‘You can analyse the past, but you need to design the future’ (Edward De Bono)
28th June 2018 by Gemma Burden
One of our ground rules for mediation sessions reads:
‘You will not dwell on the past, but instead will focus on future arrangements’.
It is useful for client’s to understand why this ground rule is important and how it benefits the mediation process.
Everyone comes to mediation with a perception of how they have got to this point and who is to blame. They also have ideas about specific events and who has behaved badly or said or done the wrong thing. We have to recognise also that these perceptions will have a significant impact on your willingness to compromise and take seriously the other person’s views. The trouble is, you will each have a different perception and no amount of talking it through will necessarily convince the other party to see it differently. An entire 90-minute session could easily be filled with conflicting views about who did what, and why.
What would the outcome be?
Would there be progress?
Would anything have been achieved?
Would there be a plan moving forward?
The answer is of course, probably not, and worse than that, the frustrations could have heightened and feelings hurt more so than they had before.
Mediation recognises that solutions can only be found if there is an acceptance that the past cannot be changed. The past is also something that cannot be controlled. This does not mean having to agree with each other about what happened, or change your view about who was right or wrong. It simply means accepting that you disagree and can’t change that, but you want to find a way forward anyway. This transition enables you to take control of your future, rather than being stuck in a history that you cannot change.
Your mediator will help you to stay focussed on that realisation, by enabling discussion in a controlled setting about the options to move forward. Inevitably the past will creep back into those discussions at times, but your mediator can help you re-focus.
Your mediator will not be suggesting that the past isn’t important. It can be very important to you both as individuals and to your healing process as you journey through the difficult time of separation. The past can hurt, frustrate and anger. Individually you will need to find the best way of processing that on an emotional level and support is available for that. However, a large part of the healing process is enabling you to take control of your future and make decisions moving forward and this is where mediation steps in to help. We can acknowledge your emotions, but help you not feel stuck with them.
Mediation is about problem-solving – attacking the problem, not each other, because only then can solutions be found to move you forward.