In the largely autobiographical film “Peaceful Warrior,” loosely based on the book Way of the Peaceful Warrior by author Dan Millman, we meet a mysterious old man, a delightful character by the name of Socrates who operates a run-down gas station. The story line revolves around the relationship that Socrates develops with Dan. As the plot develops, and Dan learns to trust the old man, Socrates takes him through a series of powerful experiences and challenging life lessons all designed to achieve a single end: to help Dan realize and then release himself from a set of largely self-imposed limitations carried over from his past. At an inflection point in one of their dialogues—to help strengthen the point he wanted to make of a particular lesson—Socrates tells Dan:
“The secret to change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
This idea seems simple enough to understand and, at one level, it is. But hidden within it is also a secret instruction that, once revealed, will help us see the way out of any and all old patterns we may be reliving with our partner. Study the following insight closely; read and reread it as needed until some of its higher understanding reaches the part of yourself able to employ its power.
At the outset of feeling any disagreement about to begin—whether we’re about to go on the offensive, or find ourselves on our heels, feeling defensive—we must have enough awareness of ourselves to realize this very simple truth: in that same moment there is only one of two things that can be causing this conflict. Either an unseen part of us has acted to start this conflict, or some unconscious part of us has been stirred into opposing a similar characteristic in our partner. As long as we remain unaware of this “starting gun” that sets us racing to win the argument, we’ll continue to see everything about the moment from one side only: our side. But here’s the truth, as well as the explanation for why no one can ever win such a race:
Both of these actions—whether an unseen part of us steps up to initiate the pattern, or steps back to resist an equally unwitting action instigated by our partner—are a part of the overall pattern. In other words, the real reason this negative pattern keeps being resurrected is that, over and over again, we identify with one side or the other of these opposing forces. Take away either one of these two sides and well, you’ve heard the old expression: “what if they gave a war, and no one came?” This is why as soon as we catch the smallest hint of impatience, a mounting frustration, or any sense of resentment gathering steam we must act—decisively—as outlined here in the following two steps.