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Read More about Psychology and Peacebuilding ....

The nine topics of the nine chapters of the Online Journal for Modern Peacebuilding and Nonviolence are linked thematically as much as they are complex topics in their own right. The purpose of this side note is two-fold - to first remind us of those interlinkages and then to explore this topic in greater depth to provide greater explanation for the interlinkages.

The Interlinkages ....

In the following chapters we discuss the important parallels of Peacebuilding to the UN Program for a Culture of Peace, and the emerging importance of a movement to scientifically measure peacefulness to provide guidelines for Peacebuilding planning. We discuss the relationship of Peacebuilding to nonviolence - how nonviolence is the core nature of peace, and how the study of Peacebuilding leads to the study of five levels of nonviolent action. We also discuss important parallels and interrelations of Peacebuilding to both individual psychology and to social and sustainable development programs. Finally we discuss the indispensable place of disarmament in Peacebuilding. This is a single theory with Peacebuilding at its center - the idea that you must have equality, justice, inclusiveness and strong democratic institutions in order for peace to last - but that has myriads of detailed facets reflecting the diversity of locations and cultures and histories found across the world. The unified theory is explained in our summary document - Modern Peacebuilding and Nonviolence: Creating Peace that Lasts, while the myriad of details is reflected in our growing body of papers, blogs, videos and expert resources that are found in each chapter.

(and now more detail about this topic; excerpted from Modern Peacebuilding and Nonviolence: Creating Peace that Lasts, by David Kirshbaum….)

Chapter 7. Individual Psychology and Peacebuilding

Another important question is where does individual mental health fit in - of both the peacebuilders who often witness horrific situations, and the victims of those horrific situations who often suffer overwhelming trauma from them.

First, peacebuilders must be experts at knowing themselves (pre-conceptions and expectations, intentions, mental limitations and emotional needs, personal symptoms of stress and trauma, etc.) and at managing their own emotions and stress reactions. Peacebuilders often witness horrific situations and/or deal with people who have gone through horrific situations and consequently suffer with overwhelming trauma, grief and rage, and in the face of that must be able to maintain professional distance and compassion so that they can think clearly and help develop an effective plan going forward. Therefore it is essential that peacebuilders personally practice stress management and develop self-awareness, self-understanding and mindfulness.

And then Peacebuilders must be adept at assisting victims of violent conflict who might be caught in overwhelming trauma, grief and rage. The latest developments in psychology have moved far beyond psychoanalysis which focused solely on subconscious childhood emotional issues. Nowadays peacebuilders and social workers have a range of tools to help them manage overwhelming psychological dysfunction and help victims return to a normal life:

  • Medication - to help a person calm down, and reduce thought and emotional dysfunction.

  • Psycho-Education - help the patient understand their own psychological processes better, which then increases cooperation with the therapist and motivation to get better.

  • Case-Management - to help with practical details of returning to a normal life.

  • Training in Self-Help Skills - especially medication management, symptom management and stress management. This increases patient cooperation in treatment, and also increases self-sufficiency which leads to increased motivation and optimism about the future.

  • Training in Life Skills (social skills, household management, vocational skills) where needed, to increase self-efficacy, self-sufficiency and motivation and optimism and a sense of life direction.

  • Group Process and Therapy - socialization and emotional development leading to fulfilling, supportive relationships and the benefits of feeling empathy and compassion for others which also builds a sense of life direction.

This also involves a change in the attitudes of therapists from a patronizing attitude of a dominant controlling arrogant know-it-all doctor to a care-giver who gives and models both compassion and empathy and respect and honor to the patient, so that they begin to feel those things for themselves, as well as provides trainings and psycho-education which all helps increase self-esteem, self-efficacy, self-sufficiency, thus increasing motivation to get better and optimism about the future.

Also this new kind of care-giver develops a sense of partnership with the patient which also helps develop motivation and optimism.

Also politicization of the patient might be used to develop self-esteem, motivation and a sense of life direction.

This approach to psychotherapy is best represented by the school of Psychosocial Rehabilitation pioneered by Dr. Robert Liberman at UCLA and Dr. William Anthony at Boston University in the 1980s for the treatment of schizophrenia and other chronic psychiatric disorders, but then was generalized to other treatment populations because of its effectiveness(33,34).

It is important to note the parallels between Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Peacebuilding - that lasting recovery and thriving is dependent on educational, supportive, empowering treatment and training that emphasizes self-sufficiency, skills and knowledge, high self-esteem and knowledge and self-management, and a strong sense of self and political rights in the world. Such things are very similar to what Galtung says is necessary for peace to last as well as what peacekeeping says is necessary for short-term maintenance of peacefulness - equality and justice, local ownership, inclusion and cooperation, not ignoring any issues, and a healthy infrastructure (that helps with resolving issues and with stress management). Healthy self-sufficiency helps both individuals and countries.

To read more articles and watch videos about this topic, check out the


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