A frozen conflict is a conflict in which there has been no end and no resolution. A frozen conflict is an unresolved conflict in which there is an apparent ceasefire, but neither an official ceasefire nor a peace treaty has been agreed.
In a frozen conflict, the parties to the conflict continue to insist on their claims and have not yet been able to find a compromise solution. However, hardly any fighting is still taking place. The parties to the conflict simply occupy the territory in which they find themselves.
In other words: In a frozen conflict, a stalemate has occurred and none of the parties to the conflict wants to move away from it.
What is a frozen conflict? Meaning, definition, explanation
A frozen conflict can also be referred to as a ‘cold’ conflict. This simply refers to the status, or current state of progress, of the conflict.
Conflicts are commonly manifold in nature. Their causes may be as diverse as they are rationally explicable. A frozen conflict, in contrast to an acute one, holds different opportunities and risks. Unresolved conflicts may well have a smoldering character, i.e. they are omnipresent and always linger in the subconscious. There they are deeply anchored and stored in a kind of twilight state. The dangers of a smoldering conflict are obvious: Any ice can melt – and in the medium or long term lead to a flood – with serious consequences. This metaphorical representation of the facts illustrates how a frozen conflict can become an acute one – if the signs, which in most cases are very clear, are ignored or simply misinterpreted. So, to stay on the metaphorical level, when the ice thaws, a wave, perhaps even a destructive tsunami, lurks beneath the thick surface.
However, as long as the ice does not break, the conflict does not emerge.
Frozen conflict: escalation only a matter of time
Frozen conflicts are not only unprocessed, but also risky in a special way. They tend to be forgotten because they are largely ignored in everyday life. However, all it takes is a terse trigger and the repressed conflict comes back into life with full force. This circumstance shows the danger of a permanent, chronic escalation. In contrast to acute conflicts, there is a chance here to avoid a rapid escalation through reappraisal and reason – and thus, at least from a psychological point of view, to keep an eruption with unimagined consequences as small as possible. The stronger the repression of the conflict, the more violent the reaction to the so-called triggers. If a frozen conflict has accumulated a lot of anger and bitterness, time cannot heal old wounds, but at most cover them up. Even if the proverbial grass grows over a matter, we can at best speak of a temporary, deceptive calm, but not of a solution to the problem.
Frozen conflict: constant stress
A frozen conflict permanently gnaws away at your nerves. Shaking it off or even resolving it is practically impossible. The advantage of an acute conflict is the relatively rapid escalation stage and thus the foreseeable end of the problem. Repressed conflicts carry the danger of an endless spiral of fear of confrontation and shame of not being able to resolve the conflict. Thus, although the supposedly unpleasant, perhaps fear-filled part seems to be put on the back burner for the time being, behind the scenes it continues to bubble in the dark. This protracted, agonizing character complicates the important personal confrontation with the repressed parts, i.e. the conflict that has been put on hold. Since confrontation triggers stress – and usually an unpleasant counter-reaction – it does not seem surprising at first glance that this step, which requires courage, wants to be avoided as much as possible. The conflict merely shifts, it by no means disappears.
Frozen conflict: scientific view
From a scientific point of view, it is certain that every human being has natural reflexes to protect him or her from anger and harm. Undoubtedly, this phenomenon also applies to cold, unresolved conflicts. Basically, those reflexes serve the brain as a kind of self-protection and as a psychologically useful tool of bypassing excessive demands. The frozen conflict initially gives the person more leeway to cope with the seemingly unsolvable task. In addition, the time factor also plays an essential role.
Permanent conflicts require quick solutions, which turn out to be an insurmountable hurdle, especially in the already hectic everyday life. The mixture of chronic overload, fear and loss of control leaves the human command center, the brain, no choice but to put on all protective armor. To what extent these are more burden than protection must be questioned and can only be answered on a case-by-case basis.
It goes without saying that it is not only individuals who carry around frozen conflicts. Indeed, history teaches us that entire states suffer from collective traumas which, for a variety of reasons, they have not been able to come to terms with to date. A smoldering conflict can be a legitimate cause for war. If political relations between states are put on hold due to various problems, a new Cold War or an Iron Curtain threatens, as we have already experienced in history with the example of the Soviet Union. A lot of time can pass before the ice melts – and to prevent an ice age from burying all life under it, it should be warmed up in good time, as gently and carefully as possible.