Getting Beyond Conflict

What I’ve Learned from Reading High Conflict

Simon Li
5 min readFeb 26, 2024

I don’t like conflict, because it could easily trigger a cocktail of overwhelming emotions within me. Even watching an argument unfold makes me uncomfortable. And yet conflicts are everywhere: When I was reading this book, I was experiencing conflict at work; In another part of the world, the conflict between Israel and Hamas was ongoing; Growing up in Mainland China but having lived in Hong Kong for 15 years, I experienced first hand the clash between people from the two places during the social unrest a few years ago.

Since conflict is bound to occur, I want to learn more about it, so I can be wiser when confronted by it, and that inspired me to read High Conflict by Amanda Ripley.

High Conflict Is Tar Pit

The book describes high conflict as tar pit: Once we get sucked into it, it becomes hard to get out. High conflict gives us the illusion of meaning and purpose — to revenge and crush the enemy. It gets us energized and motivated, and then conflict itself becomes the destination: We engage in it to perpetuate it, and the vicious cycle begins. The blood feud mentioned in the book between the Hatfield and the McCoy families in the U.S. that lasted for decades began with a small dispute about a suspected stolen pig.