The Bystander Effect

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The Bystander Effect

I just read a book that described the research behind the Bystander Effect. It is a disturbing phenomenon, indeed, and it has been empirically proven in many studies. The misconception most of us hold is that when someone has been hurt, witnesses will rush to their aid. The sad truth is the more people who witness a person in distress, the less likely it is that any one person within the group of witnesses will help.

The line of thinking in the Bystander Effect is that if one person , alone, sees someone in  trouble, he or she will feel compelled to help. If three or more people are witnessing someone in trouble, each supposes someone else in the group will help and so the individual abdicates his or her personal responsibility to step in. According to David McRaney, author of You are Not So Smart, the Bystander Effect has cost plenty of victims either their physical and/or emotional well-being. In many cases, by-standing has caused victims their lives, while others looked on.

I can personally relate to the Bystander Effect. When I was traveling in Florence, Italy, I was unaccustomed to the uneven cobblestone walkways. Upon exiting my hotel, I tripped just outside the entrance and went down sprawling onto the sidewalk. I hurt my knee and could not immediately get up. The number of pedestrians who literally climbed over me was astounding. Scores of them. Not one person offered help. I don’t remember what hurt worse: the injury to my knee or the shame of being ignored via apathy. I think the latter. Gosh. How do some people sleep at night?

I believe that the Bystander Effect needs to be considered as seriously as leaving the scene of an accident or leaving the scene of a crime. If it was our civic and legal responsibility to help someone in need, perhaps there would be less bullying, less domestic abuse, less hate crimes, less assaults, fewer injuries and fewer victims. Why do you think people abuse or bully other people? …because they can!

I have decided that by-standing someone in distress is officially not part of my behavioral repertoire. If I see someone being mistreated or in danger, I want to act in some way to be of aid to the victim. In my opinion, not only is it the moral choice; it is my honor to be of service to another who may be in distress. Give it some thought. What stand do you take?

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Divorce and the Target of Blame

Some people who are facing a contentious divorce may be in that position because they are coined as having high conflict personalities. The high conflict person can be very draining to those who are close to them or to the professionals who are working with them because they have the ability to hook the other in by making the other their target of blame. According to Bill Eddy, the guru of the High Conflict Personality, you know you’ve been hooked by the HCP as a target of blame when you:

  • feel shame as if you have done something wrong
  • you feel the fight, flight or freeze survival instincts
  • become defensive and have a need to blame the high conflict person
  • believe you have to prove yourself to be right
  • feel upset that the high conflict person is “getting away with something”.

Bill Eddy suggests that when you are the target of blame for a high conflict person that you: “remind yourself that it’s unconscious.  This high-conflict behavior isn’t a conscious process for the HCP.  He or she is not ‘knowingly’ taking advantage of you.  His or her actions are driven by unconscious personality patterns.  This doesn’t mean that everything they do is unconscious.  Most HCP’s have lied about something and knowingly engaged in behavior that’s improper.  But they’re driven to do these bad things for unconscious reasons.”

Mr. Eddy reminds us that the High Conflict Personality has always had a target of blame. There has been someone before you and there will be someone after you. This behavior is a pattern for the HCP so that they can remain distracted from their own grief and their own historical fears. Whether you are the HCP’s divorcing spouse or other family member, friend, attorney, mental health professional, you need to be ready for the possibility of becoming their target of blame and work to not get hooked.

Collaborative Divorce is an efficient approach for working with a High Conflict Personality because there is the powerfully safe environment of the professional team to deal with the challenge from a multidimensional perspective. The lawyers and the neutral Financial Specialist help the HCP neurologically move from the mid-brain (fight, flight or freeze center) up to the left cortex where higher, rational, concrete thinking can take place. The Coach can help the HCP recognize and manage intense negative emotions. The Child Specialist can help the HCP to reprioritize his/her thinking and remember to put the needs of the children in the forefront.  If you work in the field of divorce, Collaborative Divorce training is essential for less taxing, more gratifying work. There is a three-day training coming up on February 2-4, 2012 in Pomona, CA. Here is the direct link to sign up:

If you are the divorcing spouse of a High Conflict Personality, please consider getting a Collaborative Divorce. It will help your restructuring family to transition more peacefully. It will focus on the well-being of your children and place your divorce in the context of a normal transition in today’s world.

Writing this blog reminds me of a very meaningful statement by Wayne Dyer. “All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much you blame him, it will not change you.” Please keep this in mind when working with a HCP. It will help you avoid getting hooked.

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Divorce: the Only Moral Choice is the Collaborative Model

Statistics show that marriage is losing popularity and many couples are opting for divorce. Generations ago, divorce was perceived with stigma and while that perspective has improved, divorce is still frequently regarded as the launch into the fight of one’s life. Maybe this is one reason people are opting out of marriage altogether. Maybe marriage wouldn’t be losing ground if divorcing people began to choose a divorce that is moral and honorable in its approach.

I believe it is the responsibility of every citizen who is considering divorce to opt for a Collaborative Divorce. This choice represents a moral and ethical decision for the integrity of our society. To divorce collaboratively states that the needs of the children and their transitioning family context deserve to be treated with respect, care, loving kindness…and nothing less. This needs to become a core value for every divorcing family because the family is the foundation for our society at large.

Collaborative Divorce is a means for uncoupling that utilizes an interdisciplinary team of professionals; each trained and skilled in providing resolution and closure to the legal, emotional and financial dimension inherent in every divorce. The divorcing couple is cocooned within the safety net of their professional team and become empowered to respectfully gather and share necessary information,; brainstorm all the possible options in transitioning their assets and debts; and, kindly make agreements each can live with as they move forward in a two-household family. They work together with their team to listen to the voice of their kids and hold their children’s concerns at the forefront.

I have been practicing in this model for more than a decade and I am pretty passionate about the notion that our society needs to move into an honorable point of view that Collaborative Divorce is naturally the only way for a family to make a life-altering transition that truly serves the greater good.

If you or someone you know is considering a divorce, please learn more about Collaborative Divorce and take the high-minded path for the good of the family and for the good of society. It is your moral responsibility to do so. If you are a divorce professional (legal, mental health, or financial), please take the Collaborative Divorce Full Team Training on November 3rd, 4th, 5th in Phoenix, AZ. Check out our website Collaborative Divorce Institute (at for more information.

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Conflict: In It for the Friction

Have you ever noticed that some people are in it strictly for the friction? It seems as if they thrive on arguing and they like to turn most interactions into some kind of heated debate. They like to fight so that they can see themselves as right and justified in their bad behavior. Coined as “High-Conflict” personalities, this part of the population covers a wide demographic and you will find these types everywhere you go. Quite often they are of high intelligence and you might very well notice that they hold powerful jobs. Their behavior can become the bane of your existence if they are your boss or your partner.

According to Bill Eddy, the guru of high-conflict,  the personality traits of people who are in it for the friction include:

  1. Rigid and uncompromising, repeating failed strategies
  2. Unable to accept or heal from a loss
  3. Negative emotions dominate their thinking
  4. Unable to reflect on their own behavior
  5. Difficulty empathizing with others
  6. Preoccupied with blaming others
  7. Avoid any responsibility for the problem or the solution

Does this sound like someone you know? One way to gauge if you are dealing with this type is to examine your own behavior. If you notice that you walk on eggshells around him or her, you could be with a High-Conflict personality and you must take care, because you could easily end up as their target of blame. Learning how to set a boundary with this type of person does not come easy because their trap is to lure you into the debate. Once, you are lured in, they “gotcha!” and now are justified in escalating the argument. Beware! Don’t ever argue with a High-Conflict personality.

Here are some tips for you:

  1. Learn to be okay if the High-Conflict person doesn’t like you. Being the good-guy with someone who is in it for the friction is seriously overrated. The High-Conflict personality translates “good guy” into “my next victim”.
  2. Learn not to take the High-Conflict person’s behavior personally. So what if their behavior has insulted you? Why need the approval of an unstable person? If it is a supervisor or boss, their critical nature will rarely cost you your job. Consider the source and remember that their need to be right comes from a deep inner insecurity.
  3. Trust your instincts. You will get a gut-kick very early with someone who is in it for the friction. Set your boundaries early and don’t let those boundaries be intruded upon.
  4. Don’t try to prove a point. They won’t accept it. Remember that they need for you to be “wrong”. State that you understand their point of view and you just happen to see it differently.
  5. Never, ever fall into the trap of trying to manage the wrath of someone who is in it for the friction. You will only be as good as your last performance and you will become emotionally exhausted.
  6. Be ready to walk away. Since High-Conflict people are usually terrified of abandonment, you will sense this early on and you might stay hooked up with them long after it is useful to do so. Sometimes you just have to walk away to preserve your own mental health.

Ultimately, someone who is in it for the friction needs to have a target. Recognize that early and refuse to play that role. See Bill Eddy’s work for everything you need to know.

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The Precious Spirit of Aloha

I am spending some vacation time on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. This is such a pristine and relaxing environment, one is motivated to literally breathe easy. Breathing easy is actually an alternative phrase for the word aloha.

Aloha is a commonly used word for “hello” and “good-bye” that tourists say when they are visiting the Hawaiian Islands.  However, “Aloha” means much more than hello or good-bye. Aloha is an extension of your loving inner spirit and it leads us to a powerful way to resolve a problem, accomplish a goal, and to reach a peaceful state of mind.

In the Hawaiian language, aloha is actually a compound word which includes both  “the sharing (alo) of joy (oha) and/or being in the present (alo) to exchange life energy (ha).” As you exchange this energy with others you become attuned to the spirituality that the Hawaiians call mana. According to Hawaiian tradition, the loving use of this incredible power is the secret for attaining true health, happiness, prosperity and success.

The way to tune into this energy and have it work for you is so simple that you might pooh-pooh the concept. What do you have to lose? Take the time to try it out. According to Hawaiian culture, this is the most powerful technique in the world. Although it appears to  be extremely simple, it may not prove easy because you must remember to do it and you have to do it a lot.

It is a secret which has been given to humanity over and over again. The secret, according to Shaman Serge Kahili King, is this: “Bless everyone and everything that represents what you want.” He maintains that to bless something means to give recognition or emphasis to a positive quality, characteristic or condition, with the intent that what is recognized or emphasized will increase, endure or come into being.

Blessing is effective in changing your life or getting what you want for three reasons. First of all, the positive focus of your mind stirs up your own positive creativity; secondly it moves this dynamic energy outward; thirdly, when you bless for the benefit of others instead of directly for yourself, you tend to rise above any subconscious fears about what you want for yourself, so that the focus on the blessing acts to increase the same good in your own life. What is so beautiful about this process is that the blessing you do for others is a reciprocal process that helps you as well.

In order to gain the benefit from blessing, you will have to give up or cut way down on the one thing that negates it: negative thinking. This includes criticizing instead of acknowledging; doubting instead of affirming; blaming instead of appreciating; and worrying instead of anticipating with hope and trust. According to the spirit of Aloha, these negative thoughts tend to cancel out some of the effects of blessing. So the more you negate, the harder it will be and the longer it will take to receive the good from a blessing.

Mr. King also shares the technique practiced by Hawaiian shamans which enhances your power to bless by increasing your positive, personal energy. It is a simple way of breathing that is also used for grounding, centering, meditation and healing. It requires no special place or posture, and may be done while moving or still, busy or resting, with eyes open or closed. In Hawaiian the technique is called pikopiko. Piko means both the crown of the head and the navel.

The Technique
1. Become aware of your natural breathing (it might change on its own just because of your awareness).

2. Locate the crown of your head and your navel by awareness and/or touch.

3. Now, as you inhale put your attention on the crown of your head; and as you exhale put your attention on your navel. Keep breathing this way for as long as you like.

4. When you feel relaxed, centered, and/or energized, begin imagining that you are surrounded with an invisible cloud of light or an energy field, and that with each breath the energy of this cloud or field increases.

5. As you bless, imagine that the object of your blessing is surrounded with some of the same energy that surrounds you.

Aloha seems to be indescribable, and undefinable with words alone; to be understood, it must be experienced. Aloha has deeper meaning and sacredness than is inferred by how we tend to use the word. One thing seems to be certain when one delves a bit deeper into what the word “Aloha” represents”; it is an invocation of and a connection to the Divine that dwells within all of us.