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Archives for May 2014

Overcoming Instinctual Responses to Family Strife

family conflict resolution

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.


Not Instinctual

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.

How to Achieve a Successful Mediation

Successful Mediation

Mediation is generally not a step people take when everything is fine – there’s no such thing as “just-in-case” mediation.  Yet many people tend to think of mediation as one of two extremes: Either a magical fix-all that will instantly solve their problems, or as a perfunctory episode that has no chance of solving their problems.  Either attitude can guarantee that mediation fails as a strategy, but there’s another factor in mediation failure: A lack of preparation.

Mediation is like any other endeavor that we engage in: Its success is directly tied to the effort that both parties bring to it.  In order to give your mediation the best possible chance, you have to come into the experience prepared.

Mediation Preparation Step One: Be on the Same Side

When preparing for mediation, it’s absolutely essential that both parties enter into the mediation agreeing on at least one crucial point: That they want a solution and are willing to work for it.  If one party rejects mediation and is forced into it, it’s almost guaranteed to fail.

So, part of the essential work to be done prior to walking into the mediation room involves both parties committing to the process and entering into it in the spirit of cooperation.  This doesn’t mean you abandon your goals or grievances, but only that you sincerely see mediation as a way to resolve them.

Mediation Preparation Step One: Know What Mediation Is and Isn’t

The next essential part of preparing for mediation is to understand the mediation process, how it works, and what it can do.  Mediation involves a professional, trained neutral – your mediator – who will facilitate discussion and guide both parties to a mutually acceptable solution to their dispute.  A mediator has no authority to impose a solution and isn’t a judge hearing a case.  Their role is advisory, but they also have the skills and experience to intelligently suggest ideas, compromises, and other solutions that can help the discussion.  They usually also have considerable experience in the field in which the dispute occurs and can thus offer practical, workable advice on how to settle things.

Expecting to be able to “argue” your case and convince the mediator to “take your side” is the wrong attitude, and dooms you to fail.  Instead, understand that the mediator is a skilled guide who can help get you where you want to be, and your chances of success shoot up exponentially.

The Secret of a Successful Divorce Is Preparation

Successful Divorce

No one likes the phrase “successful divorce” because divorce is, of course, a failure.  But anything in this world has a best-case outcome and a worst-case outcome, and any divorce that winds up closer to the “best-case” end of the spectrum can be classified as a success in the sense that it could have been worse for all involved.

Denial is probably the worst enemy of the successful divorce: Too many people fail to prepare for the possibility because they don’t wish to admit that their relationship is over.  But once you even suspect you may be heading to divorce, the smart play is to prepare for it properly – a little preparation does nothing to preclude the possibility of reconciliation.

Divorce Prep 101: Consult a Lawyer

People often think of “seeing a lawyer” as an irrevocable step in a divorce.  But a lawyer does a lot more than filing the papers to get the process started.  They can sit down with you and walk you through the implications and tell you point blank what you need to do then to avoid huge problems later.  You may not need to follow their advice if you reconcile – but if divorce does become a reality, you will have taken some basic steps to protect yourself and control the outcome.

Divorce Prep 101: Consult a Therapist

It doesn’t have to be an official therapist – it could be your parents, or your best friend.  The point is, when divorce becomes possible, it’s an emotional time.  A lawyer can help order up your financial and personal life in preparation, but you have to deal with your emotions as well.  Whether its anger, sadness, or confusion – your dominant emotional state will affect the decisions you make about your future, your children and your finances, and the smartest thing you can do is get those emotions under control.  That means talking things out with someone you can trust.

Divorce Prep 101: Don’t Be Spiteful

One of the biggest mistakes people make is believing that their emotional reaction to a spouse justifies anything.  If your spouse has been unfaithful or abusive, you might feel that you can bad-mouth them and hide assets as a way to punish them.

The opposite is true.  These attempts at punishment will backlash against you and hurt your chances of coming out of the divorce whole.  Stay in control and pursue legal remedies.

David A. Johnson has been providing quality legal services in East Idaho. As both a private attorney and as a former Bonneville County Prosecuting Attorney, Mr. Johnson has substantial courtroom experience. Mr. Johnson has handled cases all over the State of Idaho. His primary areas of practice are in Bonneville, Bingham, Butte, Jefferson, Madison, Fremont Bannock and Jefferson Counties. In addition, to Idaho Falls, we serve residences in the Blackfoot, Shelley, Firth, Rigby, Rexburg, St. Anthony, Ashton, Ammon, Driggs and Victor, Idaho. [Read more..]