Human behavior is a complex concept, the secrets of which are still to be revealed to people by specialists in the science and social disciplines. Misunderstanding, as well as the different interests of the two parties, often lead to conflict. Conflicts may be of non-violent and violent nature, but one way or another, certain critical circumstances are created during this process. These extreme conditions can lead people to personal growth. The purpose of this work is to analyze how a conflict gives rise to two types of circumstances, namely life-threatening and identity harming, which contribute to a significant personality transformation.
Life-Threatening Circumstances and Meaning as Drivers for Personality Growth
The first type of circumstances that contribute to personal growth is life-threatening. This category of conditions is always generated by violent conflicts. The non-violent stage becomes violent when one community, driven by certain ideological principles, attacks another one. It is during the violent phase that human existence is threatened with eradication. The most well-known historical example of this type of conflict is World War II, during which the Japanese army carried out genocide against Chinese people and ethnic minorities in Nanking (Wakabayashi 29). However, the change of someone’s personality does not occur during the circumstances in which human life is at stake but after. People who went through horrible conditions are looking for an explanation of why they were able to go through the whole process. During these internal philosophical searches, they find the meaning that is the driver of personal growth.
One of the examples of personal transformation under the impact of life-threatening circumstances is the life story of Elie Wiesel. He survived the Holocaust and the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps, and for a long time wondered why fate had given him a chance. As a result of personal reflection, he found his own meaning, which consists in preserving the memory of his people and also in the struggle for all the suffering and oppressed (Wiesel 118). From a depressed person, he found his new life path.
Identity Harming Circumstances and Awareness as Drivers for Personality Growth
Another type of critical circumstance that forever changes the character of a person is identity harming one. This category of conditions means a non-violent conflict during which the attackers offend other people’s deepest feelings or aspects of their identity. One way or another, this event implies a factor of awareness. The result of this is a reassessment of the personal qualities of people, which can lead to two outcomes, separation or unification. An example of public unity is the anti-war protests against the Vietnam War when many different communities united against the foreign policy of the US government (History.com Editors). It can be argued without a doubt that it is the unity that is personal growth.
The residents of Billings also realized their shared identity through awareness. When neo-Nazi groups and skinheads began to harass the homes of Native Americans and Jewish communities, they created identity-harming circumstances (“Not In Our Town: Billings, Montana (High-Resolution Version)”). However, residents expressed themselves as a single society and also provided mutual support to each other, which clearly indicates personal growth (“Not In Our Town: Billings, Montana (High-Resolution Version)”). Consequently, they made it clear to the aggressors that an attack on one of the residents of Billings would mean an attack on their entire city.
Conflict, Circumstances and Personality Growth through the Prism of Today World
It is important to mention that in the process of a single conflict, both life-threatening and identity-harming types of circumstances may arise. Unfortunately, although society has overcome many barriers to social, cultural, racial, and prejudice, intolerance and oppression still exist. The brutal murder of George Floyd by a police officer confirms this claim. Police brutality created both life-threatening and identity-harming conditions for the African American community because of what they began to protest (Holmes). The American community supported the actions of the protesters (Sloss). It is hoped that these actions will lead to changes in the US police institution as well as to a revision of life values and positive personal transformations of many police officers.
This work explores how conflict can create two categories of circumstances, namely life-threatening and identity harming that encourage personal growth. The psychosocial structure of the formation of life-threatening situations was explained and proved on the examples of the Axis atrocities during the Second World War, as well as the book of Elie Wiesel’s Night. The development of these conditions was analyzed by the author using data on the anti-war protests of the Vietnam War and the case in Billings, Montana. Key milestones or people’s personality growth drivers were also considered. These psychosocial concepts have been formulated as meaning and awareness. Human behavior, conflict mechanisms, and types of conditions were also analyzed through the prism of the context of current events. Further research on this topic will help develop psychosocial techniques that can prevent conflict and cruelty.
History.com Editors. “Vietnam War Protests.” History, 2020.
Holmes, Oliver. “George Floyd killing sparks protests across US: at a glance guide.” The Guardian, 2020.
“Not In Our Town: Billings, Montana (High Resolution Version).” Youtube, uploaded by Not In Our Town, 2009.
Sloss, Morgan. “Cardi B, Kim Kardashian, And 18 Other Celebrities Respond To George Floyd’s Death.” BuzzFeed, 2020.
Wakabayashi, Bob Tadashi, editor. The Nanking Atrocity, 1937-1938: Complicating the Picture. Berghahn Books, 2017.
Wiesel, Elie. Night. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012.