Thursday, September 7, 2017

Mediation & Medicine

Gallery For > Broken HandAs a Mediator I am often asked by members of the press for updates about the sacred site dialogues and a formal Mediation process that I'm facilitating.  However it is not my place to speak for the parties, to finding solutions, nor to give updates unless they have given me permission to share.   In this role I am bound by trusted confidentiality and it's counter-productive and potentially disastrous for me to speak about specifics.  But I do feel free to share best practices, lessons learned in a general way. That's why I am excited about hosting a High Level Dialogue about Protecting the Sacred during the Nobel Peace Prize Forum next week.

At the end of the day, mediation feels much like medicine with a third party neutral serving as a facilitator for the dialogue that hopefully helps the parties move towards wellness. This work is hard and often a party just wants the initial problem to go away, symptoms to disappear and allow them to keep doing what they want to do.  But peace without justice and without being heard is not sustainable, it's like a wound that hasn't been cleaned or healed.

Mediation and dialogue sometimes carries a negative stigma, but I see it as part of the road to wellness.  It's not enough to just stop the symptoms.  Sadly, just like many people don't go to the doctor until their symptoms are unbearable, the road to wellness is more painful, takes longer, and the outlook often is not as good as if the intervention/treatment would have happened earlier.

Some sort of change or intervention is needed if you want to see a different outcome.  Plus if you only take something to dull the immediate pain, it's likely that the condition will get worse over time and those symptoms will flair back up again.  Again, it's critical to address the real problem, not just try to treat symptoms.   And even while you're doing all the right things to care for an injury, new trauma can keep a wound from healing.  (I fell on the ice the week that Oceti Sakowin camp at Standing Rock closed and broke a bone in my hand and I am still dealing with pain and swelling because its weak and it keeps getting bumped!!)

Mediation only works if both parties agree to take the needed time and work together to create a new way of relating to each other.  The success of mediation rests in those who come to the table and with their good intentions, their courage, their tenacity.  Sometimes a third party can help move things along as both agree to work with the same person and a certain set of rules of engagement, but it is not the mediator's job to fix everything, and definitely not to judge.

Yet many people want to skip immediately to de-escalation and peace without wanting to look at injustice and harm first.  And just like my hand, it's likely that the injury is going to be bumped again, sometimes with great force.  Other processes get derailed because a party don't really want to hear from the other party at all -- its not worth their time.  Sometime a party doesn't really want to have relationship, they simply want to win.  Others have so little hope that anything will ever change that they don't want to try again.  Some parties are so hurt or afraid that the idea of even facing the other party creates a visceral response.  And finally some just want to go to court and assume they will be found to be right and "those people" will be punished.  No matter what -- it's hard work and not for the faint of heart.  When things get rough, do we shut down and walk away? 

But if we're to live as neighbors, one issue might be resolved, but another one is looming unless we address the core underlying issues.  Or the same one might come up again.  Relationships are hard to build and harder to maintain, especially after harm has come.  Relationships take energy, purposeful attention.  Look at the news and see how ignoring each other and not talking works out -- It doesn't.