Monday, July 30, 2007

Conflict Resolution with Scott Wyman

I attended an all-day workshop this weekend in Chico, entitled Conflict Resolution for Growth and Intimacy, presented by Scott Wyman, licensed marriage and family therapist and Reiki Jin Kei Do Master. With four couples in the class, I was the only “single.” I attended in order to explore understanding and skills within the context of my friendships and business relationships, an area which has been lively in the last year, to say the least. I could not help but see the value of these concepts within my marriage as well.

Wyman’s point-of-view is decidedly Buddhist in nature, with meditation and self-exploration, self-awareness the cornerstone of his approach. Well versed in world religion (certified Spiritual Mentor with graduate degrees in Theology and Psychology), he is just as fluent in Christian themes as he is in Eastern philosophies.

The class opened with meditation, and a presentation on the concept of differentiation, which is explained in detail on his website . Briefly, this addresses the conflict in human nature to be both attached, or connected closely in relationship, versus our drive for uniqueness and individuation. In general women are more inclined to the “belonging” side of the spectrum, while men often (but not always) are wanting to maintain separation. The struggle in relationships arises in the ongoing tension between these two extremes. At the far ends are belonging, complete co-dependency with lacking boundaries; and, complete autonomy, a state of detachment and feeling disengaged. In order to have healthy “selves” and relationships, we must work towards a balance point amid these two realms, where there is “celebration of the unique self,” as well as the ability to be that self, “without anxiety, in relationship with another.”

Wyman next reviewed the conflict cycle, a process of moving from “normalcy” (homeostasis - not necessarily healthy), a trigger event, escalation, to climax, distancing, repressing and eventually repeating the cycle. Noticing what triggers us and our over-blown emotional responses through self-awareness is key. Otherwise we are doomed to repeat the process over and over, not only with the same person (our spouse or child for instance), but often with successive partners, bosses, friends, etc.

Wyman recommends gaining clarity in our conflicts, by breaking down the conflict-cycle into the facts (known truth), the “story (our truth),” identify and own our feeling state (emotions), and recognize the resulting behavior. The root of all of our stories is our unresolved issues, the unhealed parts of our history that run silently in the background of our lives, filtering every experience. It can be much harder than we realize to separate the facts from the story and the story from our emotions. It is human nature to point the finger and blame the other person, religion, or country for our troubles. Extracting and taking responsibility for our role in our suffering is the only answer. There is nothing we can do to influence, motivate, manipulate or change the other.

Wyman teaches Four Stages of Relationship, a road-map of our path of growth in relationships, whether to self, others, churches, or countries. The stages are preconscious , conscious, intentional and enlightened. We are primarily in one of these stages, and we are testing the waters of the next stage as a natural part of the growth process. We may find our selves moving in and out of different stages depending on the healing of unresolved issues which inform our emotional reactions to triggers. Wyman stresses the fact that no stage is better or worse, these are just landmarks along the way to “growing up.” He likens it to a Freshman being no better nor worse than a Senior, they are just different points on the path.

To the break the cycle of repeating our unhealthy conflicts and suffering, Wyman suggests calling a time-out when we notice a triggered event escalating out of control. Take the time to pause, breathe (3 conscious breaths), and experience the emotion without the story. Devoting meditative time to experiencing the raw emotion, we have the opportunity to discover what other times, triggers or relationships in our lives have resulted in the same feeling(s). We begin to understand the underlying story we are bringing to the conflict, and can share this with our partner, diffusing blame, facilitating understanding, thus engendering compassion.

There is much more to this training, and anyone interested can explore Scott’s website. He also provided a reading list which includes books and audios by Pema Chodron, Tara Brach, John Welwood, David Schnarch, and Gay & Kathlyn Hendricks.

I am available to review these concepts in depth in a Whole Health Education counseling session with anyone who would like to study and apply these concepts to reduce stress and improve the quality of their relationships. Feel free to call or write for more information.

Be Well, Janis

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