Conflict, a Window of Opportunity. A journal from Armenia.

For the last week I have been in Armenia following a course from the Deep Democracy Institute in large group conflict transformation.

Inspiring, touching and very educational. I believe that what I have learnt will benefit my work and that of Quinx enormously.

The basic premise is that outer democracy (socio-political) only really works if it is reflected by ‘inner’ (psychological) democracy. Just as in political democracy every person must be represented, so in the inner society of our mind each voice needs to have a place. Nothing should be banished, not even the jihadi inside us!
The purpose of DDI work is to ensure minorities are not marginalised – either inside or outside us. I have never come across a methodology that combines so effectively inner work on self with outer work in society. Called ‘process work’, it can be used in individual coaching, work with teams, organizations, communities, or between communities who either need to work together or experience conflict. Whatever the context, the main principle is that all voices need to be heard (including inside our psyche) and no voice must be suppressed or banished.

In terms of facilitation I learnt how to create genuine dialogue in large groups where there is conflict and trauma, usually between different identity groups, such as race, colour, gender and so on.
It is not mediation in terms of negotiation, more how to bring people into the heart of their beliefs and values when things get tough, building the capacity within both group and individuals to speak and listen with authenticity and depth. Many of the ingredients are familiar to me: there are echoes of Gestalt and Constellation work, for example, but the recipe is unique in my experience. Rarely are the worlds of psycho-spirituality, postmodern attention to perspective, and social activism brought together so neatly. With a strong Daoist slant!

In terms of my own process, I learnt so much about the privilege I was born and raised into, how I am truly different from others. Through most spiritual paths we find out how we are the same at our core but too often this truth is used to smooth over difference and privilege. My attitude towards conflict is changed. However uncomfortable it may be, it is a fundamental part of life and sows the seed of evolution. Even if the whole world meditated, conflict would not go away… better to learn how to take on its challenge with courage and love.

I also took another step in accepting the unacceptable parts of myself – the demons and shadows – and finding the positive power in their essence.
I have rarely acknowledged my imperfections, everything I am ashamed of, in such a deep, liberating way.

There is hardly a hotspot around the world – from Rwanda to the ghettos of LA to their own local community – where these courageous ‘worldworkers’, as they are called, have not stepped into action. The work is also used in organisations, jails, you name it. I hope and intend part of my future work to go in a similar direction.

And by the way, Armenia is a beautiful country, full of mountains, monasteries and friendly people.
If you want to find out more, google Deep Democracy Institute  and the work of Arnie MIndell