Family Mediation and Reconciliation

It’s painful to be disconnected from the people we care about. The ideal mediation is one in which I meet with the individuals before we have a mediation session. That way I can work with people on transforming their resentments in advance of the mediation.

When a friend or family member says something that is critical, we’d like to be able to shrug it off. Just move on, rather than make an issue out of it. We’d like to live as if the following were true: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”  The problem is we do get hurt and it’s not so easy to let it go.

The conventional wisdom is that it’s good to “Grow a thick skin.” Toughen up.  But if having a thick skin means we close ourselves off to others, then there’s a cost, as in Paul Simon’s song: “I am a rock, I am an island. And a rock feels no pain. And an island never cries.”

There is an alternative to overcoming hurt feelings and resentments, starting with understanding ourselves with kindness. What was our experience of hurt, and why did it hurt? What is it that we wish we would have experienced?  When we grieve the loss of trust or loss of closeness we can get to the root of the pain. The presence of another person kindly witnessing our pain can be healing.

Empathy for the other person can actually help us not feel so hurt. We see the actions of the other person as coming from their own pain. We don’t need to take it personally. That is, we can let go of thoughts that their actions result from an absence of love for us, or even thoughts that we are unworthy.

If we feel defensive—if we find ourselves assigning blame to the other person, it’s a sign that we’re questioning our worth. We don’t want to think that we’re “in the wrong”. That’s a thought that produces shame.

The empathy alternative to the game Who’s fault is it?  is kindness towards ourselves. When we forgive ourselves for our mistakes we drop our defensiveness. We don’t need it anymore.

It’s not too late to reconnect with love ones.