Just read a fascinating article by Jesse Singal titled, “The Bad Things That Happen When People Can’t Deal With Ambigous Situations”. For some time now I’ve been hearing that we humans are meaning making machines – driven by a compulsion to find some measure of certainty in a largely chaotic world.
Singal in turn quoted generously from a book by Jamie Holmes called: NONSENSE: The Power of Not Knowing. Isn’t it curious that an article on ambiguity starts right out quoting a book about the power of not knowing?
This immediately got me thinking about how my divorce clients often deal with high anxiety from the uncertainty of going into divorce. Surely there must be some valuable lessons to be learned about ambiguity in the midst of divorce, which is often cited in the top three most stressful events we humans experience in life.
To begin with, Holmes points out that ambiguity isn’t of itself distressing. In fact, if the ambiguity is presented in the context of not knowing for certain whether someone might be romantically attracted to us, or we may have won the lottery, the ambiguity actually heightens the pleasant possibility of the experience.
What really intrigued me, however, was an example Holmes shared about the consequences that ensued from the U. S. Government’s disastrous handling of the Branch Davidian confrontation in 1993 outside Waco, Texas. It was the first time I heard this account of that event. It outlined a stark conflict of approaches used by the government.
You may recall that David Koresh was the leader of this renegade Christian cult. He was wanted by the ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) division for weapons violations. They attempted a surprise raid on the complex, but Koresh had been warned they were coming. The bungled attempt resulted in the deaths of five Branch Davidians and four ATF agents.
The FBI was called in to what began a 50 day standoff that became a fiasco on live television. Gary Noesner, a hostage negotiator, was called in to establish contact with David Koresh. He was able to create a relationship that lead to a good faith release of some of the children hostages – a step in the right direction. However, the FBI’s head of the hostage team, Dick Rogers, didn’t have Noesner’s patience. When Koresh reneged on an agreement to leave the compound on March 2nd, after the Christian Broadcasting Network had aired a message Koresh requested, Rogers was angered. This breach caused a strong difference of opinion between the two negotiating factions. Even as Noesner tried to continue negotiations, Rogers cut the power to the compound, further angering Koresh.
An interesting fact learned by Holmes while writing his book, Noesner had agreed to take a standard psychologist’s test used to measure the need for closure – and he scored extremely low. He was able to put aside judgments about Koresh and continue negotiating for closure. It was the reaction to Koresh’s reneging that pushed Rogers to obtain the approval of Janet Reno to storm the compound. On April 19th, in response to the ATF punching holes into the compound with armored tanks, David Koresh set the buildings on fire. Over 70 Branch Davidians died, including 25 children.
So how does this relate to a blog on divorce? Thank you for asking! It is not an uncommon occurrence to see each party to a divorce driven in different directions by well meaning families and friends on each side. Influenced by a Greek Chorus, outside forces for closure can push parties into costly litigation.
To find out more about how such results can be avoided by choosing collaborative family practice to help reduce ambiguity and the pressure for closure, contact any collaborative professional for more information.Tagged with: conflict in divorce • healthy divorce • productive conflict resolution