Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Bechukotai 75- Shalom-Peace and Solving Problems in a Collaborative and Proactive way = CPS

The parasha of Be'chukotai begins with a promise by God that if you will follow My decrees by engaging in intensive study of Torah with the intention of performing the mitzvoth , then the performance of the mitzvoth will merit many blessings , the greatest of them all being  shalom -peace and harmony in your land. Peace is a gift from God, the vessel that can contain all other blessings, for without shalom- peace,   other blessings are meaningless.  The highest or culminating point of our prayers and of the Priestly blessings – birkat kohanim is a prayer for peace.  In the Kadish prayer we ask that God should make peace. 

The question is, is it only God that can make peace? And if so what is our role –' we are to seek peace and pursue it'. The answer is that we have to make ourselves ' receptacles' - keilim- that can receive and accept God's blessing of peace. It means we have to emulate God and that the peace we make is based on our understanding of a Godly concept of peace. After praying a person must take 3 steps back in one bowing  like a student taking leave of his Rabbi and then extend  a greeting of  peace-shalom to those around him in the following way. Before straightening up, while he says about God – He who makes peace in his heavens he turns to his left and while saying He should make peace upon us – he turns to his right and afterwards he bows in front. The commentators note that in order for there to be peace people need to seek peace by being able to step back and compromise and bend over backwards and forwards to make peace.  The ability to compromise, make concessions and not stick to ones demands, claims or solutions is important in any process of conflict resolution and making peace. But it would be difficult to say that we are emulating God. It is difficult to think of God compromising or making concessions.  One of the names of God is Shalom =peace because God has the power to unify and harmonize opposites, contradictory and conflicting forces. Each force finds its place in the world.

 The ultimate of conflict resolution is not just a win-win situation but where the concerns of each party are met.CPS – Collaborative Problem solving or now known as Collaborative and Proactive solutions originally created by Dr. Ross Greene as a model to ' work with ' challenging children says - when solving problems we should not be focusing on ' behaviors ' but the problems underlying the behaviors. We begin by gathering information about the concerns and perspectives of the parties concerned.  The difficulty is that people tend to present their concerns as solutions, without giving enough thought about their concerns and this leads to negotiating or the dueling of solutions. In the end we may get a compromise after parties make concessions, but there has been no discussion on the concerns and perspectives of the parties. If we forget about solutions which are often preconceived, and just focus on concerns, and like Beit Hillel trying to understand the others' concerns before presenting your concern, we will get a better hold of the problem. Then we can invite the parties to try and brain storm a mutually satisfying solution that addresses both concerns. CPS in families is best done out of the moment, proactive when all are calm and connecting. We need to first focus on the general atmosphere in the home and the relationship and try to reduce negative interactions and conflict by using Plan C. Here we put low priority problems on the shelf and use Plan B – solving problems in a collaborative way for high priority problems.  Plan A is imposing parent will even at a price of a meltdown but out of the moment we need to still use Plan B.

 Here is an example.  A boy has a problem with some kids of friends of the family who come over to play. The boy announced to his mom that a certain kid would not be welcome at his Barmitzah party. The mother said the kid is coming and that if he did not like that kid, she would compensate him and that her son did not appreciate all that was being done for him. The boy answered that it was his barmitzvah so he could decide and his mother generally did not care about him. The first problem to overcome is that we have to give up our theories and assumptions why the kid or mother is acting in a certain way. ' Assumption free living' and not being judgmental  is important because it enables us to just describe what we see and focus on getting input from the other party rather than relying on preconceived theories and solutions.  A friend witnessing the scene suggested trying CPS. He asked each party what were their concerns. The boy said that the kid would disrupt and mess up the party, the mom said that she had to invite the kid; she could not tell their friends that their boy could not come. They attempted to brain storm a solution that would address both concerns – the kid came up with an idea that they would pay somebody to be with the kid and play with him. The mother remarked that this was the first time she felt heard and the boy said he felt understood.

 For sure people jealousy and not appreciating one's blessing gets in the way of peace but people need to be more generous and kind and welcome with love and happiness the success and happiness of others. We can make peace through negotiation and make concessions so a compromise is reached. On the other hand we can emulate God and use CPS to resolve conflicts and make peace. We act in a Godly way and are more likely to merit God's help in making peace when we are active in understanding the concerns of others and addressing them and our concerns in a collaborative way so we find mutually satisfying solutions.  

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