- The stated reason, or proschemata. This included national honor, personal glory, retribution, justice, love, etc.
- The real reason, or prophasis. This might include resources, strategic interests, national unrest, etc.
- The justification, or what was later called the casus belli. These included threats, massing armies, threats to allies, demonstrations of having been wronged, or declarations of war.
You might rightly ask why a family mediator would be writing a blog post about ancient Greek military / political philosophy. Certainly as a high school student, these concepts were only marginally interesting, and seemed more than anything to be a justification for a paper and a question on a test.
Below are examples of each of the three reasons for the conflict. These examples have crossed my desk JUST IN THE LAST FEW WEEKS:
Casus belli: These are the things that people tell themselves about why a relationship ended.
- He was so controlling
- She always had something negative to say
- There was never enough sex
- She wouldn’t have been a good partner long-term
- He wouldn’t have been a good partner long-term
- She’s spending all the money
- He or she wouldn’t put in the work to make the relationship last
- The other person has changed
- The other person didn’t value me
- It wasn’t going anywhere anyway
- She had baggage
Proschemata: These are the things that people tell others about why a relationship ended.
- We fought all the time
- He cheated
- She cheated
- She was a bitch
- He was an a-hole
- He was just in it for the sex
- He wouldn’t have made a good father
- She wouldn’t have made a good mother
- She tried to change me
- We’ve grown apart
- The other person changed and isn’t the person I got together with any more
- There was not enough good communication
- Small things turned into big things because they weren’t addressed
- The spark wasn’t there
- The intimacy wasn’t there
- The two people didn’t see the world in a compatible way
- One person’s needs were not being met.
When it comes to working through conflict, it makes sense to focus on the prophasis – the real reasons that the conflict exists. People, however, tend to insulate themselves with the casus belli – they tend to want to believe what they’ve told themselves about the situation, so it makes reaching the prophasis a difficult endeavor at best. When asked, they often fall back on what they’ve told their friends or family about the conflict. Their proschemata sounds like a well-rehearsed litany of what went wrong and how the decline of the relationship wasn’t their fault.
Part of the skill and a huge part of the goal of mediation is to listen to people describe their causae belli and their proschematae…and try tease out enough details that we can start to understand the real, deep, underlying truth behind the conflict. If we can do that, if we can isolate the prophasis, then we can start to work on ways to get through the conflict – we can work towards peace.