Great commentary on Vulnerability and Feelings

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This is a TED talk from Brene Brown that poignantly speaks to issues of transformation.  Highly recommended.


New Group for Clergy

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This past winter I led a Training Group for Clergy using the tools of Creative Conflict Resolution.  The experience was fantastic!  Not only did the six UCC pastors in the group get the concepts, they were able to use them to good effect in a broad range of settings.  As a result I am going to be offering the training on a regular basis.  The next one will be starting in August and I already have five clergy signed up.

It is not actually necessary to be ordained to be in the group, but it is important that all of the members be people with experience as leaders of faith communities.  More information is available here.  Or just give me a call.

Is the RW for couples?

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I just heard this question about the audience for the Reconciliation Workshop and want to make the answer more widely available.


Can you please clarify whether the Reconciliation workshop is for therapists or for couples (wanting to resolve their conflicts)? Thanks!



The Reconciliation Workshop is very focused on helping a person find a solution to a persistent problem. Therapists may certainly do the workshop as an exercise in personal development but the therapist will be participating as a person who experiences conflicts in significant relationships. Couples may attend together but the focus will not be on the relationship but on the experience each has of the conflicts which arise for each. They may easily end up focusing on different conflicts in the relationship or even discover that the relationship issues are a derivative of other conflicts. For example, while they may choose to attend because of bickering between them, one may decide to address a persistent conflict with the boss at work because job stresses are the source of discord at home. In any event, they will each be in a different small group during the workshop.

Hope this helps.


A "Breakthrough" Approach

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An interview with Dr. Mark Lee Robinson about the applications of Creative Conflict Resolution to large scale conflict.

Why is your approach to conflict resolution a breakthrough?

My principles of Creative Conflict Resolution represent a major shift in our point of view. Even experts--people who have wrestled professionally with the problems of conflict resolution--need a new perspective toward the creative possibilities inherent in conflict, rather than simply offering the usual techniques to mediate it.

We need to redefine what we mean by conflict? How so?

We normally define conflict as what happens when parties with opposing interests start trying to dominate each other. For example, we may have a problem when someone in the office is not reloading paper into the copier when it runs out, but we decide not to say anything to him because we "don't want to start a conflict." Or we know there were deep hostilities between Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda stemming from the colonial era, but we speak of the conflict starting in 1994 when Hutus began "cutting down the tall trees." 

We are fairly often asked about whether the Building Healthy Relationships class is appropriate as an intervention for persons who are involved in domestic or family violence in some way. This is a more complex question than first appears. The simple answer is yes, but...

Development of the Philosophy of Creative Conflict Resolution

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Almost all of the conflict resolution literature is about conflict between groups. This includes labor management issues, governmental issues, armed conflict, and war. Some material in the literature is about addressing marital conflict or other interpersonal issues between only two people. Most of this is about techniques for resolving conflict by improving communication skills. These include learning to use "I" statements, doing active listening, and taking "time outs" when the intensity of the conflict is too great.

These are all helpful tools and I support and teach them myself. But they are all geared toward working with the couple to teach them skills they can both use to address the mutual responsibility they have for the problems in the relationship. That is not the context in which I found myself working for much of my career as a psychotherapist.

Creating a "committed" relationship

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One frequent rough place in the development of an intimate relationship occurs when one party to the relationship wants to confirm that they have a "commitment" to each other or that they are truly "in a relationship." This is tough for a couple of really good reasons.

One reason is that this may be the first time that have actually talked about the relationship itself. It is one thing to be in relationship with another; it is another to make the relationship itself the focus of shared attention.

Rick's Christmas

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A few years back I had a man in my program I will call Rick. He was in his early twenties. He was ordered to complete the Abuse Prevention Program as a consequence of abuse in a relationship with a girlfriend. While in the program he found a new girlfriend. It was a much healthier relationship and Rick was able to understand and apply the principles of Creative Conflict Resolution in that new relationship.

Once a participant completes the Abuse Prevention Class he moves into the Practice Group.  Rick had completed the class months earlier and was addressing well the conflicts in his relationship with his girlfriend, but he had not addressed other conflicts in the group, particularly those at work. He was having trouble staying at a job.  As he interviewed well, he easily found a new one, which he would then again quit in anger.

Emotions: Feeling your Feelings

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Pros and Cons by Kieran Meehan

I have been a follower of Kieran Meehan's strip, Pros and Cons, for about a year now.  If you are not familiar with it, the central characters include a psychiatrist, a cop, and a prosecuting attorney.   The feature I most often see and like about the strip is the way he is able to skewer some widely held and unwise notions.  These are cognitive distortions which are so common they become hard to recognize. 

In the case of this offering, the clueless client is so attached to the notion that emotions can be turned on and off that he hears his therapist's intervention as a response to his analogy, not to the notion itself.  We can turn off awareness of our emotions but to do so takes a large investment of energy.  Such a choice also results in us being disconnected from our experience. 

While Meehan makes the choice look foolish, the truth is we all from time to time decide not to feel our feelings.  We decide to turn off our emotions to get through a difficult situation.  We can do this, for a while, at great cost.

Getting Others to Give Us What We Need

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We are hurt when we don't get what we need. It is healthy to act in ways that move us toward what we need. We use our best cognitive maps to guide us in figuring out what we can do to get what we need. Sometimes we use a poor map and, not only don't we get what we need, we actually create the opposite of what we need. Here we will examine a very common way this happens.