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In our facilitated examination of applied psychodynamics within the conflict interaction landscape, we are examined based on analysis and applied theory of three unique psychologically based theoretical constructs: psychodynamic theory, emotion-based or verbal aggressiveness theory, social cognition, or attribution theory.

Our lecturer’s companion text outlines a series of events captured in a narrative entitled The Parking Lot Scuffle (Floger et al., 2021, p. 42). The situation generally involved the discovery of a moped occupying a reserved parking space and negligent impact with it. Most generally, an overly entitled moped driver parked in a reserved space (Tim). When the reserved space owner pulled in, he was occupied with thoughts of his day and did not see the moped and impacted it, causing damage (Jay).

One party attempted to avoid the conflict (Jay), but an altercation ensued, initiated by Tim, presumably to hold Jay accountable for his perceived actions. Eventually, the parties were separated by bystanders. Through this illustration of conflict, our companion text moves through three separate theories, each explaining why the conflict was unresolvable and ultimately ended in violence. This illustration is a rich opportunity to guide how to apply advice to another in a systematically sound fashion based on the example s authority of our text.

Applied Psychodynamic Theory in Conflict Interactions

First, the genealogy of psychodynamic theory can be traced to Freudian psychoanalytic theory. The theory posits that aggressive energy and anxiety are attached to rising emotions that evolve into aggressiveness or anxiety. These rising emotions are often a result of a need (drive) not being met and corresponding outward aggression or converse inward-facing anxiety or even both (Folger et al., 2021, p.44). Individual interests rest in surrounding how the suppression of drives, as discussed by Floger et al., could lead to a significant internal adjustment differential in response rather than addressing the deficiency in conscious thought through the ego. Ergo, potentially, through the subdural, suppression theory, the individual attains a coping mechanism to avoid internal and external conflict.

Suppression appears to occur largely subliminally, perhaps under the control of the id and superego, separately yet collectively, that, according to Freudian thought, serve to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Acknowledging the presence of the drive exposes one to the real possibility that the drive could go unfulfilled, leading to frustration and a greater degree of aggression or anxiety. Our companion text discusses the phenomenon of displacement and scapegoating, ideas supported by the individual to manage aggression and anxiety by harming subjects, not actually the source of it.

The psychodynamic theory also contemplates the features of anxiety that contribute to fixed thinking, a term this student coined long ago to describe individuals in conflict who were rigid and inflexible, as our text illustrates.

In the context of The Parking Lot Scuffle, applied psychodynamic theory would suggest that Jay, acutely anxious as a component of the situation he found himself in, sought to avoid the conflict (suppress) it. Frustrated and angry because Tim’s needs had not been met (his scooter was damaged and would cost, in his view, a lot to repair) increased his anxiety, which progressed incrementally to outward aggressiveness when Jay attempted to avoid the conflict, causing an escalated state, which resulted in violence.

We are encouraged to focus on the social norms and normative behavior that is socially acceptable to neutralize an escalating conflict. If Tim had postured himself from the stance that he did not see the scooter parked in his space by the offending Jay, he could have offered a socially explainable reason why the impact occurred.

Nevertheless, logic has to meet reason here. Jay should have rationally thought through the law. His perspective was flawed. Whether the cloudiness of perspective was from anxiety or aggression, suppression, or fixed thinking, Jay should have considered his actions wrong. Whether in a parking lot or not, Tim’s scooter was parked in a reserved space. No law this student has been able to locate would make Tim an offender of anything other than being an explicative. In stark contrast, Jay impacted a fixed motor vehicle, stationary and parked in a parking space. He violated at least every civil tort of negligence this student has ever studied.

Jay should have reduced his anxiety and aggression by sourcing and assigning his fault, dismissing inappropriate blame due to his entitlement and frustration, and then squarely applying the principles of logic and reason to deescalate and neutralize the conflict: look before you park, old boy. These are cognitive errors that led to the conflict. The accident would not have occurred if Jay had met Tim with this attitude and less frustration with his unmet need (a vanity parking space). In this vein, an appropriate resolution of the conflict could have been met through less extraordinary means, such as simple acceptance of responsibility by Jay.

As my facilitator and lecturer, I offer my less astute advice on reserved space, parking lot, disagreements. Next time you drive to your office and discover I have claimed your Professor of the Month spot, please consider applying the psychodynamic theory when addressing the conflict that will follow. Following social norms, Chris, why the F do you constantly insist on parking in my parking space might be a helpful way to begin, especially since you have perspective on my personality and have personal interactions with me that reveal my willingness to resolve conflict.

The direct approach will reduce your anxiety, satisfy your internal drive, and lead us to a constructive space where I might say, You know, you’re right. I m not sure why I m so strongly attached to this spot, but I hope it s mine one day.

Then, you could respond, in kind annoyance, that you’d appreciate it if I followed the University Rules in the future. Accordingly, I’ve been put on notice of, and the following result may be, my vehicle being impounded. The need for my id to take impulse-based pleasure in having a space I am not entitled to must be balanced with accountability. My superego would trigger my responsibility complex, thereby resolving the conflict.

Resolving the conflict over space requires me to accept that you may, at your election, hold me uniquely accountable by reporting an offending vehicle to the University Police. This decision-making rests with the superego, as we were taught long ago, the logical, moral component of the Freudian triad.
This entire approach has an interplay of emotionality. The whole interchange incorporates available psychodynamic means to address conflict issues for both parties, apply social norms to the situation, recognize internal drives, and address them in turn, then allow the parties to separate and reduce the level of conflict present normatively. As discussed earlier, the entire feature set of this hypothetical example has effectively passed through the normative range of conflict and has remained productive.

Escalation did not occur; avoidance did not either. You constructively applied psychodynamic principles to mediate the superego and id so the ego could perform constructive work and progress to the relaxation phase of conflict.

The second theory examined in connection with the psychological experience of conflict contemplates features of emotionality, including the personality traits of aggressiveness and argumentativeness. The verbal aggressiveness theory attempts to explain why verbal attacks occur during interpersonal communication (Floger et al., 2001).

Applied Verbal Aggressiveness Theory

This student’s interest in this theory ignites his graduate ambitions in psychology within the personality domain. Verbal aggressiveness theory views aggressiveness and argumentativeness as personality traits (Floger et al., 2021, p. 50). As a nerd on personality psychology, we know it has developed over time and become stable. This perspective leans heavily on social cognitions akin to the attribution theory, which we will discuss in more detail momentarily. Still, an interweaving of social contexts is relevant to discuss.

One’s personality develops through various means and creates the lens through which one views the world around them and reacts to it. In the case of The Parking Lot Scuffle, as our textbook benchmark, we must rightfully lean heavily on our experience in personality to fully understand the reasons that could explain why this theory could be logically applied to recycle from escalation to a more normative range of conflict resolution between our sample parties.

Application of the verbal aggressiveness theory when considering the Parking Lot Scuffle might suggest that Tim’s personality developed, among other things, a high degree of avoidance traits that manifested into aggressiveness, albeit passively. On the other hand, the dominant feature of personality that was evidenced in the sample was argumentativeness. In the context of trait theory, Tim may score high on aggressiveness, whereas Jay may score high on aggressiveness and argumentativeness. In this context, the conflict was ripe for escalation.

While we can speculate using a variety of means to source stable traits, it is natural, by the definition of personality, to conclude they were rooted over time. In retrospect, if Jay had sidelined his aggressiveness and avoidance characteristics, he would not have empowered Tim’s aggressiveness and argumentativeness.

The authors of our text lateralize the traits of aggressiveness and argumentativeness and conclude that one is superior to the other. This is captured well by our lecturer s key ideas for this lesson, noting that the trait of argumentativeness is superior and aggressiveness inferior in the matrix of the conflict continuum (The Pennsylvania State University, 2023).

Dr., it is me again.

Building upon the previous example of our parking lot scuffle, I assume that we each share the common trait of argumentativeness. However, I am not sure. In situations where you are unsure of the dominant trait you manage within a conflict, yield to the trait most likely to be superior, not inferior. Your critical ways, the argumentative ones you enjoyed through your education, will serve you well, but remember, we have yet to discuss attribution theory, and I do not know anything at all about you, so I may not know how your unique experiences could shape aggressiveness in this context.

Perhaps the parking space was your father’s. Maybe he is deceased. Possibly it was appointed to you for your lifetime, and infringing upon it by me is highly personal and triggers your personality’s inferior, aggressive traits. In this case, be patient and slow down the conflict cycle by not attaching it to the past. Allowing emotion to creep into conflict only establishes a landmine when trying to resolve it, but they are natural and will be there.

Take the professorial approach to managing the conflict we are in, rationalize with an irrational and reckless student, and then follow the advice of the interwoven psychodynamic theory. It will serve each of us well.

Applied Attribution Theory within Conflict Interactions

The final theory subject to this discussion is the attribution theory. Attribution theory posits the organized thoughts individuals possess about their interactions contribute to their approach to conflict. The theory conceptualizes that specific cognitive structures shape behavior during conflict, while social knowledge impacts our views of interpersonal conflict (Floger et al., 2021, p. 54).

In conflict, parties assess the conflict and make inferences about its conditions it based on observations and previous learning. This feature provides a robust and person-centric view of the conflict and impacts the party’s interaction.

The attribution process comprises two distinct functions: the interpretation of behavior by an individual and the assignment of its causation, then a reaction. The premise of the second prong of the attribution process reveals its fatal flaw in conflict situations and its linkage to the verbal aggressiveness theory and, to some degree, the psychodynamic theory. This theory contemplates that when interpreting behavior (perhaps psychodynamically), we use signals from the environment to determine the causation of an action. When this works, we have made the correct correlations; when it does not, an incorrect correlation occurs, and we discover the fundamental attribution error.

Within this context, the error results in a view of the negative situation as offending based on their experience, perspectives, and views. Our text describes the condition well when considering the outcome of the attribution error: the individual view of another’s behavior as goal-driven and intentional. This can only have one logical next step, which can only serve to recycle conflict. (Floger et. al. p. 55).

The outcome of the incorrect view of an action and its reaction must be ripe for association with Freudian-style associations connected to the previously discussed psychodynamic perspective. Accordingly, attribution theory can be connected to its psychodynamic counterpart with ease. The logical next step is to trigger the reaction prong of the overarching theory, potentially resulting in a poor outcome. The reactionary nature of the second prong of the theory lends great support drawn by its interconnectedness to the verbal aggressiveness theory.

Another component of the overarching theory lateral to the fundamental attribution error is self-serving bias. In the thought cycle described within the context of fundamental attribution error rests what appears to be the core of the overarching theory: the entire attribution cycle seems to be overwhelmingly self-serving.

In a different, more serious vein, I would offer my wife, my best friend, and even you Dr., along with anyone willing to listen to a student with a lifetime of experience professionally managing conflict, this simple advice:

Conflict, by its very nature, seems to trigger the defensive mechanisms associated with Freudian thought taught to us in Introductory Psychology well and thereafter dismissed as not being rooted in science. For the moment, I will say that Freud was quite scientifically relevant then and now. He was not a drug-induced weirdo, as explained after the hook of psychology took hold in Intro.

C. Donahue

The id serving and existing for the avoidance of pain and to pursue pleasure is distal to the superego, which has a high sense of morality encompassing features of judgment, placing the ego superior to both. Considering this notion, it must constantly be a war between the superego and id under Freud s theory and its linkage to the psychodynamic perspective. No wonder simple awareness of these theories promotes a solid stance to neutralize their underlying corrosive effect on the conflict resolution process. Anxiety and aggressive impulses must be highest when conflict is present. How could it not?

However, it is the only logical next step, in my theoretical opinion, when you are mediating conflict, you must constantly be aware of the roving thoughts within the party’s minds. They impact the unconscious level. The last theory discussed in this paper, the attribution theory, connects strongly to features of judgment and self-serving tendencies. Consider this logic in framing resolutory offerings in the next case you meditate. The condition is already present, under attribution theory, that the parties are evoking the self-serving bias inherently present and just outside the periphery of the core of the conflict: some wrong has been done.

Under this assumption, you appear rather gridlocked. You may approach an impasse, yet the way you lead the parties through dissolving the bias through means of recycling our conflict cycles in productive ways will immediately work to shorten the mediation cycle, ideally returning the conflict to constructive work and progressing to relaxation.

In Lead GHR Enters., Inc. v. Am. States Ins. Co. 369 F. Supp. 3d 909 (D.S.D. 2019), the plaintiff was damaged when a retaining wall collapsed proximate to a commercial property. The insurer denied coverage. It was a unique mediation; each party had a mediator representative agreed to by the parties to represent their interests and communicate those interests to the Justice. In preparation, I reviewed 1700+ pages of documents, including witness statements, interrogatories, and admissions, all the while developing my theory of fault supported in part by a self-serving bias.

Following my review of the pleadings and discovery, I made reasonable attributions of fault based on my views, yet not connected to any emotionality involving the case whatsoever. My lack of emotionality plausibly contributed to a lower punitive damage assessment, agreed to by the parties and executed by agreement.

Suppose you approach conflict with the perspective and view that emotionality is likely a core feature (for whatever reason you root your theory). In that case, the attribution theory closely connects escalating features centered around perspectives that may not be accurately measured.

When at war, always take the temperature of the battle.

In this case, remember to take your own. Remember, to resolve conflict, a certain degree of give and take must happen; it is a compromise. Study your motives before engaging in a cycle of conflict that roots or regresses to nonproductive phases based on the emotionality or attribution you attach to the causation.
You will be happy you did.

Works Cited

Folger, J. P., Poole, M. S., & Stutman, R. K. (2021). Working Through Conflict (9th ed.). Taylor & Francis. Retrieved 09 17, 2023, from

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