Reconciliation: “Not every question will be answered”

Brian Rowan at Eamonn’s place notes that there is a difference between getting to the truth of the past, and an apology:

Everyone and every side understands that more has to be done – the questions are within what structure and within what rules? Not every question will be answered – but let’s find out what answers are possible and within what context, and let all sides do it in the here and now.

The last phrase there, the here and now is probably most prominently associated with Rogerian counselling, a theory derived from the work of the humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers.

It was the subject of a session in the youth and community work course I did at the Unversity of Ulster (or common or garden Poly in my day). One of our first group work sessions was a ‘here and now’ Rogerian session which caused a near meltdown in the class.

Why? Because the rule was that you could only speak in the here and now. Reference to the past and future were banned. It implied digging into what people felt at that moment, with no recourse to intellectual or other artifice.

I hesitate to say none of us trusted the motive of our facilitator. Let’s just say no one publicly took the instruction as a matter of trust. Much of the three hour session was taken up with questions (often angrily expressed) of why and how.

I’ve not encountered the technique since, although I have used other ‘here and now’ techniques that are much less psychologically invasive on the individual’s consciousness. I’m sure there were particular reasons why our reactions were so extreme.

But it seems to me that the elements that were missing between us and the course tutor of the time was a key pre-requisite of such techniques: ie, trust and commonality of purpose.

As his students, we simply didn’t trust because we had no understanding never mind ownership of our tutor’s purpose. And, despite assurances to the contrary, it’s future consequences for us.

That’s why I think such appeals when they emanate from one set of protagonists (in this case Declan Kearney of Sinn Fein), to another are destined to fail. The absense of trust is the first problem that has to be tackled.

Without that its hard to see how anything resembling reconciliation has much of a chance.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty