- Roma Kessaram
Embracing the Energetic Dynamics of Conflict: An Exploration of Integrated Mediation Models
I am indebted to the thoroughness of the research and leads provided in Goldberg, R., and Blancke, B., "Wisdom and Conflict Resolution: A Possible Framework for Integrated Practice", 13 Cardozo J. of Conflict Resolution (2012), 437. It has been inspiring to note that there is some good discourse around expanding the conflict resolution paradigm in a way that furthers our wholeness. This blog/article should be viewed as a work in progress, which attempts to continue the discussion opened by Goldberg and Blancke.
As a volunteer mediator at the Institute for Mediation and Conflict Resolution in the Bronx, NY, I was adept at the transformative style of mediation generally practiced in that Center. Transformative mediation like other styles developed since its articulation by Bush and Folger in The Promise of Mediation spoke to my inner desire to help parties fully recognize each others interests, needs and humanity as well as a desire to support their personal empowerment processes. In fact, it never ceased to amaze me how little one needed to guide the process from a purely intellectual space, and what deep effects, attentive listening, timely mirroring of sentiment, and skilfully employed intuition could have on positively reorienting the parties.
In the transformative mediation school, one refrains from judging success by the fact of an agreement at the end of a mediation. The process, if properly conducted is thought to hold its own party-agency enhancing potential which is an end goal in itself. Yet there were some mediations where, even though relevant communication and negotiation skills may have been acquired by the parties and emotional wounds were somewhat tended to, the parties remained far from resolution, where resolution would have been a desired outcome, in addition to simply having the opportunity to vent and be heard.
This article attempts to make a connection between two closely related, but as yet not intersecting fields, of dispute resolution (specifically mediation) and energy psychology with a view to exploring a potential tool to diffuse intense emotions in the mediation room and allow the parties to more readily engage with each other from their highest selves. The intent is to continue the discussion advanced by Rachel Goldberg and Brian Blancke of cultivating a more effective, whole person approach to conflict resolution.
To start, I note that there is already much ongoing thinking about the energetic dynamics of conflict and I summarize some of the writing in this regard. Next, drawing in part from Goldberg and Blancke's article, I examine the existing precedent for integrated mediation and negotiation models, adding a few more important points of reference. Further, I propose that energy psychology in the form of meridian tapping is a useful additional tool to diffuse on a somatic level, negative emotional energies of individual participants in mediation. It may also provide an opportunity for parties to heal from underlying trauma which may be directly or indirectly driving the conflict or contributing to an unhelpful conflict pattern. As such, the incorporation of energy psychology into mediation paradigms which already have the goals of developing party self-awareness, personal growth and healing is a logical, and worthy endeavor with the promise of helping to overcome intractable conflict.
The Energetic Dynamics of Conflict
Interestingly, my mediation training was subsequent to my first Vipassana meditation retreat and coincided with some energy healing work that I was undergoing for food sensitivities. In those mediations where I was party to a positive shift in perspective occurring between the parties, I was also attuned to an energetic change in the room and in the dynamics of their interaction. Indeed, these moments are known to anyone who has been part of a conflict that has resolved well and are very familiar to seasoned mediators. In his article entitled: "The Energy of Conflict and Conflict Resolution: More Than a Metaphor", October 2013, http://www.cehd.umn.edu/ssw/rjp/PDFs/Energy.pdf (accessed May 2016), Ted Lewis notes:
I have often heard mediators talk about emotional energies in terms of being blocked or released. And any mediator or facilitator who has done multiple cases has experienced on occasion that magic pivot-point during a meeting when the mood shifts from tension and mistrust to relief and greater trust. Sometimes you can even identify a statement that activated this transfer of emotional energy: it may have been a sincere apology by one party, or perhaps an empathetic acknowledgement of what the other party has experienced. As I have witnessed these shift-points over the years, I can say that I have felt, literally, the profoundness of these moments in my heart. There is a stirring, and then there is a relaxing. It is as if the human heart was a source of energy activity, the hub of where negative or positive energies were both stored and released. Little wonder, then, that moments of expressed apology or forgiveness between people, those heightened moments of energy transference, are spoken of as coming “from the heart."
In a more recent article Lewis expands on his ideas related to the energetic dynamics of conflict, noting that the resolution of conflict can also be viewed as "essentially a 'dissolution' of negative forces...[and] a good and successful resolution process is one where negative energies have been sufficiently dissolved and dissipated so that they do not resurface later and stimulate future problems." (Lewis, T., "The Energy of Conflict and Conflict Resolution: More than a Metaphor" (Part 2), April, 2016, http://www.cehd.umn.edu/ssw/rjp/PDFs/EnergyofConflictArticlePart2.pdf, last accessed June 2016).
Other practitioners have also understood the energetic dynamics of a conflict. In their article, "The Energy of Conflict: An Emerging Paradigm (www.mediate.com/mobile/article.cfm?id=1398, October, 2003, last accessed June 2016), Deborah Isenhour and Marilyn Shannon note their belief that "the energy brought into the room by the mediator and by all participants has a great influence on the outcome." They offer the Source Mediation™ model which aims to raise the awareness of parties in a conflict to what they call the three ways that energy manifests: "individual energy: through emotions with an emphasis on relationships, through actions with an emphasis on results and through creativity where the emphasis is on vision." It also aims to help mediators understand the importance of their energy in maintaining neutrality. They are careful to note that their method does not supplant existing models of mediation but rather acts as a supportive overlay to those models.
Further explanations of Source Mediation are not immediately available on the internet and perhaps an answer is provided in the literature, but the question that appears to persist is how one might release blocked energies that are not already shifting towards release in the course of a mediation? How do we give the parties in seemingly intractable mediations, the best chance of creating the profound "from the heart" moments of which Ted Lewis writes. While, as mentioned above, the theory underpinning a number of mediation styles, does not place a huge premium on settlement or resolution, for those cases where the parties voice a genuine motivation to find a resolution, can the tools of energy psychology possibly be helpful in facilitating these moments? But first, let's examine the precedent for multi-dimensional or integrated mediator and mediation practices.
Precedent for Integrated/Multi-dimensional Mediation Practices in the Western Paradigm
(i) The Dispute Resolution Practices of Louise Diamond and Kenneth Cloke
In their insightful article entitled "Wisdom and Conflict Resolution: A Possible Framework for Integrated Practice", 13 Cardozo J. of Conflict Resolution (2012), 437, Rachel Goldberg and Brian Blancke (downloadable here) make the case for a whole person approach to mediation which involves not just our intellectual and emotional selves but our spiritual and somatic selves. They convincingly argue that there is precedent for, and value in, the practitioner/mediator engaging with his/her spiritual understanding in a way that respects and facilitates party self-determination and honors the totality of human experience. Citing examples from the work of Louise Diamond and Kenneth Cloke, the authors note that:
Both have developed an awareness of what their emotions and body can teach them about the situations they are in, and have learned how to use somatic and emotional intelligence to hold and bring peace into conflict. Diamond moved into liminal, transformative space, to open her situation to love. Cloke elicited profound insights and movement from negotiators just by allowing them to tell him what their physical location said about the conflict they were in. By working to move parties to a more profound, emotional place, he was able to elicit from them criteria that moved the negotiation to a different level. Both create processes that support and prioritize party self-determination. Both practitioners believe that the core of their effectiveness is their spirit, and that is what allows them to create space for extraordinary shifts. (Ibid., 463).
The authors note that Cloke describes his method partly through referencing the energetic dynamics of conflict: " 'The challenge...is to move into places in a conflict that trap the most energy, which means touching the deepest, most potentially explosive parts of the conflict. However, those places are also the source of the deepest transformation.'" To avoid triggering an explosion Cloke notes that one must: " 'Show up with as much sensitivity to [the parties] as you can possibly muster, with as much freedom as you can muster to move where they want to move but are afraid to, even if it's counter intuitive...the only way to do it right is to feel your way into it.' " He recommends fine-tuning one's intuition to be able to feel correctly into situations. (Ibid., 462.)
(ii) Mindfulness in Negotiation and Mediation
Leonard Riskin and Rachel Wohl have been long-time proponents of incorporating mindfulness practices and teachings into negotiation and mediation and into the legal profession more generally. I do not intend a full history and explanation of mindfulness here. The articles discussed below by Riskin and Riskin and Wohl, provide that background and help us understand the value of mindfulness and mindfulness practices in negotiation and mediation.
In the Annual Saltman Lecture “Further Beyond Reason: Emotions, The Core Concerns, and Mindfulness in Negotiation”, 10 Nev. Law Journal, 289, (2010), (downloadable here) Riskin notes that often negotiators will learn very helpful conflict resolution tools such as collaborative systems of negotiation like the Core Concerns System but will forget to employ the systems in the heat of the moment. (The Core Concerns Framework is an indirect method for dealing with negative emotions by focusing on appreciation, affiliation, autonomy, status and role which can engender positive emotions. The system is detailed in Fisher R., and Shapiro, D., Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate, (Penguin Books, 2006). Riskin notes that, what he later refers to as the Six Obstacles, can often get in the way of employing the Core Concerns Framework (or any mediation style that aims to foster a more interest-based, understanding oriented view of the conflict). These obstacles are: automatic, habitual ways of thinking, feeling and behaving, sensitivity to emotions, insufficient social skills and inadequate focus (or a distracted wandering mind). (Riskin, supra, 304). Mindful awareness, Riskin notes, has the potential to reduce these obstacles. In over 15 meticulously researched and cited pages, he address the positive effect of mindful awareness on each of the obstacles, detailing the available research and usefully applying relevant aspects of Buddhist teaching to explain the positive effects of the development of what some psychologists refer to as “meta-cognition”. Indeed, anyone who has been engaged in mindfulness meditation or daily practices can attest to the greater levels of awareness of one’s emotions, bodily sensations and thoughts that these practices can foster. In short, that awareness helps us control our reactions to external stimuli, often to great positive effect.
Riskin also notes how the practice of the Core Concerns Framework can reinforce mindfulness practices in a virtuous circle. However, even Riskin stresses that cultivating mindful awareness is not easy and requires diligent practice. Even with such diligent practice, there is no guarantee that in the moment of heightened emotions, one will be able to rest in a more expansive awareness. Recognizing this, in their jointly written article, “Mindfulness in Conflict: Taking STOCK”, 20 Harv. Negot. L. Rev., 121 (2015) (downloadable here), Riskin and Wohl propose three “tools of awareness”, collectively known as SSITS which can aid in the deployment of a more mindful approach in the heat of conflict. All three tools essentially involve pausing to take a breath and observe one’s thoughts, body sensations and emotions before proceeding. In the third tool, the element of setting a clear and simple intent before proceeding is added. By developing easy to remember acronyms and deconstructing into easy steps the important elements of mindful awareness, the authors hope that negotiators will more readily be able to trigger their meta-cognitive mind, not enter a spiral of conflict escalation that negative emotions sometimes trigger, and more positively to engage frameworks like the Core Concerns Framework to engender positive emotion.
In addition to developing mindfulness tools for negotiators, Riskin and Wohl teach a class at Pepperdine Law School which uses the STOCK tool (the last of the SSITS), to help lawyers, judges and mediators be of more effective service and gain more fulfillment out of their professional lives. Riskin’s article, “The Contemplative Lawyer: On the Potential Contribution of Mindfulness Meditation to Law Students, Lawyers and Their Clients”, 7 Harv. Negot. L. Rev., 1 (2002), (downloadable here) was a major contribution to a more self-aware and collaborative orientation of practitioners in the dispute resolution field.
(iii) Integrated Mediation Practices Intrinsic to Indigenous Traditions
Goldberg and Blancke illustrate their call for a spiritual and whole person approach to dispute resolution by detailing the Hawaiian practice of Ho’oponopono wherein the mediator is as much recognized as a healer, as a dispute resolution expert and is usually well-known within the parties’ community and to the parties themselves. Ho’oponopono, like other indigenous healing rituals, aims at restoring the individual and the community to a state of harmony. The focus is not just on the dispute itself but restoring all of the relationships involved. Citing the work of Pukui, Haertig and Lee, "Ho’oponopono" in Nana I ke Kuma 61 (The Queen Lili’uokalani Chindren’s Center Series 1971), Goldberg and Blancke note that the process of Ho’oponopono involves pule, or opening prayer, a statement of the problem, and:
self-scrutiny and discussion of individual conduct, attitudes and emotions, absolute truthfulness and sincerity…honest confession to the gods (or God) and to each other of wrong-doing, grievances, grudges and resentments’ and kukulu kumuhana, where the problem is identified and the strength of the group is brought together for a shared purpose, until all aspects of the matter have been revealed. Then the parties engage in some form of restitution, mutual forgiveness and closing prayer.
(Goldberg and Blanke, supra, p. 453)
They note that in Ho’oponopono the parties create a liminal space supporting change by entering the process with the intention and resolve to right wrongs and speak honestly and authentically. The spiritual framing within which the process takes place is “essential for supporting parties and the intervener to enter the work with honesty, sincerity and a transformative resolve”.
Moreover, the work needs to be done in a sacred context since the overt aim of the process is to:
"'[D]iscover the Divinity within oneself. The Ho’oponopono is a profound gift that allows one to develop a working relationship with the Divinity within and learn to ask that in each moment, our errors in thought, word, deed or action be cleansed. The process is essentially about freedom from the past…Connect with the Divinity within on a moment-to-moment basis…[and] ask that that moment and all it contains, be cleansed. Only the Divinity can erase or correct memories and thoughtforms.'"
(Goldberg and Blancke, supra, 455 citing the words of Morrnah Simeona, a traditional kahuna in Deborah King, Beyond Traditional Means: Ho’oponopono, the New Times, April 1989.)
Finally, Goldberg and Blanke note that Ho’oponopono attempts to help situate the conflict within a broader context and time continuum and asks them what kind of person they want to be and why they want to be that person (Ibid., 456). The kahuna then, and throughout the process, explicitly encourages a self-reflective, honest communication by the parties and also engages in this process herself.
The broad point that Goldberg and Blancke make through reference to Ho'opononpono is that there are models of dispute resolution in which multiple intelligences including a spiritual intelligence are incorporated explicitly into the mediation model and it is through the engagement of these multiple intelligences that personal and relationship transformation has more of a chance of taking root and extending beyond the time limits of the mediation itself. Their call to invoke these multiple intelligences, in support of a multi-dimensional approach to conflict resolution, while of course respecting party self-determination, is a laudable one and hopefully their work will continue to inform and shape the Western alternative dispute resolution paradigm.
(iv) Modern Day Shaman-Mediators
The Ho’oponopono model seems a long way from the Western model of mediation and dispute resolution with its insistence on a secular and analytical approach. While of course there are examples (and mindfulness meditation and daily practices, are perhaps one case in point) of different cultural practices being assimilated into Western societies, it may be a while before such an explicitly spiritual and relational approach to dispute resolution has widespread currency in the West.
There are some encouraging signs however, of indigenous practices explicitly informing and being incorporated into, the Western mediation model. Elizabeth Clemants is a mediator, social worker, conflict resolution trainer and modern day shaman in New York City who has recently started to speak explicitly to her blending of her work as a shaman and her work as a mediator. She notes that although she kept these aspects of her professional life separate for many years at some point she realized that “the [shamanic healing work] was the same as the mediation work.” (Podcast at: http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/conflict-engagement-specialists/e/35169797?autoplay=true, at 7:00, last accessed June 2016). As someone who actually sees personal energy fields, she can see when these energies are negatively activated and knows immediately that a particular issue is significant (even if downplayed by the party) and is holding negative energetic charge. Through her shamanic and mediation training she is able to facilitate insights and can observe the subsequent transmutation of that energy.
She notes that shamanism holds that you can see everything on four levels: the physical, emotional, the relational and the energetic, (supra, at 7:33), and this is the same in mediation although “the energetic is harder to point to but you can feel it when you are in the room…you know when you turn that corner in the mediation when everything calms down, that’s the energetic. Everyone can feel it we are just not accustomed in mediation to talking about it.” (Supra at 7:51) She further stresses that being a good mediator is largely about doing your own internal work, with which the shamanic tradition, and shamanic training is concerned.
Indeed, she explicitly connects emotional trauma to our conflict tendencies and patterns. In shamanism, this trauma is referred to as our “shadow pieces” through which we look at the world and the tradition believes that part of our obligation in this lifetime is to work these shadow pieces out. (Supra, 11:41). Conflict is essentially a meeting of different shadow pieces of the parties. (Supra, 12:38) and “every time you encounter conflict of one kind or another, it’s a gift to be able to look at your shadow pieces more closely” since it is thought that what one is manifesting externally is a product of that which exist internally and conflict is an immediate opportunity to make beneficial internal change. (Supra, 14:35). She encourages and trains mediators to gently turn the conflict to the party and ask how they are going to empower themselves to shift what their internal traumas may have manifested externally.
The Case for Incorporating Energy Psychology into Mediation
From the forgoing it is amply clear that the precedent for an integrated model of negotiation and mediation exists. The aim of these different but related approaches is broadly the same: to create a space through the use of present centered awareness, honed intuition and, in the case of Ho'oponopono, the direct invocation of Divinity, which facilitates personal and relational transformative insights for individuals at the center of the conflict. Importantly, some of the most effective facilitators of these insights engage routinely in processes of self-reflection and the cultivation of mindful awareness and intuition. This process enables them to fearlessly track parties' exploration of difficult and emotionally charged issues and assist in the transformation of underlying negative energies.
One can imagine, however, that even the most aware and intuitive mediators, may not always be able to help transmute energy and facilitate pivotal from the heart moments. Sometimes one is just having an off day, or if the energies of the parties are particularly strong, one might absorb some negativity which is temporarily unbalancing. While not intending to detract from the importance of mediator mindfulness training and practice, other self-awareness practices, as well as the need for mediators to consciously hone their sense of intuition, empathy and inter-personal understanding, I propose that energy psychology is a tool which can help parties extract themselves from unhelpful emotional loops and negative energetic exchanges and help the mediator facilitate a sustained positive change in the energetic dynamics of conflict. In fact, just as mindfulness practices and frameworks like the Core Concerns Framework are mutually reinforcing, actively releasing the energy underlying overwhelming emotions, can also help the parties act more mindfully and overcome the Six Obstacles.
(i) The Mechanics of Energy Psychology
Energy psychology and specifically meridian tapping techniques (of which the Emotional Freedom Techniques are perhaps the most well-known), generally work by minimizing the charge of emotional energies and help to release them on a somatic level. (See Lewis, T., "The Energy of Conflict and Conflict Resolution: More than a Metaphor (Part 2), April 2016 p.7), for an interesting parallel discussion of negative charge in conflict). In general, this work is guided by a qualified practitioner although it also serves as a useful self-help tool. A typical EFT session will start with a "set-up statement" in which the client taps on a particular acupressure point (hereinafter "acupoint") and articulates thoughts of self-love and forgiveness in connection with the particularly strong emotion or challenge being experienced. Subsequent easily accessible acupoints are then activated while the emotion is articulated and/or a particular bodily sensation is articulated. The skillful EFT practitioner is able to help the client follow the sensation of experienced emotions around the body while the client stimulates acupoints, until the intensity of the emotion decreases, and is also able to positively reframe the emotional experience with a timing that corresponds to perceived positive energetic shifts in the client. Part of the EFT protocol also involves working through individual instances of trauma by using what is called the movie technique. Often, while the entry point into an EFT session is a generalized emotion or physical sensation, during the course of a session the individual may well recall a specific charged memory and the practitioner will reduce the psychological imprint/emotional charge of that traumatic event by walking the individual through the event in slow motion, while the acupoints are activated. Any "re-exposure" to the traumatic events is minimized by the acupoint activation which dampens the body's stress response.
One part of the original standard EFT protocol also incorporated a small aspect of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprogramming (notably EMDR is itself a World Health Organization approved modality for treating PTSD) in an effort to promote hemispheric brain harmony. While at first recipients will likely experience the technique as bizarre (the skillful EFT practitioner, addresses in the first few rounds of tapping any perceived bizarre reaction that the client manifests simply to the act of engaging in the tapping), there are usually immediate shifts of intense emotions within the first ten minutes of a tapping session, creating a positive feedback loop which should encourage more engagement. To this extent it would appear to induce only a bit more initial self-consciousness than being asked to take deep breaths or engage in any of Riskin and Wohl's SSITS.
The efficacy of EFT and meridian tapping has been the subject of much study. This link collates some of the results of the research which demonstrates its efficacy for challenges like anxiety, depression and PTSD. The research is still evolving and indeed, there is perhaps no conclusive consensus on the mechanism through which EFT works. However, the potential use of meridian tapping as a tool for overcoming difficult emotions in mediation, has promise outside of the extensive research that is being conducted on its efficacy for treating serious mental health issues.
(ii) Shared Goals of Empowerment, Recognition and Forgiveness
The goals of the transformative mediation model are both empowerment of the parties and recognition of each other. In their seminal work, The Promise of Mediation (Jossey-Bass, 2005), Robert Baruch Bush and Joseph Folger, define empower to mean “the restoration to individuals of a sense of their value and strength and their own capacity to make decisions and handle life’s problems.” Recognition, they note is the “evocation in individuals of acknowledgement, understanding or empathy for the situation and the views of the conflict.” (Supra, 22). Both aims, if realized, help the parties identify their needs and interests and help them recognize and honor those of the other. Perhaps a more expansive view of empowerment as participation is articulated by Sarah Cobb in her important article entitled, “Empowerment and Mediation: A Narrative Perspective”, 9 Negot. J. 245. (1993). She notes that the goal of the mediator should be to destabilize narrative structures and processes so that the parties’ full narratives are voiced and are more open to transformation.
Underlying the cognitive processes that contribute to our narrative frameworks and which prevent us from fully appreciating our own strength and value are arguably emotions and emotional patterns, often negative. Indeed, the charge of deeply felt emotions, and our over-identification with them often prevents us from participating from a place of wholeness in the dispute resolution process and embracing the totality of the conflict narrative. As such, meridian tapping is a tool which can return parties to this state of wholeness that the experience of an intense emotion may suspend. Returning to our own sense of wholeness, or at least stepping closer to it, allows us to recognize the wholeness of the other and consequently recognize their needs and interests.
Indeed, it should be noted that a good energy psychologist operates similarly to the skilled transformative mediator in that, as noted above, she observes the individual closely for micro-expressions and reactions which indicate energetic shifts in order to guide the individual to a positive reframe of the emotion or emotional event. She empowers the individual by validating and normalizing the emotions and facilitating not just an energetic harmonization of the emotion within the energetic structures of the body and mind, but also cognitive shifts (through reframing) towards forgiveness of self and other when the individual is ready. Occasionally, she may unwittingly try to push forgiveness prematurely but ideally, she always gives the individual the option and makes it clear that the individual should not self-judge nor is being judged for not being ready to forgive, or even not holding forgiveness as a worthy goal.
(iii) Expanding the Liminal Space and Invoking The Notion of Healing in Mediation
Some view forgiveness as a key element in the healing of self and relationships. The "mediator as healer" approach of Ho’oponopono, importantly frames the conflict from the start for the parties, perhaps helping them amongst other benefits, depersonalize the conflict, and paving the road to forgiveness. The "mediator as healer" approach encourages the parties to reflect on emotional wounds, or as Elizabeth Clemants notes our "shadow pieces", which arguably helps them recognize the emotional wounds of the other. That recognition is essential to helping them see beyond their own interests and needs.
Energy psychology as a tool to help parties heal can helpfully reinforce this notion by creating an opportunity for the individual to positive release emotional baggage at a somatic level as well as relax and de-stress from any tension that has built during the course of the mediation. (A study published in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, demonstrated the statistically significant positive effect of EFT in improving cortisol levels (a stress bio-marker) and psychological distress symptoms, as compared to a supportive listening intervention). Used within a model of mediation which already opens a window wherein “a new kind of space where change is possible – that liminal space, a space that destabilizes conflict narratives, unmakes current reality” (Goldberg and Blancke, supra, 454), energy psychology has the potential to assist mediators to keep that window open, even beyond the time-frame of the mediation itself and assist in the transmuting of any destructive underlying energies which threaten to jeopardize the will to find a resolution or threaten the resolution's longevity.
(iv) When to Deploy Meridian Tapping and Some Words of Caution
Again, it is not my intent to develop a comprehensive framework for the deployment of meridian tapping in mediation but perhaps it is worth articulating some practicalities of incorporation. Of course, the parties will have to be sufficiently educated on meridian tapping and how it could be used within the course of the mediation if they so desired. This would be part of the mediator’s introduction. Logically speaking, meridian tapping could be used before, during (in caucus) and/or after the mediation. Ideally, the parties would have access to the meridian tapping practitioner in between mediation sessions (where a mediation lasts for a number of days) and even after resolution. If a meridian tapping session has taken place during the first day of mediation, as a matter of good practice, the parties should check in before the second day of mediation with the meridian tapping practitioner to ensure that the energy work has been as complete as possible on any particular issue and that related issues have not surfaced in the intervening period which have a significant energetic charge.
It should be stressed that the research into meridian tapping and its mechanisms is ongoing. It should also be stressed that meridian tapping will not work completely for everyone and there is also a chance that the individual has an adverse reaction to the tapping work or that it precipitates a momentary emotional crisis. In the former case, one must ensure that there has been no damage to the individual's view of the mediation itself if the meridian tapping intervention is perceived to have failed. Occasionally, the benefits take a longer period of time to set in, and this knowledge may be sufficient to minimize any disappointment, or distrust. Of course, the careful managing of expectations from the inception is key. And in the case of a temporary emotional crisis, the skilled practitioner should be able to guide the individual through it which is usually achieved in part through the continued activation of the acupoints without any need for articulation of sentiment or sensation, and the strong reaction/emotional upset abates.
Citing some research detailed in one of their previous articles, Goldberg and Blancke note that the “numbers [of that research] seem to imply that our [mediation] clients may be looking for spiritual meaning from their conflicts” in addition to other elements. (Goldberg and Blancke, supra, 439). Certainly, part of indigenous dispute resolution systems aim to help the parties make meaning of their dispute and as previously noted encourage them to think more widely about what future hopes they have for themselves.
Perhaps a truly holistic Western paradigm of conflict resolution, would situate itself along a broader time continuum like the indigenous models and would have as a foundational stance a longer view of the reason for the presence of the parties in the mediation room. A longer engagement beyond the four corners of the immediate dispute would give parties the encouragement and opportunity to engage in for example, mindfulness training, emotional literacy training, and Non-Violent Communication training, to name just a few possibilities. Secondly, while of course respecting party self-determination, it would take a “mediator as healer” approach, acknowledging conflict as an opportunity to genuinely heal previous emotional trauma and it would invoke the various aspects of human intelligence (cognitive, emotional, somatic and spiritual) which Goldberg and Blancke identify for more effective dispute resolution. (It is worth noteworthy that in the legal profession, the idea of the lawyer peacemakers and healers of conflict has been proposed and pursued by J. Kim Wright, a true inspiration to those who would like to see more humanity and holism in the practice of law. Her forthcoming work, which will be published by the American Bar Association is, Lawyers as Changemakers, The Emerging International Integrative Law Movement.)
As I have argued herein, energy psychology, specifically techniques of meridian tapping, offer a tool which can help tangibly shift and release emotional energy and break negative energetic loops which allows parties to heal on a somatic and cognitive level from harbored emotional hurts. These wounds may in fact be at the root of their conflict engagement patterns or are perhaps even drivers of the conflict in the first instance. Employed in conjunction with mediation styles which promote empowerment and recognition and the conscious creation of liminal spaces, it has the potential to reinforce those approaches and holds the promise of facilitating personal and relationship healing to resolve otherwise potentially intractable conflict.
Bush, R., and Folger, J., The Promise of Mediation, Jossey-Bass (2005)
Cobb, S., “Empowerment and Mediation: A Narrative Perspective”, 9 Negot. J. 245. (1993)
Goldberg, R., and Blancke, B., “Wisdom and Conflict Resolution: A Possible Framework for Integrated Practice”, 13 Cardozo J. of Conflict Resolution 437, (2012).
Isenhour, D., and Shannon, M., "The Energy of Conflict: An Emerging Paradigm" (www.mediate.com/mobile/article.cfm?id=1398, October, 2003, last accessed June 2016)
Lewis, T., The Energy of Conflict and Conflict Resolution: More Than a Metaphor, October 2013, http://www.cehd.umn.edu/ssw/rjp/PDFs/Energy.pdf (accessed May 2016)
Lewis, T., "The Energy of Conflict and Conflict Resolution: More than a Metaphor (Part 2), April 2016, http://www.cehd.umn.edu/ssw/rjp/PDFs/EnergyofConflictArticlePart2.pdf
Riskin, L., “Annual Saltman Lecture: Further Beyond Reason: Emotions, The core Concerns, and Mindfulness in Negotiation”, 10 Nev. Law Journal, 289, (2010)
Riskin, L., and Wohl, R., “Mindfulness in Conflict: Taking STOCK”, 20 Harv. Negot. L. Rev., 121 (2015)
Riskin, L., “The Contemplative Lawyer: On the Potential Contribution of Mindfulness Meditation to Law Students, Lawyers and Their Clients”, 7 Harv. Negot. L. Rev., 1 (2002)
Roma S. Kessaram Esq., LL.B (Hons.) LL.M, Certificate in Conflict Resolution (ICCCR, Teacher's College, Columbia University), Certified EFT Levels 1 & 2 Practitioner and Certified Body Code Practitioner. I was in legal practice for many years both domestically and internationally and currently run my own energy healing business, Ease Into Healing. I am interested in connecting with anyone working in the fields of law, ADR and leadership development who shares a passion for innovative, holistic, and inter-disciplinary approaches.
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