Deep down, all human beings are essentially animals. We’ve been given the gift of sentience and self-awareness, but we’re still ruled, in many ways, by deep primitive instincts – like the Fight or Flight Response. When faced with any potentially dangerous or difficult situation, every human being chooses either to stand their ground or to run away. While this is a handy instinct when confronted by, say, a hungry bear in the wilderness, it’s not always the ideal way to handle a personal crisis with your spouse or other family member. In those situations it’s important to remember that you have more than two choices: You can fight – literally, or through a divorce; you can flee (by ignoring the problems or refusing to deal with them); or, you can mediate.
Mediation is often a difficult decision to make between people, for the simple reason that mediation isn’t an instinctual response. We often think in terms of punishing our partners or running away from our problems, but the more complex, more civilized approach of working through the problems with a trained mediation professional and seeking a cooperative solution to your problems requires getting past the instincts and entering a higher plane of thought. This can be a challenge, because nothing feels more honest and normal than our instinctual reactions to things – but as we don’t live in the wilderness anymore, but rather in civilization, those instincts can often be more destructive than helpful.
Leaving Fight or Flight Behind
However, simply agreeing to pursue mediation still isn’t enough. Often people are still in the throes of their fight or flight response, and try to use mediation as simply a new battleground for the fight. Mediation is not a place to air grievances and attack each other – it’s a more complex and sophisticated response to problems, and requires that both parties leave their weapons behind and concentrate solely on a cooperative solution.
Sometimes people even turn their fight-or-flight instincts on the mediator, transferring their anger and frustration to them. This will also doom the process to failure. Understanding our instincts and how they often control our lives is a key part of a successful mediation.
We often can’t avoid an initial instinctual reaction. The key isn’t to think that we can alter our subconscious and natural reactions to things, but rather than we learn to let them run their course, take a deep breath, and then pursue a more civilized course of action.