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# Myth, Mathematics, and Paradigm Shifts in Mediation Practice

What is a myth? Someone once said it is an idea that is held to be the truth. So, if I have an idea about Tom or myself . . .like “Tom is a jerk” and if I then relate to that idea, not as an idea, but as “THE TRUTH,” we have created a myth that “Tom is a jerk.” No problem, because it’s just a myth, right? Wrong.

See, an “idea” is not the same as THE TRUTH. But when we relate to our ideas (and opinions, conclusions, assessments, interpretations, judgments, etc.) about each other and ourselves as if they were, then we have created many myths. The only complexity is that we think they are THE TRUTH.

Let’s now make a mathematical equation that describes what we have done here:

Let “X” = THE TRUTH that Tom is a jerk.

Now we have an X that we can apply whenever Tom is around. Let’s say that Tom does not send me a birthday card. Our equation in our minds is as follows:

Tom did not send me a birthday card because Tom = X (a jerk)

Since X (Tom is a jerk) is our TRUTH, there is no other possibility for Tom. On a scale of 1 to 10, Tom is a 2. Treating Tom like a 2 rather than a 10, in our culture, is called, “knowing Tom.” It gives me a very convenient way of relating to Tom, with me being better than Tom.

And it also virtually eliminates any possibility of Tom being or becoming anything other than a 2, like a 5 or 7 or a 10. Which keeps me fixed at needing be better than Tom.

But I think we have a choice under all circumstances. WE CAN EITHER RELATE TO TOM AS BEING a 2 LIKE ‘THE TRUTH’….. OR ( A CHOICE) …..WE CAN INVENT ANOTHER MYTH, THAT “TOM IS a 10 ‘ACTING LIKE’ a 2.”

Let me say it again, in a slightly different way: IT IS ALWAYS YOUR CHOICE TO RELATE TO PEOPLE AS IF THEY ARE 2s (JERKS) OR AS 10S (WONDERFULLY SPECIAL PEOPLE) ACTING LIKE 2s.

AND IT IS NOT TRUE THAT TOM IS a 10. It is just another myth, but what a much more empowering myth to operate from than the first one!

If I create the Myth That Tom Is a 10, now Tom can grow, and I can grow, and we both can have a relationship that neither of us dreamed was possible.

Let’s go back to our math for a moment to explain what we have now done. We started with the myth of X, which was that Tom is stupid. Now we INVENTED A FICTIONAL (NON-X) VARIABLE THAT WE WILL CALL Y.

Please notice that THE ONLY FICTIONAL VARIABLE we can create from X is “not-X”, in other words, the exact opposite of X, i.e. the polarity of X.

This means that Y will always and only be NOT X, so Y = Tom is not a jerk or whatever the opposite of X is, namely a 10 (and he is just ACTING LIKE a jerk). Another way of saying this is that Tom is a Y or on a scale of 1 to 10, Tom is a 10.

So we started with one polarity, X, and created its opposite, Y, so we can arrive at a more balanced view of Tom that creates possibilities for us both that would not have otherwise appeared. Another way of saying this is that the creation of myth Y allowed us to reflect and examine our assumptions about X.

Neither X nor Y are THE TRUTH, but the creation of Y was necessary to see that the X was not the only possibility, and it enabled us to create a position to relate to people from that would not have been there if we were not willing to explore our own myths. Note then, that the discovery of our myths, a most valuable reflective practice, will always show up in the area of what we think is THE TRUTH about events, other people and ourselves.

SO THE CREATION OF THE SECOND MYTH, THE POSSIBILILTY THAT TOM IS NOT a 2, LAID THE GROUNDWORK FOR A PARADIGM SHIFT THAT ALTERED THE POSSIBILITY OF HOW TOM AND I RELATE.

But most folks like the simpler formulation: I can relate to him as a 2 or a 10 acting like a 2. Which one will I choose now? Try it sometime when you think one of the parties to a mediation is a jerk and let me know how it turns out.

### Kim R. Bobrowsky

Kim Bobrosky is a mediator and trainer in Pittsburgh PA. Mr. Bobrowsky maintains a full-time private practice in Mediation and Arbitration. He serves on the Board of Governors of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Section of the Federal Bar Association and on the Board of Directors of Conflict Resolution Center International.… MORE >

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