Elizabeth Bader

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

The following is an excerpt from my new article, The Psychology and Neurobiology of Mediation,  published in the Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution.

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Elizabeth Bader, The Psychology and Neurobiology of Mediation,

Volume 17 (2) Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution (Winter 2016 Issue)

  I.           Introduction

This article grew out of a moment in mediation when a party became furious with me after receiving the opening offer from the other side. As I tried to understand what was happening, I suddenly realized it was not about the offer at all. It was about him. He feared a loss of “face” in front of the other parties.

Treating him with utmost respect, I took him through what the admittedly complex offer actually said. After about fifteen minutes, he was fine with it. We moved on.

From this point on, I began to look at mediation through the lens of “face,” self-esteem and self-identity. I was struck by a repeating pattern. At the outset of mediation, parties often had unrealistically optimistic hopes for resolution in their own favor, and on their own terms. This was also coupled with an attitude of “I am a winner, and I can do this!”

Mediation was, I found, in large measure the process of helping parties, and often their attorneys, work through their initially exaggerated sense of themselves and the possibilities for settlement in order to arrive at a realistic resolution of the dispute. Some level of deflation was endemic to this process. In my publications on the psychology of mediation, I called this cycle of inflation, deflation and realistic resolution the IDR cycle.[1]

Later, after studying the work of Stephen Porges[2] and Peter Levine,[3] I came to understand that much of what I had seen in mediation also could be described effectively in terms of the nervous system’s response to threat and challenge. This link between the physiological and the psychological dimensions of mediation is explored here.


[1] See my Psychology of Mediation: Issues of Self and Identity and the IDR Cycle, 10(2) Pepp. Disp. Res. L. J. 183 (2010) [hereinafter Psychology of Mediation], and Self, Identity and the IDR Cycle: Understanding the Deeper Meaning of “Face” in Mediation, 8(4) Int’l J. of Applied Psychoanal. Studies, May 2011, doi.10.1002/aps.295 [hereinafter Deeper Meaning of “Face”].

[2] See Stephen Porges, The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological Foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication and Self-Regulation(2011) (an edited collection of articles by Porges).

[3] See Peter A. Levine, In An Unspoken Voice, How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness (2010) (one of Levine’s many books on trauma).

For a recent article discussing the neurobiology of Levine’s approach to trauma, see Peter Payne, Mardi A. Crane and Peter Levine, Somatic Experiencing: Using Interoception and Proprioception as Core Elements of Trauma Therapy, Front. Psychol., February 4, 2015; doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00093, and Corrigendum: Somatic Experiencing: Using Interoception and Proprioception as Core Elements of Trauma Therapy, Front. Psychol. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00423.