The Dangerous Swinging Pendulum

The tragic acts of terror committed in Paris and around the globe have sent shock waves through the world. Such cultural attacks and the military responses are extreme examples of the same swinging pendulum syndrome we all experience at certain points in our lives. We all face conflict. We all get hurt by the actions and words of other people. We all have an urge to strike back, to inflict that same pain that others have caused us. But when we act on these urges, it sets into motion a pendulum that gains momentum as it escalates the conflict, perhaps even reaching a point of no return. Handling such conflicts wisely and ideally nipping them in the bud is an art. Though finding peaceful resolution is not always possible, it is highly preferential.

Incredibly, this swinging pendulum syndrome is at the root of conflicts, be they personal or global. So, what is the art of dealing with the syndrome? You have two choices: 1) You can end the relationship on negative terms, allowing those hurt feelings to build into stubborn grudges that only serve to inflame the situation even more; or 2) You can cultivate the art of dealing with the swinging pendulum syndrome.

So how do you stop that pendulum from swinging? First, allow yourself some time to come back into balance. Let yourself sit with your emotions for a bit. Just don’t let time drag on too long, which could perpetuate resentment. Once you feel relatively balanced again, say something. Tell the person who wronged you that you are ready to open the door to healing the relationship. Be ready for the possibility of rejection if they are not ready to take this step yet. They may need more time to come back into their own balance. Your peace offering will not be forgotten; no one wants a war. It can just be hard to take that next step. You can always try again later with another peace offering. Note that a peace offering does not mean assuming the fetal position. It does not mean giving in or assuming defeat. It is a mature and adult stance instead of a weak and childish one. You cannot control how another person will respond to your actions, but you can approach the relationship and try to repair it with honesty and integrity. Just be aware that when the pendulum is swinging, it can require some skill to get out of its way.

When you do have that discussion with the other person, it might involve some jabs. It might not go as you planned. Neither of you will handle the situation perfectly. What was intended as an honest sharing of feelings might turn into more of the blame game. Just handle the situation as it arises, and remember: stay out of the way of the swinging pendulum. Don’t fuel its momentum. If you feel that you are receiving hurtful jabs, respectfully excuse yourself from the conversation with an offer to resume it later. More than likely, the other person will know why you are requesting the break and reflect on their behavior later.

Certainly there will be times when the other person is completely unwilling to make peace. Try not to judge yourself as having failed in your peacemaking efforts. All you can do is your best. However, a knee-jerk retaliatory action is not a good first response. For example, the war in Iraq started with a knee-jerk reaction which is now regretted by most. The terrorist conflict in Paris may not have a peaceful resolution. Some will say it is time to retaliate and others will not. History will certainly have its 20/20 hindsight perspective. But whenever possible, nipping the swinging pendulum syndrome at the bud is always preferable.

Dodging swinging pendulums and helping their negative momentum settle back to zero is an art that requires much patience. You will handle these situations with grace and your own personal style. There is no one-size-fits-all prescription for addressing conflict, but deescalating confrontation is always a good first step. Giving yourself the time to cultivate this art form is much of what being an adult is all about.

Dr. Michael Mamas is the founder of The Center of Rational Spirituality, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the betterment of humanity through the integration of ancient spiritual wisdom with modern rational thought. From personal issues to global trends, Dr. Michael Mamas helps individuals and organizations develop a deeper understanding and more comprehensive outlook by providing a ‘bridge’ between the abstract and concrete, the Eastern and Western, and the ancient and modern. Dr. Michael Mamas has been teaching for 35 years (including the U.S., India, Europe, and Canada) and writes on a variety of subjects on his blog,