FamilyCraft: The Private Practice of Family & Divorce Mediation

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Empathy, Anger & Sorrow (Erasing the Lines in the Sand)

family mediation: empathy, anger & sorrow erasing lines in the sandIn discussing disappointment's natural place in the landscape of life, psychotherapist Michael Miller, Ph.D., recently wrote in a popular magazine's feature article:

Empathy helps turn anger into sorrow. When sorrow becomes mutual, it begins to erase the lines drawn in the sand.

I recognize this as a common phenomenon in divorce and family mediation.

A divorcing couple struggles mightily with their difference of views and their anger with each other in the mediation session is pervasive. At some point, however, one of the parties' anger shifts to tears, and for a moment, there is real empathy for the other's interests. There is a palpable softening of tone and suddenly, impasse is overcome.

Empathy for a spouse or co-parent is seldom achieved in the cold exchanges of a lawyer's communiques advocating his or her client's positions in a divorce or family law case. With many couples, however, I've often watched the intimacy of mediation capitalize on Dr. Miller's observed dynamic, with a positive resolution ultimately resulting.