Finding a Third Option for Conflict

Whether it’s a conflict within yourself or with someone else, often only two far-from-ideal options seem to exist.

Let’s look again at Sam, who was about to leave home when his mom became ill. Sam is a responsible young man who felt his parents needed him, so he put off his dreams of a new truck and his own place.

This article is one in a series on conflict.
You can find the first article in the series here.

However, Sam’s friend, Lisa, has noticed that Sam’s been down in the dumps lately, rather than his usual cheerful self. Sam told Lisa, “I’ve even snapped at mom! I would never have done that before.” Sam is shocked and disappointed in himself—he doesn’t want to feel resentful but he can’t seem to help it.

So it looks like Sam has two options: start his independent life, or stay with his parents. Is there a workable third option? Let’s look at which of Sam’s basic needs are satisfied by each option.

If Sam stays at home providing help and companionship during his mom’s illness, he’ll have the good feeling of being a conscientious son. That’ll help satisfy his love and belonging need, which is very important to him. This option also satisfies some of his “power” need.

Remember that in Reality Therapy, the need for “power” is the need for esteem, recognition, or the satisfaction of fulfilling a purpose. Like all the basic needs, the power need is one that everyone has to some degree.

However, in Sam’s perception, home is now constant pressure and responsibility. He has neither freedom nor fun; and that results in those resenting behaviours (snapping, depressing) that he doesn’t want.

If Sam leaves home, he’ll satisfy his needs for fun and freedom with his new independence, and also satisfy his power need with his sense of accomplishment. The downside is that while he’s feeling great about his new freedom, he’ll feel miserable with his perception that he’s left his parents to more or less fend for themselves, frustrating his love and belonging need. He’ll also feel he’s shirking responsibility, thus frustrating his power need.

Is there an option where Sam can satisfy all needs without frustrating others?

Figuring out a third option can take creativity: look at the problem in a new way. A talk with someone outside the situation can help. When Sam discussed his quandary with Lisa, she surprised him by asking, “Do your parents want you there, or would they rather you move out?”

This question was an eye-opener for Sam. He had assumed his parents wanted him at home. Is there a way for Sam to act responsibly, for his parents to get the care they need, and for Sam to satisfy not only his love and belonging needs, but also get some freedom and fun? He won’t know until he asks his parents what they want!

What do you think Sam might learn when he talks to his parents?

This next article in this series on conflict is here.
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