When the Political Heat Turns Up by Gary Friedman
Right now I’m on the East Coast in between training programs trying not to watch the news or read the newspapers. When I think about my mediation practice, I feel more or less insulated from the larger political events of the country or the world. Yet I know that when Congress meets or fails to meet, when we were close to military action in Syria, as the public dialogue escalates into meanspiritedness, eruption into anger and accusations without any interest in understanding, and coercion is THE main or exclusive way things get dealt with, I can feel its effects even when I am in my mediation room with parties, and I think it affects them too. The way I feel it is in small ways, when someone comes across rigidly or filled with blame and accusations I find myself more easily irritated or afraid than usual, and it takes longer for my effort to be compassionate to kick in. When I do notice my reaction, and I recognize that behind the bluster, the anger, the threats are people who resort to those strategies because they are afraid and vulnerable. When I can feel that in them I can make an effort to engage with them at that level and hope that we can shift the conversation to bring understanding into the room. It has to start with me and then maybe I can help them do the same.
I also sense that the behavior of the parties is affected by the tenor of national and international politics. Loss of hope, despair, anger visit the parties too from that wider world.
And then I start to think not just about my and my clients vulnerability but maybe that’s the way the politicians feel too. It’s hard in this moment to feel compassion for John Boehner and his fear of losing his job. And for the Tea Party people, it’s even more of a stretch to feel their anxiety. So I realize that I do have choices about how I want to relate to the wider issues, and I guess I’ll start reading the news again as I go back to work, and have a chance to see if anything’s changed with me and the world.