts among ourselves. If we are serious about ending the conflicts we face – at home, work, in the world, and in our hearts – then it’s time to MINDSHIFT our way towards peace.
Interested in reading this book? Check it out for yourself.
Check out our post on our other favourite Arbinger Institute book: Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box.
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