Tag Archives: mediation in conflict

HABITS

Habits
by Dennis R. McGough, Ph.D.

Have you ever left work at the end of a challenging day, got behind the wheel of your car and then after a time, found yourself in your driveway? You can’t remember the specifics of the drive home, but sure enough, you arrived safely. You might wonder, “How did I get here?” Experiences of this nature, while perhaps a little unnerving, demonstrate the power that habits can have in our lives. The drive home from work is repeated over and over again, to the point that we occasionally make the trip on “autopilot”.

In his excellent book, THE POWER OF HABIT, New York Times business writer Charles Duhigg explains that habits are formed through a psychological process called a habit loop. The habit loop has three parts, the cue or trigger, the habitual action, and the reward, something that our brain uses to help us remember the habit loop in the future. Once we have formed a habit, our brain uses the habit loop to determine what we will do in a particular situation.

Habits can be very useful. As detailed in the classic book, SEVEN HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE, Dr. Stephen R. Covey, explains that habits allow us to deal with routine situations without having to think them through each time we face them. Habits can be good or bad. Most of us don’t have to think too long to come up with a few bad habits we would like to change.

Albert Einstein said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. While insanity might be a rather harsh descriptor, it’s clear that in order to change a result of an interaction, we must find a different way to deal with the challenge.

Everyone faces conflicts in his or her life. Some are minor and quickly get resolved, like who will pick up the kids after basketball practice. Others, however, are more significant, and may remain unresolved because we use the same habitual approach to deal with the challenge. As Einstein pointed out, we can’t expect a different outcome unless we find a new way to deal with the problem.

Mediation can be a fresh, new way to deal with a conflict. People come together in a neutral environment and work face-to-face with a trained mediator to develop a mutually acceptable resolution to their differences. Mediation Services of Adams County, a non-profit organization, is dedicated to helping people resolve their disputes. MSCA provides trained mediators, whose goal is to help individuals develop acceptable solutions to conflict situations. To explore how mediation could help you, contact MSAC at 717-334-7312, mediationac@yahoo.com online, or see our website at https://www.mediateadams.org.

Dennis R. McGough, Ph.D., is an MSAC board member, retired business executive and retired faculty member of the Masters in Industrial/Organizational Psychology Program, University of New Haven, West Haven, Connecticut.

FIGHT OR FLIGHT?

Dennis R. McGoughFight or Flight?

Dennis R. McGough, Ph.D.

We are all familiar with the phrase, “Fight or Flight”.  It was popularized in the book, The Wisdom of the Body, written in 1932 by Walter Bradford Cannon, M.D., a department chair and professor at Harvard Medical School.  This reaction to stress occurs in many animals when they face a perceived threat or attack and they prepare to “fight” or “flee”.

The reaction is physiological and triggers an immediate secretion of hormones into the bloodstream of the threatened animal, preparing it to fight or flee from the perceived threat.  Heart rate and blood pressure increase, in order to send maximum blood to the muscles.  Skin veins may constrict, allowing more blood for muscles and causing the “chill” we may feel when we are under stress.  Large muscles tense, ready for fighting or fleeing.  Tiny muscles attached to hairs in the skin grow tense, causing the goose bumps we may experience during these times.

Picture a gazelle peacefully grazing on a savannah somewhere in Africa.  All of a sudden, the gazelle senses (sees, hears or smells) the presence of a lion.  This sensation triggers the fight or flight response in the gazelle.  Successfully fleeing from this threat will require all of the body’s systems to function at maximum efficiency to support the tremendous muscular exertion necessary.  Stress reactions are complex.  Many animals will attempt to flee if threatened.  However, they will fight to-the-death if cornered.

Prehistoric human beings faced very real threats from animals and even perhaps other humans.  Their survival depended upon their ability to respond immediately to potential threats.  Planning wasn’t all that helpful, responding instantly was.

Fortunately, we don’t have to outrun lions, but when we find ourselves in a conflict situation with family members, neighbors, contractors or merchants, we may experience our own version of the fight or flight response.  We may come to believe that our only options are “fight” or “flight”.

Interestingly, neither of these options typically leads to a satisfactory solution.  If we choose to “fight”, the conflict usually escalates, leading only to a more serious situation.  This escalation can cause a potentially manageable state of affairs to spin out of control, virtually eliminating any real hope of a meaningful resolution.  In addition, if the fight turns physical, possible injury and very real legal consequences await.

If we choose the “flight” option, we may indeed escape the immediate problem, but we are then plagued by resentment and anger, because the conflict still exists.  Escape, it turns out, is only temporary.

Great news!  There is a solution that doesn’t require fighting or fleeing.  It is mediation, a process whereby both parties in a conflict work with a trained mediator to develop a solution acceptable to both parties.  Mediation Services of Adams County is dedicated to helping people resolve disputes.  MSAC provides trained mediators, whose goal is to help individuals develop agreeable solutions to conflict situations.  To explore how mediation could help you, contact MSAC at 717-334-7312, mediationac@yahoo.com online, or see our website at https://www.mediateadams.org.

Dennis R. McGough, Ph.D., is a MSAC board member, retired business executive and member of the adjunct faculty of the Graduate School, University of New Haven, West Haven, Connecticut.