Fear and Loathing in Mediation


Remembering that fear is the opposite of love helps me to put some matters in perspective regarding family mediation.  What looks like hate, and often gets channeled into hate, begins with fear.  When a couple breaks up, each experiences a slew of emotions, with fear being the most pervasive and long-lasting. There’s fear about money, loss, humiliation, being taken advantage of, the legal process of divorce, the impact on the children, being seen as a failure in the eyes of others, and probably many I’m not aware of.  At its root it may be fear of being alone or maybe even fear of death. 

I notice this anxiety creeping into the room when one client threatens the other with a lawsuit or a retraction of financial support.  This isn’t a logical threat.  It would clearly cost more than it would gain, but when we’re in a state of panic we lash out.  I sometimes get tricked and respond with rational explanations about the financial and emotional benefits of a compromise, but that only works sporadically. People often choose what is not in their best interest when they are freaking out.  

I consider my best work to be about keeping fear at bay.  The most effective means of subduing the fear dragon is by creating an opportunity for love to exist in the room.  Helping a couple listen carefully to each other brings them back to their better selves and the fear dissipates.