After a very un-Zen-like experience trying to park in downtown Phoenix, and ultimately ending up at a meter with not enough coins, I arrived at a presentation by Tibetan monks discussing their approach to mediation. It was very uplifting and reinforced that divorce mediation is really all about: (1) the emotions of the couple, (2) helping them see that they have the power and control over them, and (3) acknowledging that they each have the choice to let go of the emotions not serving them (read: anger, hurt, frustration) and let the dispute itself dissipate into the universe.
Given my counseling background, this made a lot of sense. How we perceive things affects our emotions about them. For example, if we think that our soon to be ex is out to “screw us over” because of a comment about not providing spousal maintenance or child support, we feel hurt and angry and may get defensive or go on the attack. If we, instead, realize, that he/she is just scared because they just found out that they may get laid off at work or that they can no longer afford to keep the kids in the house, we instead, may feel compassion or at least, understanding. (I love the teachings of Albert Ellis, look him up.)
I’ve seen this many times with couples during our divorce mediation sessions. Once they speak honestly about their concerns and fears as the basis for why they may have said aggressive or hurtful things, you can feel the tension drain out of the room as they start talking about not wanting to hurt the other person or the kids. Then, real agreements are reached and healing can begin.
The takeaway I received from the Tibetan monks was that us mediators do not have any power or control over couples’ lives and we will never live with the consequences of the couples’ decisions, but we can help them see that it is each of their choice to stay stuck in conflict or take the power out of the conflict and look at things from a new perspective.
And then my parking meter ran out of time…