Stay up to date on everything mediation!

Subscribe to our free newsletter,
"This Week in Mediation"

Sign Up Now

Already subscribed No subscription today
<xTITLE>Holding Both</xTITLE>

Holding Both

by Jeanne Cleary
May 2013 Jeanne Cleary
Holding Both.

Some things are best one and done. I never want to hear the sound of gunshots again.

Here in Boston and in my hometown of Watertown, people are reeling from this past week of tragic events. I am still hearing from friends who ran the marathon, who were at the finish line, whose neighbor died, whose close friend or colleague lies in the hospital with lost limbs and more surgeries to come. Broken bodies, broken hearts and shattered lives. Our experiences of courageous responders and the amazing unbroken spirits of some folks despite lost and broken bones buoy us, inspire us, help us to remember that part of ourselves that is strong and courageous and unbreakable. We see our own hidden reserves mirrored in their strength and courage. Dare we see a mirror when we look at Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, or even his older brother?

As a professor of mediation in the graduate program of Conflict Resolution at UMass Boston, one of the things I teach is the refrain: “What do you need to grow in order to have the capacity to hold both?” Growing capacity in addition to skill acquisition has been my passion for a number of years now, and my unwitting students of mediation find themselves faced with the confusion of “Is she talking mediation or meditation now?” as I weave basic mindfulness concepts throughout the classes. My students are charged with remaining “neutral/impartial” as mediators, to honor the dignity and worth of each person at the table in the face of the compelling impulse to resolve pain and distress by finding right and wrong, good and bad. Holding both (sides, stories, people) is a tough one.

I am challenged in the aftermath of this week with “holding both” as I consider this 19 year old boy (only a few years older than my son) on the one hand, and the horrific acts he perpetrated on the other. At the Saturday night vigil at Victory Field here in Watertown, I chatted with two women who like me were struggling with what to do about our confusing feelings of the heartbreak of the pain and loss from his horrific actions and compassion for this “boy”. In the end, we didn’t resolve this. In fact, what was there to resolve? We were feeling the reality of open hearts to the whole of it, the whole of all the people involved, the whole of our own experiences.


In her private practice in Watertown, MA Jeanne Cleary provides relational and couple psychotherapy, mediation services, and conflict engagement strategies for corporate, religious, non-profit and educational organizations. 

As a core trainer with Community Dispute Settlement Center of Cambridge MA for over twenty years, Jeanne has offered basic and advanced mediation training.  She served for fifteen years as a court appointed guardian ad litem, working with families, children and social service agencies facing various challenges and conflicts. She has designed trainings in conflict resolution and retreats for numerous clients including Digital, Mass Dept of Education, Probate and Family Courts, Central Boston Elder Services, Boston University College of Communication, and Mass School of Pharmacology, in addition to high schools and churches. Jeanne has lectured in conflict resolution courses at Boston University, School of Public Health, International Department and currently teaches at the University of MA, Boston, McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security and Global Governance. 

Jeanne has presented on conflict resolution topics at conferences including the Massachusetts Psychological Association, Women and Public Policy Program of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, Boston Bar Association, Flaschner Judicial Institute, Massachusetts Association of Guardians ad Litem, New England Association of Conflict Resolution, and the Massachusetts Association of Mediation Programs and Practitioners, and the Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation. She is a past president of the board of directors of MAMPP, and served on the board of The Adoption Center, Newton MA and The Watertown Children’s Theatre. 

Jeanne Cleary received her BA in theology and psychology from Bates College 1977, her MA in clinical psychology from Lesley University 1987, and advanced clinical training from Theravision Institute in Boston 1990.  Jeanne is a long time student of meditation and continues to be passionate about human potential through relational engagement.  

Email Author

Additional articles by Jeanne Cleary