Mediation, Meditation and Medication
This article seeks to bring new perspectives to modern day alternative dispute resolution, specifically mediation. There are small differences between each of the three words, ‘mediation, meditation and medication’ and they create different impacts through the use of each of them.
They always told me that articles had to be ‘scholarly’, well I have decided to challenge that concept and write an article which all people can relate to. In light of this challenge, I also challenge concepts in dispute resolution. The way that there is no ‘manual’ for life, there is also no manual for resolving disputes through mediation.
Whether we are talking about the most basic (albeit important) of family matters, such as figures for child support (heavily regulated, and strict guidelines in Ontario and most western legal systems), or dealing with the peace talks in Afghanistan, it all comes down to the ‘back story’.
Concepts such as deep democracy allow us to understand the way society functions, and why disputes arise amongst men.
Is it possible that Karzai would be stubborn in his political dealings because he felt personally hurt by something which was done to him in the past, thus preventing the progression of the country? Possibly. The same way that an employee and an employer might not agree on end of service benefits, despite being dictated by law, because one of the parties was hurt emotionally. Maybe by their boss, maybe by a colleague, but the fact was, they were hurt.
Concepts such as deep democracy allow us to understand the way society functions, and why disputes arise amongst men. This is a great article and explanation of deep democracy (http://www.deepdemocracyinstitute.org/deep-democracy-explained.html) and it states that “Unlike “classical” democracy, which focuses on majority rule, Deep Democracy suggests that all voices, states of awareness, and frameworks of reality are important”. Essentially the key message is that everyone in society (reflective of every party in the dispute) needs a voice. Modern democratic states allow for voting, giving a sense of being given a voice. However, when was the last time you really felt heard by your government? Posing as a grandiose decision maker does not necessarily bring people together as people don’t really feel heard. The same way, in a marriage or in an employment or commercial relationship, when was the last time you had a voice or were given a voice?
At the intersection where ‘business’ and ‘emotions’ meet, is a level of ‘knowing oneself’ and a concern for spirituality. This is not an article for religious people, it is merely an insight into the world which perhaps we cannot see, but can feel and be affected by. It is possible that a mediator will try to resolve the dispute at hand, but one of the parties is suffering from the impact of years of racial trauma. They cannot help but see that this is something to do with the color of their skin, this is their filter. Perhaps the victim of sexual abuse cannot help but feel attached and shamed. Perhaps the death of a person’s family member has left them with excruciating feelings of abandonment, and in a divorce case, they feel the same even if there are any signs of abandonment within the marriage. These emotional triggers are extremely important to consider, learn about and respond to within the context of dispute resolution. Sometimes, it takes years of counselling for people to come to terms with their own issues and internal conflicts so that they can actually sit at the table. I don’t mean just to sit there physically, I mean to sit there and be present.
Which brings me onto the concept of meditation. Being present. No matter how hard a mediator tries, if the parties aren’t present to the case, if they are ‘in their own heads’, the chances of resolution is severely reduced. Essentially, if individuals are not present to the problem, then how can it be resolved? No matter whether you are the best mediator in the world (as many claim to be), I don’t believe it is possible to truly resolve a conflict if parties (and the mediator) aren’t present to the conflict. In addition, mediation brings about a key understanding of ego, and attachment and we come to higher levels of consciousness and self-awareness, including awareness of out emotional triggers.
After observing mediation after mediation of parties who are not present or who have ego issues, I say good luck. Ego stops the conflict being resolved. It’s ego, nothing else.
Meditation allows us to be present and prevent us from self-medicating, usually resulting in more effective mediations.
Have we not seen people who have problems and they run away and start ‘self-medicating’, thinking that they know they are right, they know that they were the ones who were wronged and that they are the victim. This brings us onto the medication, the ways which people try to avoid themselves and their problems. Drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, shopping, overeating. As controversial as this may seem, no matter what we say, our schools advise against using these methods to forget about conflict. What if we were taught how to deal with problems? What if we were taught how to work with our ego to help us to resolve conflict, rather than just self-medicating and running away from the problem?
In my opinion, it would be worthwhile to teach conflict resolution skills in school. Growing up with a better emotional IQ would help us to have higher levels of self-awareness and inner insight. Exploring and acknowledging feelings is key to the transformative process, and not everyone is open to that. It would definitely help people to be more ready to resolve disputes and to be flexible in finding solutions if they had a better understanding of feelings as well as ego. It is also possible that ego is part of our self-protection (“I am OK, I am good, I am worthwhile, I am right’) even if we are actually feeling insecure – ego keeps us from going to a vulnerable place where we might really experience the feelings of loss and hurt. Therefore understanding and working with ego can help along with understanding and awareness of feelings.
Perhaps this is the problem. Perhaps society isn’t teaching children, adults, politicians how to deal with problems and resolve disputes. So we hide. We play cat and mouse. Meditation allows us to be present and prevent us from self-medicating, usually resulting in more effective mediations.
This is why I propose a new model. Not just another model, some of which are extremely effective (for example the St. Stephen’s Interpersonal mediation model), but a new way of looking at conflict. In those mediations where parties are high-conflict, what would happen if they had 10 minutes before the mediation to meditate. What would happen when they got into an extremely heated moment, and they had an outlet, 10 minutes of guided meditation in the room next door perhaps. How different do you think our mediations would go? How many more disputes would be resolved in this way?
When a mediator says to me, I have been doing this for 3, 5 or 10 years. I agree with them, and note that haven’t we all? Haven’t we all been mediating and resolving conflict since we were born? Or at least observing how it is resolved. So we are all peacebuilders, we are all mediators and we must hold ourselves accountable for this role that we play in our relationships, our families, our communities and society at large.
Zainub (Jenna) Bata – CEDR Accredited Mediator, Master Trainer, MBA, LL.B (Hons), PGDip Legal Practice. Languages: English, French
A CEDR Accredited Commercial Mediator And Trainer With A Background In Law, Legal Practice And Business. She Has Extensive International Experience In The East And The West And Specializes In Cross-Border/Cross-Culture Business And Dispute Resolution. An Advocate Of Alternative Dispute Resolution, Jenna Encourages The Use Mediation To Resolve Disputes And Is Driven To Succeed In Areas Of Conflict.
With A Combined Academic Background Of Law (LL.B And PGDip In Legal Practice) And Business (MBA), Her Niche Is Dealing With The Legal And Dispute Resolution Aspects Of International Business.