Matrix fans will remember the scene: Neo asks Morpheus why they do not simply unplug everyone from the illusory world of the matrix. (For the one or two folk out there unfamiliar with the Matrix films, the Matrix is a computer-generated reality into which humans have been plugged into by machines, to sustain the illusion of life in what is ultimately a false reality.)
Morpheus replies: ‘You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inert, so hopelessly dependent on the system that they will fight to protect it.’
We have all met individuals who cling to a perception of reality that flies in the face of the obvious. This is particularly so when conflicts have reached a certain level of polarisation and people are locked in to a single narrative. Occasionally, in the process of mediating between two individuals, I have noticed that one person in particular will remain unmoved by any fresh information or possible insight shedding light on the dispute with the other. I recall one instance where some indisputable information was presented by a person clearly indicating there were no grounds for an accusation that had been levelled against them by the other party. But the other party remained adamant nonetheless that their take on reality was valid. One had a sense that this was one of those people Morpheus is talking about: for whatever reason, they were not ready to be ‘unplugged’ from an illusory reality.
But rather than halt the mediation and dismiss the person as ‘one of the unplugged’, to coin a phrase, the challenge is to get behind or even beyond facts and explore the phenomenon of clinging. What are the hurts, anxieties and needs behind clinging to a perception that one has been slighted by some action (which in the above case did not even happen!)? The strategy here may be to bracket the facts and unpack the feelings of being dismissed, undervalued, un-liked, or put upon by others. After all the feelings are real, if not the perceived facts of the case.
Getting away from the specific incident and helping the two people talk about the wider relationship between them in an honest way in which both feel safe to let their guard down and, perhaps, glean a deeper understanding of each other may possibly prepare the ground for both people to unplug themselves from their own private matrices.