Mediation: Critical Analysis Versus Magical Thinking

I am the magical mouse,
I don’t eat cheese,
I eat sunsets,
And the tops of trees.
(Kenneth Patchen, The Magical Mouse – 1952)

So it can be with disputing parties negotiating in mediations, but thinking like the magical mouse can present a serious obstacle to negotiation. In the end, it’s usually better to engage in critical thinking, not magical thinking. Being “critical” can mean quick to find fault or to judge; however, “critical analysis” is defined as “utilizing skillful judgment as to truth or merit.” “Magic” on the other hand is the art of producing illusions or a desired effect or result through techniques of magic, while “magical thinking” is “a conviction that thinking is equivalent to doing, occurring in dreams, the thought pattern of children ….” Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary (2nd ed.). When a party to a negotiation rejects reasonable objective analysis that might support resolution of a dispute in favor of unreasonable subjective hope that furthers dispute, they may be engaged in a form of magical thinking. They reject reason and embrace only the hope of achieving the bliss of victory, however uncertain and unlikely that may be.

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