Continued from Part 1:

But its important to understand that these attractors are NOT CREATED BY ANY ONE THING, but by many things but more importantly by how all of these things come together to form powerful constraints on how we think, feel and act. It’s like we are trapped in the gravity of an attractor.

But we’ve learned some interesting things about where attractor conflicts come from that can help: What we call The 10 year Rule.

This comes from research by Paul Diehl & Gary Goetz on the Correlates of War Data Base which has data on wars from 1816-2001 on 915 cases of international conflict. And we’ve found that about 5% of these got stuck for decades despite many good faith attempts at peacemaking. The study of the these stuck conflicts tells us something fascinating - 95% of them erupted within 10 years of a major political shock to the system (like the over-throw of a government, or an assassination).

Some major destabilizing event occurs and then 10 years later we see the beginning of these conflicts. But this is not how we typically think, right? A war breaks out and we look to see what triggered it, but the reality is that something had set the stage for it a decade before.

So for example, what happened about ten years before the “Arab Spring” erupted in 2011?

9/11 shocked the world, and on its heels the U.S. invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. Now did 9/11 and the wars cause the Arab Spring? Of course not! But they set the stage – they destabilized the region sufficiently so that regimes that had been in control for decades were suddenly overthrown – 10 years later - by young people with Twitter!

Similarly, pundits in this country often suggest that today’s political quagmire began with the Reagan administration. But if you look back at the political shocks that occurred in the US 10 years before Regan, we see a more likely cause:

1968 Summer of Love (Sex and Drugs),

1968 MLK & Bobby Kennedy assassinations

1968 My Lai Massacre & Anti-Vietnam movement

1970 Kent State shootings

1970 EPA, OSHA, PBS founded

1971 Pentagon papers released

1972 Watergate scandal

1973 Roe V. Wade decision

We see a series of major political shocks that - 10 years later - ruptured our unity and tore us apart into the Blues and Reds we are trapped in today.

So How Can all this Help us Change our Situation?

Continued in Part 3 forthcoming next week...

Peter T. Coleman, author of The Five Percent: Finding Solutions to Seemingly Impossible Conflicts, is associate professor of psychology and education at Columbia University, director of the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution, and on the faculty of Teachers College and The Earth Institute at Columbia. In 2003, he received the Early Career Award from the American Psychological Association, Division 48: Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict, and Violence. He lives in New York.