One of my professors in my first year of law school queried the class as to how many students had chosen law as a profession as seekers of justice. He then went on to say that the idea of justice was an illusion, as it was only within the reach of those who could afford to pay.
I appreciate a good reality check and his words were a gift. While the ideal legal system would result in justice being served, in reality it seldom is. My intention when starting my path in law was one of seeking truth, which at that time conformed with my personal ideals of justice. Now, further down that path I work with clients to unearth the truth below their conflict as a way of reaching resolutions that are just and fair.
My clients recognize that they want an outcome that is fair and equitable and they realize they cannot have the kind of conversation with each other that they would like to have without the assistance of a third person. The conflict between them has evolved to a place where they cannot converse without triggering each other’s wounds. Once that happens and emotions take over, rational conversation becomes unlikely. They stop listening to each other and their words are being filtered through each other’s subjective reality. My work is to interrupt that downward spiral and create space for something different to happen.
With mindfulness, presence and creative questions, my role is to assist in transforming the conflict. It is a way of seeking the truth beneath the issue that is causing the conflict. The conflict itself is an “acting out” of old wounds, programming and habitual responses. The conflict is the symptom, it is not the source.
The alchemist transforms common metal into gold. Finding the truth beneath the conflict is analogous to finding gold. Honesty combined with vulnerability creates a powerful alchemical response. In the moment when the truth is revealed, the conflict can no longer sustain itself. The feeling and energy of truth resonating in the room is like gold and nothing else can exist in that moment.
To reach resolution, by moving through the conflict itself, requires inquiry into the nature of the conflict. Creating sustainable agreements necessitates mutual understanding. When agreements are forged without understanding, they lack substance and the same patterns of conflict will reemerge until the root of the conflict is exposed. If couples rush through the process with the goal of just getting something down on paper, it usually routes back on itself and the same issues will continue to resurface.
For example, a couple in the process of divorce had reached an agreement on all their issues. Once that agreement was put to writing the husband was not willing to commit to the agreements. The wife was frustrated. Tempers began to flare and the entire process was in jeopardy. They decided to return to mediation. On the surface he was upset with the agreements for sharing of child related expense. By asking him questions from a place of curiosity with the intention of understanding, we discovered his core fear was of being perceived as a dead beat dad. After analyzing his budget he was concerned about meeting his financial commitments. Once the truth was brought out into the room, his wife could see and feel where his concerns originated, and in that place understanding takes root; the couple is able to take a step back from the entanglement of the conflict and deal with the issue from a different place.
The foundation of a sustainable agreement is built on fairness and equality which is discovered through an alchemical process that finds gold in truth and understanding.