An integrated approach to conflict management for families

An integrated or holistic approach to conflict management implies a recognition and understanding of the complexity of conflict, and the willingness to work with other professionals with complimentary and specialist skills, to provide a comprehensive and unique approach to each situation.


Not only should I be continually expanding and perfecting my own skills, but I need to maintain a keen awareness of the developments in other areas, so that I can appreciate when it would be appropriate to involve another professional, and to understand how we would be able to work together for the benefit of the client.


I listened to a very interesting interview this week with an author and physician from the USA by the name of Dr Gabor Mate. His work over many decades has convinced him of the very strong connection between emotional expression and immune response. He has a unique approach to illness and healing that does not just deal with the physiological symptoms described to him in his consultations, but delves into childhood trauma as a way to understand and pave the way for an integrated and holistic approach to each individual situation. Dr Mate provides some very good tools to explain the impact of trauma and stress on even very young children, and the need to manage this properly to minimise the consequences in later life.


He gives himself as an example.


His mother was a holocaust survivor, and as a one year old, they were living in Pudapest under Nazi rule. His mother could no longer guarantee his survival, so she gave him to someone on the street who cared for him for a month. This resulted in emotional trauma, and very strong feelings of abandonment and loss, that he says have plagued him throughout his later relationships, and resulted in illness including depression and ADHD. As a child he did not understand that this mother did this to save his life! His coping mechanism was emotional repression, and this in turn resulted in a disorganized immune system, and illness later in life.


Dr Mate also spoke of those children who have parents who are troubled and distressed and dysfunctional, and the burden this places on their children, who feel responsible for fixing their parents problems. This burden he sees as impacting significantly on the child’s physical and emotional health.


What happens to the parent, happens to the child. The child feels the pain and suffering in their immediate environment, and they feel the tension and suffering in the body of those they are dependent on, generally their mother. Parent’s lives can become so stressful they must tune out to protect themselves, and this can take place at a time that the child’s brain is developing significantly. Children are essentially narcissistic and see their situation as all about them. They compensate for unexplainable suffering by developing coping mechanisms that result in a hole in their psyche, that creates a false personality. They see their parents as not accepting them as they are, so the child’s reaction is to change the way they are to be what the parents need! These coping mechanisms are then likely to result in dysfunction as an adult. In other words, the social problems that arise from trauma in childhood, become manifested in medical issues.


Dr Mate has some very interesting beliefs about the mind/body functioning and the healing that is possible through emotional intelligence. His key is being mindful, in the moment, not taking things personally, not being governed by past issues or experiences. The transformation required is a journey that requires knowledge and insight, and considerable effort. It is not an intellectual event, but a process that happens over time by clarifying, going deeper and deeper to your essence. This sounds easy, but this is where a lot of work might need to be undertaken by various professionals in different capacities to change the unconscious responses and assist the person to move to a better place. He calls this the bio-social-social perspective!


I am very interested in Dr Mate’s ideas. With family disputes, I often see parents that are in such distress themselves that they are unavailable for their children. I hear them reassure me that they go to great lengths to ensure that their children are not affected by the monumental changes happening in their lives. I am presented with stories that clearly indicate that children are taking on a role of looking after one or both of their parents.


I would like to find other professionals working with families who are also excited by these ideas, and want to discuss how an integrated approach would assist these children, and the adults they become to live better lives. I would like regard the family as multifaceted, and work together with other professionals to support the family to manage their lives on each of these facets. If you would like to have a dialogue along these lines, please contact me at Creative Family Law Solutions.


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