Conflict itself is not necessarily a problem. It is a universal feature of human commitment and creativity. Societies, governments, organizations, and families that appear to be entirely conflict-free often involve stifling, depressive or, at worst, totalitarian levels of conformity. Yet conflict, especially when linked to fear and aggression, is also a primary cause of the violence that responsible citizens seek to avoid. And the negative mental processes that frequently underlie destructive forms of conflict engage many psychologists in professional work aimed at understanding and transforming such violence.
The crucial challenge lies in responding to conflict in ways that encourage constructive rather than destructive solutions. Such solutions must often be shaped so that all parties in the dispute find them acceptable. Any grassroots community activist knows how quickly a meeting can be drawn toward personal enmities or destructive strategies. Any clinician working with people struggling with their inner conflicts knows the role frequently played by earlier unresolved conflicts of family and society. Any peacebuilder knows that the hardest obstacles result from the multiple legacies of past conflicts that turned violent.
The constructive resolution of conflict has been a core focus of Psychologists for Social Responsibility since its inception. Our first structured program, the “Enemy Images” workshop project, addressed the Soviet-U.S. Cold War conflict. The goal was to de-escalate mutual demonization between the groups. Later, our “Us & Them” workshops focused on conflict resolution among other diverse groups–a broadening spawned by the proliferation of post Cold War ethnic conflicts.
PsySR continues the important work of developing and promoting constructive responses to interpersonal and intergroup conflicts.
"Us & Them": PsySR's Presenter's Manual for Moderating Group Conflict
Written by Stephen Fabick and based on a project of the Michigan Chapter of PsySR, this Presenter’s Manual provides tools for intervention before intergroup prejudice and tensions erupt into violence. The program it describes is applicable to an array of problems including religious intolerance, racial tension, ethnic turmoil, and community divisiveness.
Two Important PsySR Manuals: "Dismantling the Mask of Enmity" and "Enemy Images"
These two manuals were prepared by PsySR a decade and a half apart. Both the Cold War era Dismantling the Mask of Enmity and the Gulf War era Enemy Images remain timely in describing how to dismantle images that limit our thinking about security and that fuel tensions and wars.
A Graduate Level Curriculum For Trauma Intervention and Conflict Resolution
This Graduate Level Curriculum for trauma intervention and conflict resolution in ethnopolitical warfare was prepared by a joint task force of the American and Canadian Psychological Associations. PsySR served as the secretariat for this important project.