In her latest book, Ms. Davis presents a deeply incisive and introspective look at the human phenomenon of reconciliation. The book holds significant meaning for the mediator because the process of reconciliation and the process of mediation are not only tangentially related, but in fact, sometimes coalesce into one and the same. Both processes have significant commonalities. In her introduction, Ms. Davis notes that reconciliation can be seen as a ‘continuum’ where one end is “deep and transformative” while at the other end “no viable relationship is possible.” In between there are degrees of reconciliation. These degrees being a relationship in which “one person changes his or her frame of reference or expectations” and then one in which “much about the relationship remains unresolved and ambivalent … yet both people agree to disagree.”
A perhaps crucial difference between mediation and reconciliation is the role of “time.” In mediation, generally better results are achieved by getting the matter into the mediation environment in the most expedient possible manner. In reconciliation, the depth of pain experienced by one party or more has been so intense and in some cases, so well submerged into the subconscious, that time is critical in the healing process of this pain. As Davis states, “Time usually has to pass before most people are able – or willing – to reconsider a relationship that was so painful it had to end.” However, the processes of reconciliation and mediation are conceptually rife with similarities.
Both reconciliation and mediation involve the telling or the relating of the discourse of life that created the initial rift. In many cases that event can be trivial and only symbolic of an underlying situation. In coming to grips with the events that caused the rift, parties must develop autonomy. They must find peace with themselves and the events that made them into who they are. Only then can they start to deal with the true pain and its release. And for all parties, when that release is done successfully, the rewards are incalculable.
Ms. Davis illustrates her point by recounting numerous tales of reconciliation. And she does so without bias toward only successful reconciliations. She discusses all four types of reconciliation. And she indicates that even in the type where one decides that a relationship is not tenable, the party gets benefit and therapeutic healing as they come to face the reality of the situation in which they find themselves involved. In so relating her concepts Ms. Davis takes us through some of the most emotional and heartrending stories. Many of her stories center around family child abuse and how victims often struggle to reconcile with people that have harmed them through the most terrible transgressions, those of betrayal. Yet, still, many find their way to be able to heal themselves and find peace in dealing with their past.
Of particular interest are some of the specific examples Davis uses to illustrate her point. She describes the work of Asiz Khamisa and Ples Felix in creating “The Tariq Khamisa Foundation” after Ples’ 14 year old grandson shot and killed Asiz’ son over $27 worth of pizza. They now work together to try and persuade youth that violence is a poor alternative for dispute resolution. She also describes the work of Melodye Feldman who brings Israeli and Palestinian girls together each year in a 6 week interactive summer camp workshop where they realize that they are all just people on two sides of a very horrible fence. And, she also utilizes the work of Armand Volkas who brings together the Children of Nazis and the Children of Holocaust Survivors.
In an example of complete overlap between reconciliation and mediation, Davis cites Victim-Offender mediation, where victims meet with their perpetrators and try to seek transformative healing through interaction and understanding. In many cases the process is highly beneficial for both the victims and the offenders. The process is very delicate, but very meaningful when successful.
Both mediation and reconciliation are highly bound up with the factors of compassion and empathy. Both qualities are critical for success in both arenas. With true skill and fine artfulness, Ms. Davis analyzes the process of reconciliation in a way that is a revolutionary approach to the topic. The concepts can only add to the ever-expanding toolkit of the mediator.
Laura Davis offers lectures and workshops on reconciliation. She has built an online reconciliation community at http://www.LauraDavis.net where you can participate in discussions, receive a free biweekly ezine, and download a free “Am I Ready to Reconcile?” checklist.