Every one of us deals with some form of conflict every day. In a modern world of increasing interdependence, we are facing challenges unlike any we have collectively faced before. The sense of conflict that this is raising for each and every one of us individually is manifesting collectively in countless ways, reverberating throughout every relationship – individual, social, and global. Although the root of the English word conflict means “to strike together,” the collective force of conflicted energy is threatening to tear us apart. Whether conflict takes the form of urban violence, the epidemic of terrorism, clinical depression, or the depletion of natural resources, at the heart of one of humanity’s most critical current needs is for ways to relate to conflict, in any form that it may take, in a sense that is transformative, healing, and that do not give rise to further violence and dissonance, be it within the individual spirit, or in the body politic.

For most of us, there is not a day that goes by where some feeling of conflict is not a part of our awareness. Even as we wake up in the morning, many of us will struggle with the transition from sleep, resistant and stiff in some way, looking towards some part of our day with tension and uncertainty, or thinking about some moment already passed that continues to cause us stress. Conflict seems to wait for us everywhere: in our communities, our homes, ourselves. We feel it in conditions we understand through many experiences: as anger, fear, frustration, argument, violence, oppression, scarcity. When thinking about conflict, we will come up with a list of circumstances that tie both to external relationships and internal sensations. It is something that we experience in mind, body, and spirit, in ways that both compel and repel us.

Today, people are at work around the world actively interacting and engaging with various manifestations of conflict. They are analyzing situations, writing reports, taking action and forming organizations to share and synthesize this material into a body of knowledge. Slowly, from the combined efforts of many people in many places, theories of successful practice have been developed. These are being communicated through curricula that conceptually define conflict as something to be managed, resolved, or transformed. Ideas are being refined for use in mental health, social work, and international peace-building and are now being disseminated through various branches of government, international institutions such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), a multitude of non-profits, faith-based organizations, even military peacekeepers. Collectively, these efforts are giving rise to a new breed of professional we can call the “peaceworker” – people who are taking the ability to respond as a personal responsibility, and working for peace individually, collectively, globally.

But, how completely are peaceworkers really being prepared through our most common training methods to take the lead in fostering peace? How ready are they to deal with conflict as something other than a concept framing a context to be intellectually engaged with and solved like a logic puzzle? How effectively will they handle the moment when theory goes out the window and what they are left with is a moment of crisis that they feel in every fiber of their being in unanticipated ways?


Cognitive Psychology | Community Psychology | Developmental Psychology | Psychology