The Mediator as healer

Posted: Category: Conflict and Mediation

 Nigel Singer

About 5 years ago, whilst on a process oriented psychology course, we were dealing with issues of our own identity, exploring our bigger self – the thing that drives and motivates us.  The exercise had a shamanic aspect and was not using rational, intellectual processes.  What appeared for me through the process was an identity as a healer.

My immediate reaction was one of discomfort and awkwardness.  It somehow felt too big or weird or unlike my general view of myself – the temptation was to push it away and give it no more notice.

To some extent I succeeded, I got on with my life, worked with conflict and only occasional thought about healing.

Recently though it has resurfaced, and this time it has come back again as a body based experience whilst on another course.  I wasn’t looking for it, it found me.

To be comfortably English about this I feel discombobulated – do I ignore it again or do I try it on for size and see what happens?

If I do pick up this identity how do I do what I do through this filter?  Who am I if this is the approach I take to my work, my relationships and in fact to any interaction?

To explore this it seems important to think about my views and prejudices about healing?

From the initial experience, I noticed that my reaction was to view healing as something to do with the ‘laying on of hands’, and that this was mainly oriented towards helping the body.  I did this despite recognising that healing has many forms and works on all aspects of our humanness, but my prejudices were intact and working well – which of course meant that I wasn’t a healer.

As I thought more about healing I gently allowed myself to think about working with conflict as a form of healing, even though I continued to identify working with the mind and emotions as somehow less significant, from a healing perspective, than working with or through the body.

After the second experience of being told I was a healer – I felt as if I had to pay attention. 

So, when I engage with people as a mediator, what is my underlying intent?  Why am I making this engagement?  Is it to earn money, is it a job or is it something deeper.  For me it is all of these – I earn a living and it is a vocation, something I discovered that delights and fascinates me and in which I have built some ability.

My intent has often been to help, to see if I can support a conflict to unfold, so that the way forward becomes clear.  I have looked at my own need to feel good by ‘sorting’ the parties and believe I am not driven by this any longer (I was when I started).

If I pick up the healer aspect, what happens?  Is the experience different or new, does my intent change, do I or they behave differently?

I have yet to discover, this feels like a work in progress and I will happily receive any help that is offered.

Whichever aspect of a person I engage with, I am involved in a process of healing and I need to face this directly.  It is bigger than earning a living or feeling good that I helped within a dispute.  It is about saying clearly that mediation offers an opportunity to heal and then dealing with the consequence of this statement.

The consequences run in two directions; toward me and to the people that I work with.

When looking at the impact on me, does this internal stance change me?   My immediate thought is something to do with responsibility.  My usual stance as a mediator is to say that I have a responsibility to the people I work with but not for them – this stance offers me a bit of psychological distance and I believe helps me care without becoming over involved – I can be effectively multipartial.

As a healer, who happens to mediate, I have a sense that this responsibility has shifted but I’m not yet sure how.

Part of my limited understanding of ‘healing’ is that it is something that occurs through the healer – it is not them doing healing, rather that they provide a channel that enable the healing to occur.  The system ‘knows’ what it needs and the healer provides an opportunity for this to start to happen.  The healer needs to clear some space in themselves to support this movement through them and so will have required some training, healing and support for this to happen.

Is this different from the practice of interactive/facilitative mediation?

I am in uncharted territory – I want to know if others who happen to mediate also share this sense of identity, are you at ease with it, does it help or hinder.  Do you talk about it with clients?  If you don’t, what might happen if you did?  Can I offer my services as a healer rather than as a mediator?

How does faith or the lack of it influence this conversation?

At its best, mediation has had its magic moments, those times when my presence becomes irrelevant, the parties have moved into their own process and no longer need any assistance.  Something that had been broken has been fixed, perhaps even healed.  The parties have stepped through a pain into a different relationship.  My interventions have been graceful and fluid – I have been part of something much bigger than me.

Any thoughts, ideas or help will be appreciated on this journey.