I have an attitude to conflict that may seem paradoxical. In my own experience, I want to avoid conflict at all costs. If someone cheeses me off, my tendency is to run a mile in the opposite direction. And yet and yet and yet…. I know that the people I love most dearly are the ones with whom I have had MOST conflict. And that once a conflict has been resolved, I understand myself and others much more deeply. So…. as well as having a desire to run a million miles away… I also know that conflict and its resolution is a path to self knowledge and peace. In fact I would go further. I believe that conflict can be a great gateway to creativity and indeed more shared understanding with the other person.
But oh MY sometimes we need help with that!! So for many years, I have studied with therapists, trainers and mediators who are attracted to conflict resolution. In the late eighties, I trained for two years with Helen McLean (a talented, creative Gestalt trainer.) Over a period of five years I attended many seminars in Process Oriented Psychology. Deep Democracy, a key aspiration of Process Oriented Psychology offers concepts and tools to work with conflict and diversity. I have been fortunate enough to work with Amy and Arnie Mindell, Max and Ellen Schupbach and Jean-Claude and Arlene Audergon all of whom are very experienced, resourceful and gifted. And for ten years, I learned an enormous amount from being in individual and group Supervision with Clare Hill and Connor McKenna, who are skilled, experienced Diplomats in Process Oriented Psychology.
Conflict in the workplace is almost unfathomably costly to organisations.
At its least damaging, conflict causes reduced motivation. People’s headspace is taken up with going over and over encounters with colleagues with whom they are at odds. And little huddles of people spend ages dissecting the rights and wrongs of the conflict. Hours can be wasted. And the damage can escalate, until people go off ‘sick’ even when they aren’t! And indeed the stress of conflict can escalate further until people really do become ill.
Conflict resolution can save literally thousands of pounds. AND it can release enormous creative energy into the whole workplace.
In my work as a celebrant, I marry many couples. What a joyous thing to be able to do. I am involved with people on what may be one of the happiest days of their lives. And yet…. beyond that…. I have a huge interest in what happens next. The societal myth is “And they all lived happily ever after.” As if perhaps finding the ‘right’ person were the difficult bit, and all the rest is easy. “Well ha ha ha” is what I would say to that!
I love working with couples. Gay couples; straight couples; couples inside or outside marriage; couples with or without children. I believe that making a one to one relationship work is almost as hard as truly loving oneself! And actually stepping more deeply into valuing this person you are with is, I think, profoundly connected with learning to love yourself.
Families can be such wonderful, supportive constellations. And yet…. most of us smile ruefully at the title of a book John Cleese wrote with psychologist Robin Skynner, “Families and How to Survive Them”. Families can be wonderful, and they can be tangled and complicated. And occasionally (even in the best regulated families) a bit of help is welcome in untangling some of the knots.
The most common time for support to be welcome is when a marriage ends. Even when the end of the marriage is ultimately best for all concerned, the breakup can be heartbreaking, for all the parties concerned, perhaps particularly for the children. It is not always easy to find a place of mutual respect. There is that horrible old joke:
“There is a shortcut to marriage. Just find someone you don’t like, and buy them a house”
But in the midst of the breakup are good people, who once thought the world of each other. And who can find their way to a gentler, kinder parting, beyond the hurt and blame. But who may need some help to get there.
Family Mediation can work with all parties concerned to build bridges, to call in mutual respect and to find a way forward that feels fair to everyone and causes the least amount of grief.