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Why mediation works

July 2017 - Issue 4

Despite all that can be done to prevent them, disputes happen.

There is not a life out there without conflict… of some sort. We’ve all had to contend with it, even the peacemakers among us.

Conflict is a normal part of the human experience and with the world today being what it is, this is unlikely to change anytime soon. So, whilst conflict cannot be eradicated, it can be managed in a way that facilitates its resolution rather than prolonging a dispute or promoting further conflict.

We know that relationship breakdown leading to separation/divorce is high on the ‘stress scale’ of human experience. We also know that humans have only a limited range of responses to stresses; we fight, we run away, we freeze or we faint. In the main, we have no real control over these responses. The thing is, our human brain hasn’t had a firmware update for a few millennia and consequently our response to any perceived ‘threat’ is almost always along one of these lines – to come out fighting or retreat.

When people find themselves in a divorce situation (especially one that they did not want, did not look for and certainly did not see coming), this tends to be experienced as an extreme threat. It is a threat to their security, family life and their ‘norm’.  The relationship they had thought would be a safe haven forever has suddenly been pulled out from under their feet and therefore it is not surprising the response to this ‘threat’ is fear, anger, shock and the desire to either fight or flee.

In a recent testimonial one of my mediation clients describes her experience:

‘By its nature, mediation is a process you undergo at a difficult, unpleasant time in your life when you are vulnerable, emotional, stressed and often distressed’

Strong emotions tend to switch off rational thinking, literally. We know the brain can be hijacked by stress and threat and the overriding need for ‘safety’ obscures and blocks rationality and creativity, often leading to tunnel vision. When this happens we become incapable of seeing the “other side’s” point of view.  Knowing this, it is easy to see how, at times, the more traditional legal or litigation process can impact the functioning of the brain. So what possible alternatives do the divorcing public have that can help to reduce all of the above?

Why and how mediation works

Mediators recognise that the high emotions expressed are a symptom of the stress response to threat. By acknowledging unmet needs, the skilled mediator can reduce high emotional temperatures that block rational thinking

Here are some further extracts from the feedback of one of my mediation clients of her experience of this type of support:

‘Communication would definitely have broken down without her help’

 ‘You need practical guidance and support in order to make informed decisions about both your immediate and long-term future needs. Options need to be considered and explored so that you can reach an outcome that is fair to all concerned’

 ‘She was able to keep us focused on reaching the desired outcome without dwelling on the circumstances that had brought us to mediation - no mean feat at times!’

 ‘You therefore need a calm environment in a neutral setting which Carolyn provided, always demonstrating professional expertise, patience and good humour’

 ‘I particularly value the fact that the mediation environment allowed me to have a voice which might otherwise have been overpowered and lost and I thank Carolyn for facilitating that’

The catalyst for resolution is often the optimism and curiosity a mediator might demonstrate, to help clients look beyond these normal responses and work instead on creating a new landscape for their future.

Carolyn Hanes

Carolyn Hanes

FMCA mediator

Direct Child Consultant

Professional Practice Consultant

New Landscape Mediation

 
 

 

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