Facing Our Fears During Mediation and Lockdown
How Distraction and Control Affect Us During Times of Uncertainty
Two themes have presented themselves to me during lockdown: the desire for control and craving distraction in the face of difficulty. So much is made of what we can do to fill the vacuum of time, and many peddle the tempting notion that returning to normality i.e. taking back control, is just around the corner.
This is entirely understandable. After all, our species hasn’t survived as long as it has by not seeking to make the bad better.
As a mediator, I’m always struck by the extent to which that same desire for control and relief influences how we go about resolving conflict.
I believe we fear to meet that person face to face with whom we are in conflict primarily because we fear to lose control. Do I trust in myself to articulate and assert my needs and feelings effectively? What if I crumble in the face of my own projection of failure?
Now, some cases are certainly not suitable for mediation. But the vast majority are. And by doing anything and everything other than actually mediate, essentially I can continue to distract myself. While this may keep me from the pain of having to confront my problems, it probably doesn’t help me in the longer term.
I became a mediator was because I was fascinated by the jumble of insights, paradoxes and profound opportunities embodied within mediation. To the curious explorer it is a feast; a deep dive adventure into the human experience. Forget the cheap curiosity offered by soap operas; mediation is where it is at. There you will encounter why we do what we do, think what we think and feel what we feel when buttressed against the pain and discomfort of our lives.
What I most respect about those who dare to mediate is that they courageously challenge common cultural notions surrounding control and distraction.
The truth is that engaging in dialogue represents courageously taking back control, not ceding it. In doing so, participants hold the possibility of resolution squarely in their hands. They can take decisions to shape their own lives and it is theirs to mould as they see fit.
Likewise by entering into mediation, participants renounce the temptation to distract themselves. Instead, they choose to face the problem and their own fears head on. This is no small thing. M. Scott Peck, the author of The Road Less Travelled, argues that choosing this harder path represents one of the greatest possible achievements in life.
To be sure, such a choice is in theory hardly rocket science. But given the number of people who actually choose clarity over distraction, truth over discomfort, it might as well be.
Grappling with things as they are, not as we wish them to be, is perhaps the greatest act of courage. And so whether we find ourselves being invited to mediate, or more probably simply compelled to remain in lockdown, I encourage you to keep choosing that harder road. In spite of the discomfort that it brings, I have a feeling that this is the way to growth, wisdom and – dare I say it, love.