Does conflict come from fear?

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clairewait's profile pic

clairewait | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

If you wanted to argue the opposite you could say that fear actually has the power to eliminate conflict and unite people.

Consider a country in crisis (ex: the US just after Sept. 11).  For several months we united as citizens in a way we haven't in a long time.  For a short time, EVERYONE became a nationalist.  Everyone was pro-military.  Everyone was proud to be an American.

In this situation though, you have to consider that the fear must be universal (for the group to be united) and pretty much life-threatening.  I suppose you could look at it on a small scale as well, say, children on a playground - it often seems allies are made out of a mutual fear of a common bully.  But even in this case, the kids might consider this a life-threatening situation.

besure77's profile pic

besure77 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted on

I will address this question from a psychological standpoint. Fear can lead to personal conflict. Say for example a person is afraid of something. Since they are afraid, they avoid it. This usually always leads to conflict because the person needs to do things (often negative or self-destructive) to avoid it.

There are many ways of approaching fear in the context of conflict. However, since fear is such a personal issue, most approaches focus on the individual. There are various ways to deal with your own fear, including

  • becoming aware of it,
  • identifying the ways you express fear
  • recognizing the situations which trigger fear, and
  • using behavioral techniques to reduce fear and stress.

It is important to understand how destructive fear can be. Fear is a very powerful emotion that can cause that is capable of causing irrational behavior. By recognizing fear for what it is and trying to reduce those feelings it is very possible to live a life with less conflict.

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lfawley's profile pic

lfawley | College Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

Fear is definitely one cause of conflict. The concept of the "other" (that which is not the self, that which is different) is something that has fascinated historians and philosophers throughout the postmodern era. We fear those things that are different from us because we don't understand them. This can be said of cultures, religions, races or any group identity of people. We feels safe inside our comfort zone and we fear the possibility that the other will try to change us in some way to make us more like themselves. Instead of risking that possibility, it is often human nature to destroy that which is different before it has a chance to "infect" us in some way with its otherness. For this reason, one of the best means of mitigating conflict is through the fostering of understanding, the seeking of consensus or, at the very least, a common cause. If we can understand that what makes us different also makes us the same, we have a better chance of getting along with one another. Take religion as an example. All major religions share a similar tenet - the idea of doing no harm to one another. This is a starting point for common cause. If we were to focus on that instead of on the name of the deity or the path to everlasting life, then we would find that Islam, Christiaity, Judaism, Wicca and other major religions all share a similar set of moral values. By starting from this point, we can reach a better understanding and acceptance of the fact that, just because there are different pasths, no oje is better than the other. This is the first step to resolving religious conflicts. This same example can be applied to cultures, races, and countries as well.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I don't know if you are talking about conflict between people or conflict between countries.  I know a lot more about international relations than psychology so I'm going to talk about conflict between countries.

Many international relations scholars say that conflict comes about because of misunderstandings (at least usually).  They say it comes about because countries do not really understand what other countries are trying to accomplish.  Usually what that means is that Country B will think Country A is trying to hurt them when Country A does not really intend that.

So I guess you could say that conflict in that case comes from fear.  Country B does not know what country A is doing and they fear that Country A might be out to hurt them.

kc4u's profile pic

kc4u | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

If your question relates to political conflict, the answer should be a clear 'yes'. You may take the example of the Indian sub-continent. Ever since India and Pakistan became independent, the relations between the two geographical brothers are one of conflict based on mutual fear. The Kashmir issue has been the major bone of contention, leading to full-scale wars and now the seemingly never-ending trans-border terrorism. When East Pakistan had become Bangladesh in 1971, it was again the same story of political and military conflict born of social-cultural fears between two parts of the same nation. Think of Srilanka, of how the country witnessed sustained blood-bath in which the Tamil desire of freedom-'elam'-was afraid of the Sinhalese economic-cultural domination. It was ethnic fear which bred the conflict.

If your question relates to psychology, I should once again answer 'yes', but in this domain matters would be more elusive. Psychological fear also leads to conflict. You may remember Macbeth in his soliloquies or in the scene of banquet. Fear is restrictive and it stunts the mind, sometimes even divides it. Conflicts born of fears may result in serious damages to the point of madness or self-immolation.

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