Tag Archives: Fight or Flight

Whatever.  The importance of ‘Whatever’ in History.  

The countless aeons of history that have gone before us are full of fighting and killing, full of domination and oppression, full of taking over and wiping out, conversion, subjection and vanquishing, the growth and decline of empires and peoples. The strong overcome; weakness is obliterated and suffers.

Does extremism make people violent or do psychologically disturbed people get attracted to the violence, power, fear and atrocities possible in the life devoted to the evangelism of the mad, bad and truly horrific Whatever? Does war and violent evangelism offer an apparently pure excuse for the anger and alienation of some young people, waiting for their lives to start? I say “Whatever” because historically the motive for aggression can be anything, that’s the point really.  Some wars are simply about land and resources – we want ‘your’ this, that or the other and we will kill as many of ‘you’ as we have to in order to get it. Oh, and the rest of ‘you’ can be our slaves.

Then there are the crusades – our religion or philosophy, culture or Whatever is right and yours is wrong, so we will kill as many of you as we have to, to convert you to our ways plus we will destroy your homes and cities and flatten your country until there is no one left to oppose us. Then we will have won and you will believe what we believe or you’ll be annihilated and that will be the victory of our Whatever.  In the Middle Ages the English kings led the crusades to the East to convert the people they broadly called the infidel to Christianity.  It seems mad today doesn’t it? Now we have the descendants of those peoples waging jihad against their peoples and neighbours to establish their caliphate, because they think if they kill and destroy enough, they will be able to take over and rule, convert and build an empire, like Hitler or Stalin or any other mad megalomaniac from the countless centuries that have gone before trying to impose their Whatever by force.

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Of course, each thinks that their Whatever is different, theirs is the Real Whatever, but for everyone else coping with the consequences of the onslaught, it’s the onslaught that matters, that gets noticed, the Whatever is the price of peace. So here we are again, there always seems to be somewhere in the world where someone is trying to convert to Whatever by killing. It used be to Ireland. For hundreds of years there was fighting and killing on the face of it between two types of Christians, the Catholics and the Protestants. Any of them knew what they were doing was wholly contrary to their Christian beliefs, to the “in my Father’s house there are many mansions” of the Bible they were purporting to defend. Everyone could see it wasn’t really about religion, it was wholly anti-religious. So is the killing, maiming and destruction that occurs in the name of religion going on today, whether it is between Jews and Arabs, different types of Muslims or different types of anyone else. The text is always “We are right you are wrong, mend ‘your’ ways to our ways, or die” but the subtext is always that of fighting, killing and destruction.

The apparent motive for the aggression must be on the face of it a pure and totemic idea, that people can be blindly and suicidally committed to. However, the apparent motive can be almost anything, “Whatever.”  The main requirement is that death in its cause will create martyrs, so the young can be recruited and turned to its service and kill and die and yet live forever in heaven. Interestingly, those dying in the Christian crusades were martyrs, as are those dying today in the jihads. Everything changes, but nothing changes, the death and destruction are the same, only the names of the protagonists are different.  Whatever.

What is it about mankind that attracts large numbers of people to war, fighting and death? The defenders are fighting for their lives, for peace and survival. The attackers are usually fighting to impose their Whatever on others. Why? When will we ever learn? We were getting there. There is little appetite in the Western world for war, we have seen its terrors and want none of it. So it is all the more frightening that in some parts of the world now education is vilified and girls cannot be educated, women live like prisoners in their homes, while boys and men are indoctrinated in “Whatever” and prepared for modern crusades. Ignorance is our greatest enemy; ignorance and starvation and the desperate fight for survival that leads peoples out of their barren starved, parched lands to seek water and life. What will we do about them?

The problems we face as humans are so massive and all encompassing; we surely have to find new ways to resolve our differences and those problems. Yet how can the mediation of peaceful solutions wage war on terror, death and destruction? We have a race on our hands to answer that question, because it is an idea whose time has come and we have to make it happen fast. Mankind must stop fighting and start talking about how to solve the problems of the world together. Unless we start to prioritise the mediation of solutions and agreements that are life affirming, tolerant and create a peaceful world we are all dead. That is my Whatever.

Important stages in family break-down

Understanding where you are on the journey makes finding your way easier

Usually, one half of the couple initiates the split. They may well have been thinking about the future of the relationship for some time, usually not saying anything to their partner, in case they were wrong and not wanting to make it worse, until they were sure.  When they break the news to their partner that the relationship is over, it means the other person has a lot of emotional catching up to do. Immediately you have the problem of two people being in completely different emotional stages on the grieving cycle. When we mediate for such couples, it is difficult to go fast enough for one or slow enough for the other. It is unhelpful to say things like ‘it’s over, get over it’. There isn’t a get over it switch! Then add to the mix other people, children, friends and family, then the cast of possible professionals who might help, and you are set for a busy time.

 

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So here is the timetable:

    • One partner decides relationship is over, this may have taken then years to decide

 

    • Tells partner

 

    • Period of shock and recriminations – 52 card pick-up

 

    • Partner needs time to adjust to the idea, is often unstable and upset. They have to work through the grieving cycle, so denial, anger, blame, crying, depression, moving on eventually to recovery, acceptance, moving on

 

    • Telling children and extended family and friends makes it real and retraction becomes increasingly unlikely

 

    • Children start on their own cycle of loss and grief

 

    • Couple considers how to sort it out. May seek help from doctors, counsellors, solicitors, mediators.

 

    • Couple may be confused about resolution options, timescale and comparative costs

 

    • Couple may be afraid if they don’t ‘get tough’ they may lose out

 

 

    • Adjustment to separation brings calmer consideration of less nuclear options for sorting out the  future

 

    • Some couples can agree much themselves, some can’t agree anything

 

 

    • Couple chooses resolution option that feels best to them and starts it

 

    • Some change their minds, e.g. Start court proceedings then mediate or vice versa

 

 

However people sort things out, it does take some time. This is partly emotional recovery time and partly the time taken by the chosen route to resolution. The fact is that mediation is by far the fastest and most cost effective process for sorting out separation and divorce and therefore it makes sense to use it first and only choose more expensive and adversarial options if you have to.

 

Make it better not worse – mediate first.

 

Hearing about Mediation before you can apply to Court – why it’s a good idea.

The Children and Families Act came into force on 22nd of April 2014. For the first time it requires would be applicants to court to hear about mediation and how it might be able to help them, before making their court application. This simply gives them a choice of court or mediation before they embark on the court route. As such it is a useful intervention. This meeting is fast becoming known as a ‘mediation awareness meeting’? Its formal name is  the Mediation Intake Assessment Meeting or MIAM.

A qualified mediator will tell couples about mediation and the alternatives to court adjudication. This is greatly needed, as put simply, if mediators don’t tell people about how mediation may help them, mostly people do not understand it and don’t try mediation. Before the compulsory referral to hear about mediation from a mediator in 1999, there were only a few hundred mediations a year. After legal aid applicants had to hear about mediation from a mediator in 1999, this rose to about 13,500 mediations a year and it has stayed about the same every year that is until last May, when all compulsory referrals to a mediator for mediation assessment stopped, along with the abolition of legal aid for family cases. Then, couples unaware of mediation simply went straight to court and the number of court applications has increased massively everywhere, with many fewer mediations taking place. The fact is, in many cases lawyers do not sell mediation, they are more likely to sell legal services and to negotiate the case in a conventional, positional way. This increase in adversarial resolution is bad for families, turning them into opponents in what is often an expensive, long drawn out ‘ping pong’ of letters and court hearings.

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Compulsory mediation awareness meetings do not mean compulsory mediation, nevertheless many people will choose to go on to mediate and save themselves and their families a great deal of time, money and avoidable stress. If some family lawyers don’t like it, and it is only some lawyers, we have to ask why are they so worried about people simply hearing what mediation has to offer? They don’t have to mediate and no one is saying people should not hear about the legal resolution methods. If people need to go to court, they can still go to court, if they want lawyers to write letters then they can pay for that, but a tiny proportion of cases do actually get decided by a judge, so deciding them even earlier in mediation seems like a good idea to most people.

The reality is that in most disputes over children, the worst thing that can happen to a family is a brutal fight over the children, replete with welfare reports, adversarial arguments and adjudication or shuttle diplomacy between lawyers at court, cobbling something together under immense pressure and making that into an order. A series of mediation sessions over a few weeks or months with changes being introduced and reviewed, improvements made and children’s views taken on board where possible, is just so much better for most families.

Where property and finance issues are concerned, mediation has a massively important role to play in resolving settlements quickly and at proportionate cost. How much do you think should be spent on legal fees  of resolving a financial settlement on divorce? Should it be 10% , 20% or some other proportion of the overall value of the family pot?  This is the thorny problem the courts are not addressing. There is a court rule that the legal costs must be proportionate to the value of a dispute. This is universally ignored, as it seems to convey no meaning to the judges or the legal representatives. It is common for the costs to be half or even more of the value of the dispute – where is the sense in that? If you bear in mind that in most family cases, unless it’s a very short marriage or there’s a pre nup, there is a starting point or yardstick of equal division of the assets, then the value of the dispute is probably no more than between 10% to 25% of the overall pot. Legal costs frequently exceed 10% to 25% of the value of the family pot. How can that to be regarded as proportionate to the value of the dispute? It isn’t proportionate at all.

So, in a nutshell, the changes with regard to compulsory mediation assessment meetings brought in by the Children and Families Act are mostly welcome and long overdue.  Compulsory mediation meetings before court applications can be made will enable a significant number of families to avoid court proceedings and expensive legal costs by choosing mediation, once they know how it can help them. Previously, they often simply issued proceedings and the legal route was the default option. Now a real choice is being offered and it is up to mediators and lawyers alike to help couples make the best choice for their family, taking into account everything relevant to the family.  It is the couple that matters most and finding the best way forward for them, not what matters to the lawyer or the mediator – selling the service they prefer to sell. The family is at the heart of separation and divorce, how they sort out their arrangements, which process they use, should be an informed decision they take and the advent of mediation assessment will help ensure public awareness of mediation when they need it most.

Defusing Arguments

Why argue? The instinct is to try and persuade the other person you are right and they are wrong. In return they are likely to try and persuade you they are right, so the debate begins. Sometimes issues are clarified and a shared understanding emerges, that is a good outcome, but often the opposite happens.  Commonly the dispute is more about the relationship and not wanting to back down, than reaching a shared understanding. Sometimes the original issues are forgotten or changed as the conflict mounts, especially if the debate becomes personal (“that is so typical of you, you don’t give a stuff about anyone . . .’)

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Once the dispute gets personal, the scene is set for the conflict to escalate and damage  or even destroy the relationship. Sometimes the reason for the conflict IS the relationship, which may involve toxic dynamics that cause endless conflict. The problem is the conflict, not the apparent issue, you know this for sure if there are constant or repeated arguments about anything and everything.

So the argument is the outlet for the conflict, which has a life of its own. One person may try to stop the argument, but the other may block this, arguing relentlessly, expanding the area of disagreement, dragging up old grudges and inventing new ones. Mediators know about conflict, they start where the conflict is, not with the presenting disagreement, as that is often incidental.

How can you defuse arguments?

Well, first of all start where the other person is. Listen to them, understand what they are saying, show that you understand by summarising to them what they told you. Then ask them a question about it, make them think, perhaps they might not be exactly right? Always focus on the issues and speak calmly and precisely, preferably don’t sound as though you are laying down the law. Better to be questioning as people always believe things they work out for themselves. Carefully avoid personal attacks and adopt logical explanatory reasoning, never blowing things out of proportion or attacking the other person.  Suggest adjourning the discussion to another time, when everyone has calmed down. Say you want to ‘think’ thus introducing the idea that people can change their minds thoughtfully without loss of face and power.  Try not to tell or boss  the other person, instead ask them relevant questions, which may begin ‘What if . . ‘ or ‘do you think that . . .?

When people fight, they are so busy fighting, they give thought neither to ‘why?’ nor to ‘better solutions’.

The physiology of conflict is pre-historic and rooted in our ancient brain area, the part that makes us react fast and instinctively to the threat of the tiger. It is the ‘Shoot first, ask questions later’ response. Fight, freeze or flee – these responses are ideally suited to facing the tiger, but not well suited to modern life in all its complexity.

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The primary fight response escalates the disagreement to the point where the fight has a life of its own and everyone forgets the original trigger. This is how feuds start. How family members stop speaking for years or even forever. This is how peoples of different faiths and cultures end up in conflict that haunts generations, for centuries. Where two or more belief systems clash, forget logic, reason, negotiation and fairness; conflict rapidly descends into chaos, death and destruction. Death to the Different.

Examples of this through the millennia are legion – as well as current.  Human-kind has to learn how to resolve disputes or how to live with them.  Mediation teaches people to live and let live, work out ways of co-existing, of understanding. It can transform a primitive and instinctive first response into a transformative way out of deadlock. Perhaps we should teach it in schools.

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