Rapid Transition from Reptilian Brain to Neo-Cortex or Mediation – Laughter is the Best Medicine

My spouse and I will soon divorce

I have a sinking feeling,

She’s found another who suits her more

my emotions won’t stop reeling.

We’re waiting to see a mediator

who will walk us through a course

of talks about our private lives

I can’t think of anything worse.

I’m hijacked by amygdala

and cannot contemplate,

the life ahead, it all feels bad

I’m stuck in ruminate.

Fears have got me hostage,

my anger won’t subside,

adrenaline has me shaking

my rage I cannot hide.

Will I fly or will I fight,

I am torn between the two,

hormones flowing, temper growing,

I don’t know what to do.

But wait a minute, here’s a break

my mediator’s just called

alas she’s stuck in traffic

it seems her engine stalled

She suggests we watch a video

while awaiting her arrival,

I check the stack and soon pick out

Abbott and Costello.

I pop the movie in the deck

and soon we’re in raucous laughter,

scene after scene prompts still more

and tears come soon thereafter.

The neutral arrives we pause the tape

and start negotiations,

I’m noticing that I am engaged

in full participation.

We list our needs and remedies

and then brainstorm a schedule.

I feel creative and alive,

I’m functioning at a whole new level.

What happened to the anger,

what dissipated my rage?

I watch a silly movie

and now I am assuaged?

Can it be this is the cure

for reptilian behavior,

induce some laughs, shift mentally

high-brain soon will follow?

My Theory is that people in conflict who enter mediation are almost always, to varying degrees, going to be in a state of uncertainty. This doubt evokes fear which in turn engages the amygdala which in turn drives the release of adrenaline and other hormones. It is necessary for mediators to address those fears in some way so that parties can disengage the amygdala and thus access their higher thoughts, creativity and intuition, available when the neo-cortex is accessible. Studies have shown that humor can help people access the creativity and problem solving skills that reside in the neo-cortex (Goleman 85) .

In order to aide clients in that transition, we will be well served to have waiting rooms that are appointed with images that invite the viewer to dream about far away places or have puzzles available that challenge their creative thinking. We could also have music playing that may help evoke positive emotions, anything that may lift the spirits of the client. The ultimate goal is to help prepare disputants for negotiations by assisting them in engaging that portion of their brain that allows them to be out of a primitive mindset.

Goleman, Daniel. Emotional Intelligence. Bantam. New York. 1997.


Cate Bozarth

Cate Bozarth recently graduated from Woodbury College with a master of science degree in Mediation and Conflict Studies. Cate's Capstone project for the masters program involved teaching Conflict Resolution and Anger Management skills to inmates in a local jail. This work brought her the awareness of the desperate need for… MORE >

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