top of page

This time you’ve gone too far! Introducing “contra-conflict”

1,556 words

You can be against something so intensely that you end up being for it. What you passionately resist you passively reinforce.

Contra-conflict defined

Contra-conflict means consciously opposing something or someone in a way that actually reinforces, even if only subconsciously, what or who is being opposed.

The opposition tends to be emotionally intense. Pain drives the opposition into overdrive.

The opposition tends to rely on generalizations. Some of them obvious overgeneralizations.

The opposition tends to lack accountability. They may not even realize the feared opposite is coming true.

Contra-conflict process

contra-conflict_cycle
 

generalize against

You might only be vaguely aware of a threat. Pain tempts you to generalize. You can attract more support when steering clear of specifics that can’t apply to all. You simply agree to oppose some common foe.

relieve with overgeneralizing opposite

When steeped in pain, it’s hard to see beyond binary options. To you at that moment, the issue is clearly black-and-white. Us-against-them. Overgeneralizing for relief can deceive you into accepting as true what is factually false.

reinforce the pain

If you’re only relieving your pain, you’re not addressing the needs behind that pain. You can be so attached for desperate relief that you are absolutely certain you’re right, while your action absolutely reinforces your pain.

blame the unfamiliar who are more responsible

“For most of us,” writes Margaret and Jordan Paul, “the pain we feel is preferable to the pain we fear.” Instead of confronting the pain of the unknown, you blame the unknown. You end up reinforcing what you tried to avoid.

I can share some examples impacting my own life. I encourage you to consider more.

Contra-homophobia

generalize against

I first encountered this contra-conflict phenomenon in the mid-1980s. Some of the evangelical conservatives I ran with in those days generalized against a so-called “gay agenda.”

relieve with overgeneralizing opposite

The cohesion of the nuclear family felt under constant cultural assault. For relief, they depersonalized non-heterosexuals as an overgeneralized threat to their “family values.”

reinforce the pain

Their overreactions effectively reinforced the pain of their collapsing familial cohesion. By looking outward for relief, they didn’t resolve their inward intimacy needs that would remove such pain.

blame the unfamiliar more responsible

By painting others they didn’t know as the culprit, they never honestly took responsibility for the their internal sources of such pain. They continued to generalize against others who took responsibility for their intimate sexual details in ways they remained sexually irresponsible.

contra-homophobia

The more they dehumanized others more responsible than themselves, the more they reinforced what they claimed to be against. The early church grew from such persecution. Now this latter day “church” spurred the growth of the contemporary gay movement. While claiming to be against the “homosexual lifestyle,” these detractors were pragmatically for it. That’s contra-homophobia.

When pressured to join this hate, I knew I had to leave this “church in name only.” I couldn’t be a party to hating gay activists that gives them ammunition for obvious pushback. It’s not that I ever left the church of called-out ones to unconditionally love; they left me.

Contra-rape

generalize against

Shortly after coming out as transgender back in 1993, I was targeted by those generally against sexual violence. A moral panic raged on over unfounded fears of Satanic pedophile rings, mixed with heavy doses of homophobia and transphobia. What’s there not to be against?

relieve with overgeneralizing opposite

Anyone accused of sexual misconduct must be guilty, they insisted. “Children don’t lie about such things,” they proclaimed after coaching the indoctrinated child with leading questions. They coaxed themselves into feeling relieved when overgeneralizing trans and gay people as “child recruiting predators.”

reinforce the pain

As an asexual transperson, I experienced the resulting wrongful conviction as state privileged sexual violence. Instead of resolving problems of sexual violence, they rely on wrongly convicting this asexual person to reinforce their familiar pain.

blame the unfamiliar more responsible

Is it irresponsible to convict without any corroborating evidence? I was. Is it irresponsible to project your sexual misgivings onto an asexual person? Like me. Is it irresponsible for the sexually ashamed to shame the sexually innocent? You tell me.

contra-rape

In the mid to late 1990s, I started using the term “contra-rape” to identify this ironic blowback. Such a painful paradox to be repeatedly sexually objectified by those claiming to be against sexual objectification. What they oppose they blatantly reinforce. That’s contra-rape.

Throughout my coming out process, I continued to respect my family’s need for social cohesion through traditional marriage. I continue to invite inquiry into all such specifics. Contra-conflict pushes against disconfirming specifics. So this is how I know who are my innocence-affirming friends, and which are in a sense entitled sex offenders.

Contra-racism

generalize against

While coming to terms with being transgender, I also came to terms with my mixed Native American heritage. As I realized my Indianness was more complicated than blood quantum and being tribally enrolled, others would generalize against it.

relieve with overgeneralizing opposite

While others expected me to know my traditional language and others “didn’t see color,” I realized racial bias is not a simple binary. But “racism” has become too loaded of a term to invite honest dialogue. Too much relieving from our shameful past.

reinforce the pain

These extremes reinforce the pain of racially charged biases. Denouncing any “white identity” as white supremacy easily reinforces it. Denying any racism persists against people of color ensures it persist.

blame the unfamiliar more responsible

I’m easily dismissed as just some “fence sitter” who refuses to stand with the presumably good of one against the others. I experience both the white world and the non-white world, but that bridge gets burned by those unfamiliar to pain-removing balance.

contra-racism

Indigenous wisdom lets me appreciate how bias naturally exists. All around me, I see this toxic bias against bias. The more they flea the embarrassing topic of racial bias, the more they’re apt to reinforce it. That’s contra-racism.

Until we can all freely admit our natural levels of group biases, including racially based signifiers, we’re bound to repress our actual levels of race-based biases. They become blind spots for others to shout about. Pushing us further into hiding. Including my over-celebrated or ignored Indianness.

Contra-transphobia

generalize against

Ten years after realizing I’m transgender, I realized I was more specifically “