Personal happiness and interpersonal conflict are yin and yang. Seemingly contrary forces, each has the source of the other in it.
They are interwoven and each requires the other for existence, much the way one side of a coin could not exist without the other. In Asian traditions, “presence in absence” refers to the idea that no state is devoid of its opposite, since its presence contains the absence of the other. Sunlight contains the seeds of shadow, wealth contains the seeds of poverty, health contains the seeds of sickness, and so on, in an eternal cycle.
Likewise, interpersonal conflict contains the seeds of personal happiness. If yin and yang are complementary opposites calling us to seek balance and harmony between them, happiness and conflict call us also to seek such a balance.
Mediation and coaching clients sometimes express doubt and hopelessness to me when we first begin our work together, in words like these: “We’re smart people. If there were an agreeable solution to be had, we’d have found it already.” Or, “We’ve tried really hard to make this work. I no longer think this personal/business/professional relationship can be saved.”
Sometimes they’re right. But more often, they discover they were premature in drawing those conclusions. It’s not that they aren’t smart. Or aware. Or haven’t tried hard enough. It’s never that.
It’s that possibility was elusive and that opportunities were invisible to them in the way they were working on the conflict.
It’s that their viewing a state of conflict as aberrant, as a signal that something’s very broken, missed that happiness and conflict are yin and yang, just seeking to return to a state of balance.