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When Empathy Goes Too Far

One of my mentor meditors once told me the beauty of mediation is that there is no paperwork (was I happy to hear that!) and that mediators leave all the baggage of what happens in that room behind as soon as the session ends. But does that really happen?

I remember one case between two friends. One lent money to the other. A few years passed but the debt had not been returned. At first glance it seemed that a payment plan was all that was needed. Boy, was I wrong. Their 20 year long friendship had been ruined over $1,000. There was anger, shouting, tears, apologies, and the uncertainty of whether or not they'll be able to trust each other again. And in the middle of it all, there I was, trying to help them navigate these feelings and resolve the problem. After a two and a half hour session, I was drained and numb. My brother remarked how dazed I looked when I got home, how removed from everything.

As mediators, we care. We wouldn't have the passion to intervene in bitter conflicts and help people make sense of the mess otherwise. We're caring individuals who willingly put aside everything that's going on in our own small universe to assist others in dealing and resolving their own problems. But being in the middle of conflict can take its toll. My mediation training, although extensive and thorough, has not even begun to prepare me for these types of situations.

So I leave you with this: how do you restore yourself after intense mediations? What are some of the things  you do to recharge?

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