In the recent edition of the Journal of Dispute Resolution, Magistrate Judge Wayne Brazil writes about how “spiritual fatigue” can affect seasoned mediators. His thesis is that staying centered emotionally and behaviorally in core purposes and principles of mediation can lower the level of psychic strain that this work can impose on mediators and can serve as a significant source of renewable professional energy.
He identifies the following areas to consider:
1. Denial - one source of fatigue is the fear of admitting that it exists, since we are in a position of being a “force” for good;
2. Repetition of Process - Our energy might no longer be stimulated by the challenges of mastering new mediator skills as the novelty has worn off and boredom sets in;
3. The Psychic Strain of Being at the Center of the Vortex - the relentless and intense psychic demands that remaining at the center o the mediation process can impose on us. He suggests that we stop seeing ourselves at the center;
4. Infection by the Parties’ Fatigue - our fatigue might by a product of the fatigue felt by the parties, particularly repeat players to the process;
5. Exaggerated Expectations of the Parties to the Process - we may be artificially sapping our own energy by expecting too much of the parties and lawyers, as well as the process;
6. Exaggerated Expectations of Ourselves - we sometimes exaggerate our ability, our contribution, and our responsibility;
7. Sources of Sustaining Energy - Being transparent about ourselves and the process, actively soliciting the participation of the parties and lawyers in decisions about how to structure their cases, and what steps to take at important junctures in the proceedings;
8. Accessing the Energy that is in the Values and Purposes that Animate our Commitment to this Work - we need to reconnect with three animating truths about our work: (1) the process we use and the spirit of the work is important; (2) the vast majority of the people we serve respect and are grateful for what we do and believe they have benefitted from the process we have hosted; (3) our work does in fact teach listening, acknowledging and engaging communication and fostering connections.