Find Mediators Near You:

REACH the Three Components of Self-Determination

Conflict is inherent and pulsating in every situation or aspect of life. The potential in the conflict triggers action. Action is a manifestation of thought. The thought process has the inherent capacity to associate meanings arising from experiences to expectations. The behavior and communication associated with the situation is rooted in cognition based on experiences and selective perception.

While communication is normally understood as an expression of one’s thoughts, it is a combination of words in a particular sequence to convey a message. It can be direct or indirect. Any word or message expressed is a thought manifestation either verbally or non-verbally, of the recall experienced of images created by prior experiences. There is an abundant storage of memories which have recording of feelings, opinions, beliefs, safety screens, and so on. In Sanskrit one of the words used for conflict is rrN or hurt. This can be physical or psychological and depends on the perception of what is injury. Selective perception of the message conveyed and decoded aids in adding layers to this rrN. To decipher the reason for the rrN one has to first understand the need for effective communication.

Understanding the import of what is conveyed is more often a derivative of habit and conditioning. Decoding is based primarily on suppositions and inferences. Transferring the visual image conceived by thought into words happens on the premise that the person received the communication has the same communication pattern. Culturally also, the pattern of communication has a tendency to be different. Cognition of the communication determines the behavior of the person. The behavior of the person automatically goes through a pattern:

  • Sensation
  • Image
  • Belief
  • Emotion
  • Action

Sensation is the primal need to protect one’s space. Defensiveness is the automatic action that tends to get rooted in any inter-personal interaction. This is due to the image one has of the self and of the other. Belief, born out of conditioning and out of need for security also supports the defensive action. These trigger emotional reactions and an overt act that could escalate the conflict. Addressing the behavior needs an understanding of the self as any expectation or action is always an attempt by the self to protect its space.

Henry Stack Sullivan developed the Self System to understand behavior. It is his theory that the Self System is a configuration of personality traits which are developed from childhood experiences and reinforced by positive affirmations from interactions. It is a mode adapted to tackle anxiety and threat to self-esteem. He opined that anxiety was the primary driver in personality development and that there is a constant need to find security. He termed the set of mechanisms adopted to do this as ‘Security Operations.’ He attributed three factors:

  • Apathy
  • Somnolent detachment
  • Selective inattention

Sullivan therefore identified the protective measure and supervisor controls of behavior in this system as :

  • Sanctions certain behavior- GOOD ME self
  • Forbids other behavior-BAD ME self
  • Excludes from consciousness- NOT ME self

Albert Bandura took this further to say that the Self System is a cognitive process by which a person observes, evaluates and regulates his/her behavior. He coined the term self-efficacy to say that people observe their own behavior and evaluate and that it is the judgment of one’s effectiveness in dealing with a particular situation.

It is apparent that any behavior which is a security operation driven act is anchored in the ‘I.’ Any expectation or the rigor of demand based on entitlement is also anchored in the image of the self or personification. Primarily concern about identity, self-efficacy, wants being satisfied, about security [recognition, acknowledgment and  commitment]; threat to image of the self and self esteem trigger a defensive reaction which is driven by a selective perception of the situation.

To address these concerns and to have a positive self system one has to realize the need to move beyond the security operations and consequent behavior which are factors that are apparent to the person on the surface; to consciously probe below the surface to look at what is inherent in the situation and to recognize the consequences that are waiting to find a space to manifest. This provides a chance for objective reasoning and appraisal which then facilitates Self Determination. Recognition and being conscious of the reasons for the conflict enables taking responsibility and choosing an assertive action that is mutually satisfying. One has to be conscious of the contours of the conflict and its potential to understand the implications of the actions that arise out of concerns and anxiety about the conflict.

Nudging consciousness to realize the need to recognize the contours of the conflict leads to feeling the need to handle it and to use the potential in the conflict. This is possible only by willingness to share information. While one talks, he/she is not only communicating to another, he/she is also listening to what is being communicated. What one intended to communicate during this ‘listening’ may change as one becomes aware of the content objectively. Also when one listens with attention and is focused on understanding the import of what is being said; the mind automatically shifts through the information to understand the relevance and relates the information to understand the consequences. Affirmations in the message conveyed and cognition of the beliefs and values that have framed the situation then needs to be internalized for one to make a conscious and informed choice. This stage is facilitated by three components

  • Shravana
  • Manana
  • Nidhidyasana

Listening with an intention to understand, listening to gather information by asking appropriate questions and listening to challenge beliefs and conditioning is Shravana. Shravana is in effect building the self system. Manana is reflection on the information received and to allay concerns and fears. Manana is aided by self-efficacy and respect for the person and their beliefs/values etc. Together with shravana, it enables taking responsibility and understanding the need to act with integrity. Once the fears and concerns are addressed Nidhidyasana takes over. The person gains strength to act positively once he/she feels that he/she has been really heard. Listening and effective communication breeds positive reflection and ability to discern what ought to be done. At this point the need to address emotions becomes redundant as emotions are a manifestation of thought. The thought pattern changes from sensation, image, belief, emotion and action to conscious recognition, respectful and persuasive listening, objective appraisal and reflection ad assertive action. The energy that stimulated the thought process to induce emotions based on experiences gets transformed to objective appraisal enabling self determination.

It is important to recognize that shravana, manana and nidhidyasana become possible only when one is able to respect himself/herself and RESPECT the other. It is then that one is able to understand the perspectives of the other, the values and beliefs that drive one to take a position. Once there is respect, there is ENGAGEMENT. The need to relate to another, to nurture and maintain relationships, to support the needs of the other in the security operation space defines the nature of engagement. Once there is engagement, acknowledgment of ‘what ought to be,’ the action that is to be done, redefining goals and prioritizing perceived needs ACKNOWLEDGMENT happens. At this point the parties move above the need to score individual goals to understanding the need to address mutual satisfaction and so there is a resolve to find a solution to the problem. This manifests as COMMITMENT. When the parties are able to guarantee performance having made a considered choice, the negative effects of the conflict dissipates to ensure HARMONY.

R.E.A.C.H primarily addresses the three components of self-determination:

* helps to motivate RELATEDNESS

* enables action that builds COMPETENCE by addressing:

   * willingness

   * internalization

   * evaluating consequences

*  considered choice/decision- AUTONOMY

R.E.A.C.H enables a positive self-esteem and self efficacy quotient. It enables one to live consciously and purposefully, act with integrity and by taking responsibility for the choice. It enables acceptance of the situation and helps to be assertive thereby building up self –esteem. This provides the platform for self-efficacy and self determination.

Everyone has a role in an inter-personal interaction. The image of one’s role dictates the behavior and attitude of the person. The role of a person has four dimensions:

  • Prescriptive- what one should do in a particular situation
  • Descriptive- actual acts that one has to do
  • Evaluative- comparison with established standards/norms
  • Action- acts done in performance of a role

These dimensions gain visibility depending on the clash of interests, needs, values. Ability to respect, to hear and to reflect, to connect by acknowledging the interests, needs and values behind positions and willingness to change ensures consistency and commitment. The conflict at this point then turns into positive action to ensure harmony. At every stage, sharavana, manana and nidhydyasana aids in REALISATION, REALISATION AND REALISATION alone. The self system moves through the conflict trajectory from threat to security to finding security once the potential in these stages are realised. The EUREKA moment happens.


Uma Ramanathan

Uma Ramanathan, Advocate, Mediator, and Mediator Trainer. She is also the Organising Secretary of the Tamilnadu Mediation and Conciliation Centre, High Court, Madras. She practiced as an advocate in the High Court Madras, Tamilnadu, India for 29 years. She has been practicing as a Mediator since 2005 and training mediators… MORE >

Featured Members

View all

Read these next


Why Do I Want You to Stay in the Room?

Joy Rosenthal's Mediation BlogI want to say a word about neutrality, which is a very important concept in mediation. The role of a mediator is to act as an intermediary...

By Joy Rosenthal

The Promise and Reality of Online Dispute Resolution in Australia

This chapter is from "Online Dispute Resolution Theory and Practice," Mohamed Abdel Wahab, Ethan Katsh & Daniel Rainey ( Eds.), published, sold and distributed by Eleven International Publishing. The Hague,...

By Chinthaka Liyanage, Tania Sourdin

Federal Court Sends Data Privacy Dispute to Arbitration

Disputing Blog by Karl Bayer, Victoria VanBuren, and Holly HayesThe Northern District of Illinois has ordered a proposed class action data privacy lawsuit that was filed against a telecommunications company...

By Beth Graham