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<xTITLE>The Energy of Conflict: An Emerging Paradigm</xTITLE>

The Energy of Conflict: An Emerging Paradigm

by Deborah Isenhour, Marilyn Shannon
October 2003
How do you see conflict? For most of us, we experience conflict as a heavy burden and an energy drain. In fact, as mediators, we often see the weight of conflict in very tangible ways as we look at and listen to the parties involved in a dispute. And, when a conflict is resolved, we have all seen the visible difference in the parties’ moods, facial expressions, and even posture. Changes in mood, behavior, and circumstances are inevitable. In fact, the one thing we can count on is change as the weight of conflict lifts. When we remember that conflict arises from previously peaceful situations, we can begin to envision a new place where peace can be restored. We encounter evidence daily that conflict in a room has a very different ‘feel’ before, during, and after mediation. Yet, this is an aspect of conflict that is quite difficult to quantify or even describe. We call this phenomenon ‘the energy of conflict’.

So what is ‘the energy of conflict’ - this unseen, untouchable power?

The subject of energy is obviously complex. The medical profession is just now beginning to understand the connection between energy and the physical body. Bioelectromagnetics is the emerging science that studies how living organisms interact with electromagnetic fields. According to a report entitled Bioelectromagnetics Applications in Medicine by a panel of doctors chaired by Beverly Rubik, PhD (a biophysicist who served as a member of the Advisory Panel to the National Institutes of Health (NIH)), the electrical impulses in our bodies create electromagnetic fields of energy. According to the report, the physical body can also be affected by other fields of energy outside the body in both positive and negative ways. For example, we have all heard about the detrimental effects of high voltage power lines on the health of nearby residents. And we also know the positive benefits from radiation therapy. So what about the effect of your emotions and energy on my mood and behavior and vice versa?

The ability to harness our own energy and direct it in purposeful ways has been the basis for healing through alternative therapies and is now a whole field of medicine called Energy Medicine. Energy Medicine uses the term bioenergies to describe something ancient traditions have called chi, ki, prana, etc. Many of these alternative therapies are becoming increasingly popular appear to involve the flow of these energies through the dense physical body. In addition, it is traditionally accepted that expansions of consciousness often are related to changes in subtle energies that cannot be quantified. To be sure, there is a strong interrelationship among the emotions, the physical body, and the spirit.

In an article by Daniel Bowling (former Executive of the Association for Conflict Resolution) and David Hoffman, Bringing Peace Into The Room, they state that “there is a dimension to the practice of mediation that has received insufficient attention: the combination of psychological, intellectual, and spiritual qualities … (and) those personal qualities have a direct impact on the mediation process and the outcome of the mediation”. Just as Bowling and Hoffman state that the growth of a mediator based on his/her personal qualities has a significant impact on the mediation process, we believe that the energy brought into the room by the mediator and by all participants has a great influence on the outcome.

Through the exploration of the ‘energy of conflict’, Source Mediation™, a new model for conflict resolution, teaches mediators techniques for maintaining a balanced perspective through awareness of the ‘existing energy’ (the energy that is present) thus enabling him/her to contribute in a new and different way to the process. The organic nature of the model lends itself to the integration of other dimensions including the energy of communications and the energy of listening. Along with the skills learned from the Evaluative, Transformative, and Facilitative Mediation models, the Source Mediation™ model integrates the energy components of vision and creativity into the process. The Source Mediation™ model recognizes that there are three basic ways in which we manifest our individual energy: through emotions with an emphasis on relationships, through actions and an emphasis on results and through creativity where the emphasis is on vision. The model recognizes that each person manifests these basic three energy components at different times and with varying degrees of intensity.

Using the heightened perspective of ‘altitude’, the model teaches a new skill set to recognize which energy component is present and a course of questioning and strategy to guide the process. In addition, the model gives us a quantitative way to assess energy through ‘The Energy Audit’ as well as a new way of looking at ‘boundaries’. Through the results of “The Energy Audit” we become aware of the ‘stuck energies’ and the existence of imbalances. The best opportunities for revelations and resolution occur when balance exists among these three energy components. When balance exists we can experience our essence and a sense of peace.

Being aware of our own energy as mediators is a vital component to maintaining neutrality. Frequently checking in with ourselves as well as the disputants using ‘The Energy Audit’ is a valuable tool in the movement of energy. When energy is stuck in emotions, little headway can be made until that energy is released and/or re-directed. According to Tamar Frankiel, Ph.D., author of The Gift of Kabballah, emotion is energy traveling faster than thought. Conversely, sometimes we may be able to see that a disputant has been ‘spinning their wheels’ and stuck in ‘doing’. Most often in conflict, little energy has been given to the vision of what’s possible. As mediators, we might envision ourselves as conductors of an orchestra encouraging and emphasizing certain behaviors and/or remarks while re-directing and softening other remarks – all done in an effort to facilitate a balanced and harmonious result.

The Source Mediation™ model does not claim to replace the Transformative, Evaluative, and the Facilitative models. Rather it complements them and provides a context within which to unify, support, and validate the integration of these models to better inform the mediation process. Currently the model is being taught to mediators as an advanced training and is being used to develop the Peaceful Education Project (PEP), for school systems, teachers, staff, parents and students. Additionally, the model is being used in business environments as a tool for organizational development, teambuilding and leadership.

As Albert Einstein said, “You cannot solve a problem in the same level that it was created, you must rise above it to the next level”. It is only when we have a higher vision, a call to something greater, that change happens. And so it is when we abandon the comfort of traditional ideas that we can open ourselves to the relativity of energy allowing a shift in our existence toward an uncharted course.

Biography



Deborah Isenhour combines extensive construction and business knowledge and experience with outstanding dispute resolution skills and expertise.  After a successful corporate career and having earned an MBA from Duke University, Deborah co-founded Isenhour Enterprises, Inc., a multi-million dollar general contracting business gaining a vast understanding of the inner workings of a construction business.  Deborah is knowledgeable about all phases of the construction process from the architectural and design process to the final punchlist and warranty. 

Furthering her expertise in the field, Deborah attained a broker’s license in 1992 and the GRI (Graduate Realtor Institute) designation in 1993.  She co-founded The Real Estate Firm, Inc., which specializes in commercial property brokerage in the Chapel Hill/ Research Triangle Park, North Carolina area.  Jointly with the Real Estate Firm, Isenhour Enterprises and other investment groups have completed numerous commercial and development projects. 

As personal knowledge base and experience grew, Deborah was being called on to share her knowledge with others in the construction industry.  Deborah then co-founded Guts, Inc., which specializes in providing general business consulting and training for construction-related businesses. 

With a thorough understanding of the conflicts that arise in the construction industry, Deborah became certified as a Mediator by the North Carolina Dispute Resolution Commission in 2002 and trained as an arbitrator in 2005.  She now practices mediation in addition to being a business and conflict resolution consultant, facilitator, and trainer.  Deborah is the founding President of the North Carolina Chapter of the Association for Conflict Resolution and a Council Member of the Dispute Resolution Section of the NC Bar Association.


Marilyn Shannon is an NCDRC Certified Superior Court Mediator, Trainer, Consultant, Coach and Speaker in the field of Communications and Conflict Resolution. Specializing in juvenile, family, and workplace mediations with an emphasis on special education issues, Marilyn has been involved in the business community for the past 25 years. She is best known for her body of work conducting workshops entitled “The Essence of Listening”. Marilyn is an active member of the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR) and is currently Chair of the Spirituality Section and is a member of the Leadership Council. Marilyn is also involved with Source Education, a mediation and training company specializing in a conflict resolution workshop called “The Energy of Conflict."

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