On the Dangers and Opportunities of Mediation

Below is an excerpt from the Preface of Mediating Dangerously about the risks involved in inviting and supporting transformation by getting to the heart of what is not working.

"Conflicts are immense sources of stress and pain, which we try to avoid. At the same time, they are indicators of areas in our lives and organizations that require immediate attention, deep thinking, and a willingness to change.  In facing our conflicts, opening our hearts, and locating the center of what is not working, we pass through to the other side, uncovering hidden choices and transformational opportunities that ask us to develop, grow, and learn more about our inner selves.

By personal transformation, I do not mean forcing people to change or be someone they are not, but helping them become more authentically who they really are.  Transformation works on the undeveloped, rejected parts of the self.  By organizational transformation, I mean bringing group cultures and systems into congruence with the wishes and desires of the people who work in them, who are served by them, and who are the true reasons for their existence.  By transcendence, I mean that a conflict no longer bothers us and that we must now address conflicts at a higher level.  

Because every conflict is an opportunity for transformation that can fundamentally impact our lives, it is dangerous for mediators to uncover hidden choices and reveal transformational openings.  People easily become addicted to their conflicts and to the dysfunctional systems that generate them.  This makes it frightening to even suggest the possibility of recovery to someone locked in conflict, because it means every rationalization and accommodation they have relied on to support their addiction is now at risk. This is what I mean by meditating dangerously. "