Martine & Stephen

Batchelor

Recently two good friends had some problems, which escalated due to miscommunication.  Before this happened and built up, they had no problems, they helped and supported each other and were very cordial.  However soon negative re-interpreting started to happen on both side.  It was amplified to get people‚Äôs opinion on their side and then the conflict became extremely destructive and now they have fallen out totally.   I felt caught in the middle and this led me to reflect on what I would call negative re-interpretation.

Negative re-interpreting seems quite automatic when we feel threatened.  We do it without realizing its destructiveness.  How does it work?  Up until a certain event we had no problem with someone, then something happened, which changed our mind and broke the previous harmonious and peaceful situation.  Being upset, we try to understand what happened and we revisit by ourselves, but often with others, the history we have had with that person and start to give it a negative slant.  What seemed innocuous previously now will be seen as threatening, hurtful or devious.  We will start to reproach the person we are in conflict with not only for the present but also for the past.  A past we have reconstructed negatively and which s/he cannot change since it is gone.  A past we feel differently about now than we had felt then. 

Negative re-interpreting complicates and exaggerates any problem, as we are not just dealing with the situation at hand with possible wrongs or mistakes on both sides.  We drape ourselves in our dignity of having been hard done by for a long time.  Then we do not have to face the challenge of dealing with the manifold aspect of the present difficult situation that has been created due to internal and external conditions related to both parties.  If someone has hurt us in the past, it is different.  I am talking of cases where there was no problem whatsoever previously nor was the problem hidden or secret. 

This negative re-interpretation could play a part also in bigger conflicts between neighbors or different groups of people.  It could explain partly why people who have lived quite peacefully with each other for decades can suddenly and violently turn against each other from one day to the next.

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