If you find yourself locked in a titanic battle of wills, remember one fact: there is no way to resolve that kind of impasse with logical discussion, no matter how calmly you get yourself to proceed. Will, once inflamed, is not amenable to compromise, facts, persuasion, the observable law of cause and effect, the consensus of most calm, disinterested people in the world. This kind of showdown is famously phrased as “my way or the highway.” The best you can do, when confronted with another person’s stubborn refusal to acknowledge they’ve hurt you, is hit the road.
If we are not in a do-or-die war of wills, and we find ourselves suddenly and confusingly at odds, we can talk. A conversation can reveal that there may have been a misunderstanding, something taken out of context, a disorienting echo of past trauma that made us act badly, something we can later understand clearly was wrong of us to do, hurtful, causing damage. After a good talk, we can make amends, agree to be aware of what caused our conflict and try not to hurt each other as we have.
In a war of wills, all that is beside the point. The need to win justifies victory by any means necessary. This kind of fight is a desperate struggle to the death. Remember that willful people are deeply damaged, so badly hurt that they’re incapable of acknowledging they could ever hurt anybody else. They are always the victim.
We see it in our politics, of course, and it trickles down to almost all of us in this litigious, zero-sum culture where for every “winner” there are ten million losers. If you are terrified of being a “loser” (an absurd and deadly construct, we should note ), there is no limit to what you will do to try to win. If you don’t win, you will scream bloody murder (in my grandmother’s great phrase). The game was rigged, you were cheated, everybody else is a fucking liar, weak, traitorous, stupid, a puppet, sick, dangerous, a monster! This enraged outburst is the reaction of a “Terrible Two” year-old, a child just discovering that they won’t always get their way and fucking inconsolable about it.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way, as the saying goes. If you want something badly enough, you can often find a way to get it. Where there’s a will, there’s a won’t — in every battle of wills. You say it was this way, I say no it wasn’t. You say you were hurt, I say no you weren’t. You say you have a recording of me saying what I now deny saying — I say you wore a wire on me, you fucking fuck! If facts, actual events, cause and effect, how most people not involved in your conflict would feel, are all dismissed as the Devil quoting scripture to win an argument, my best advice to you, friend, after every good faith attempt to make peace shows you only the implacable face of war: hit the road, Jack.