Comments: Self-Control and Conflict

Go to article

Peter Schmidt, Calgary AB     10/27/04
Self-Control or Self-Discipline?
The topics of "self-control" and "control" are likely familiar to most Mediators. There are times when we might be tempted "to lose it". The risk: we create an even higher, likely an unacceptable level, of tension at the table. A tension that is likely to increase the very conflict we are engaged in minimizing, and to which we have committed our selves to assist the Parties to resolve. What is that tension all about? I've asked myself this question on many occasions. Recently, at a Civil Mediation, one of the Parties turned out to be someone who fits the description "Alpha Male". A "controller" who uses every device that occurs for him to "control" the ourtcome of the mediation in his favour. And Ladies, don't worry - there are also Alpha Females I've encountered - they just express their need for and methods of control differently than Alpha Males seem to. What I noticed was that "he" seemed to be doing his best to establish a form of power imbalance that would sway the mediation process favourably in his direction. Signs of "will-power" seemed to be written on his face, and reflected in the physical tension that almost seemed to "ooze" from his body-and in what he was saying. Recently I read a book by David R. Hawkins, MD, PhD, entitled "The Eye of the I From Which Nothing Is Hidden". Mr. Hawkins mentions a previous book he wrote entitled "Power vs Force" that I have not been able to lay my hands on as yet - he reviews observations he made in the earlier book; namely about the differences between the use and effect of "power" and the use and effect of "force". What became clear to me regarding the Alpha Male's attitude and behaviour was that it seemed to take a lot of his energy "to keep it up" - perhaps because he was really "pushing" for his outcome in a rather forceful manner. I then realized that "Force" requires the expenditure of lots of energy - and does not produce very much "Power", in the way Mr. Hawkins deals with that topic. What was missing? I asked myself, trying to put myself into the Alpha Male's shoes, so to speak? One thought that ocurred to me was that whenever I transgress into "Force" I seem to lack what may very well be the opposite of "will power", namely "self-discipline". It seems to me that whenever I feel compelled to use "force" I experience a noticeable energy drain. On the other hand when I exercise some serious "self-discipline" I experience a sense of freedom. I thought well, perhaps there is something to the notion that "being one's own disciple" is underneath the notion of exercising self-discipline. What is that all about? was my next question to myself. Over years of mediating AND meditating, I have learned that "being on's own disciple" has little to do with "control" and "willpower". Instead it appears to be a strong "connect" to my intentions - and more so, to my commitments. Another way of saying it is that when I exercise self-discipline, I am mostly connected to my Self "as my Word" - I keep my promises to myself and "Honour my Word as my Self", to use a fairly well-know "spiritual" expression. To be consciously and fully connected to my commitments gives me a firm and solid foundation for reminding myself why I am doing what I am doing as a Mediator. I become my own source - my promises to myself guide my process. So what might that be? As a Mediator I consider myself to be a "Peace Bringer"; someone who brings the peace inherent in my commitment "to resolve" to conflict resolution {at least while at the mediation table - please know that I know that I am still human - with many human frailties "in tact"}. I do not see myself as a "Peace Maker" - someone who uses some kind of persuasive or manipulative force to "make" the Parties settle their differences. Have you listened to the efforts that are being expended on international "Peace Making" lately? Not much has been happening to "resolve" and to actually "have" peace on the planet. At least not yet. We simply can't seem to "make" anyone do anything that does not fit who they are. I then looked at my "role as a Mediator". I noticed that, in that role, "I Am" the peace at the table - I Am the energy that is felt "for" resolving. It shows up in my attitude, in my behaviour and in what I say. Perhaps that is what Samuel Colt - in his time - thought about, and perhaps, did not quite understand when he gave "the Peacemaker" name to his famous "45". Perhaps he understood it only too well. At this point I feel enthusiastic that perhaps the day of "Peace Making" - using forceful, energy wasting methods - are over - and the days of "Peace Bringing" - using the deep desire of our clients and, I dare say that of most people on the planet, as a Power FOR Peace - have begun. That will undoubtedly take a lot of "self-discipline" by a lot of folks who are currently doing their best to attain some kind of "control" over others. I hope that I'm not "splitting hairs" when I say that from my experience "self-discipline" may have more real power in the long run than "self-control". However, it seems to take less energy.