What is peace?
The dictionary talks about peace as being freedom from disturbance or tranquillity. A state or period in which there is no war or a war has ended.
Peace is the concept of harmony and the absence of hostility. In a human sense, peace is a lack of conflict and freedom from fear of violence between individuals and social groups.
Peace is the natural state when there is no disturbance and it might seem that peace is something that we can have with no effort but the reality is that the only way to have long term and lasting peace in any situation is to work at it.
In the work that we do at Interact Support with families in conflict working at peace means peace in relationships and families.
For many of our clients a peaceful relationship is a very strange concept. They have never personally experienced what a peaceful relationship is like. Of course they have had periods of time when there wasn’t active conflict but those times were usually periods of waiting for the next incident, “walking on egg shells” in order to not provoke anything or giving mum or dad a wide berth when they were looking dangerous.
For many people, perhaps even you, the family or non-family environment where they grew up was never a home at peace. Almost never free from stress, anxiety and worries about what other family members or supposed care givers were going to do to them next.
Children growing up in homes filled with conflict never experience peace. They are constantly on edge, worrying that something will happen to them. Worrying that something will happen to their parents when they are away at school. Think very carefully about whether or not your children or children in your extended family are living like that.
It isn’t just the black eyes and bruses that cause harm. Constant worry affects them. It affects their growing brains, so much so that they are changed.
Making it harder for them to feel at peace. Giving them hair trigger defensive reactions. Making them anxious and prone to depression. If you see a child with “behaviour problems” not always but sometimes it is the result of their life experiences being expressed in unmanaged emotions and uncontrolled behaviour.
If you grew up in that sort of home you know what I’m talking about.
Maintaining Peace requires Self-Control
This video from the New Ways for Families post separation parenting course explains a little bit about one of the problems that people who’ve grown up in violent or conflicted homes often struggle with. That is managed emotions. If you’ve had role models who attacked each other at the slightest provocation or even simply because they were bored or everything was “too peaceful” you may find yourself behaving in the same way. This video from Bill Eddy explains a little bit about it.
The New Ways for Families is a post separation parenting course designed to help parents develop the skills they need to cope with the change from being in a relationship to being co-parents in a way that doesn’t harm their children. In fact learning the skills from the course and teaching them to your children can actually help them to be stronger and more resilient throughout their own lives.
You can complete the New Ways for Families course as a self-paced online learning course or work one-on-one with a New Ways Coach who can provide you with private and intensive support to apply the skills to your own situation.
To request a free 30 minute phone or video meeting with a New Ways Coach sent us an email
How do you get peace within yourself?
The best way to get a feeling (and liking) for peace is to learn the skills to be at peace within yourself. People who have experienced a lot of conflict in the past often have a lot of unresolved trauma within themselves.
You could think of that trauma as being invisible wounds. Some people are resilient. Resilient means that even though things happen to them they bounce back quickly and the wounds heal.
Other people are not resilient.
Holding on to the pain
They hold on to their hurt and pain. Sometimes they do this deliberately. They feel justified at being angry or upset. They feed those feelings and express them at any opportunity.
They play the victim and think that the sympathy that they get is helping them but it is not. The only thing that will really help is to heal and recover. Keeping your wound fresh by constantly picking at it isn’t good and isn’t helpful.
Here I am thinking about “John” who’s wife left him five years ago and he’s still angry and bitter about it. Not only has the life he had planned with his wife been lost but he’s wasted the next five years fighting her, alienated the children, spent all of his money fighting her and then spent all of his parents money. He was so angry and bitter that when he did see the children it was unpleasant for them and now they resist going to see him, even though there is a court order. The children are teenagers now and the court can’t force older children to see a parent if they don’t want to.
The path that John could have taken was to let go of the pain and disappointment he felt about his wife’s decision. He could have worked with her to come up with a way to share the care of the children. It would have only cost them less than a thousand dollars to do that through mediation instead of in excess of one hundred thousand that he’s spent on going to court, family reports, barristers.
It has cost him even more because he was so upset that he lost his job and hasn’t had a steady wage since.
When you think about the cost of holding on to the pain and allowing your life to be disrupted by strong emotions, does that make sense?
If you are feeling like John and you are not in the immediate shell shocked time after your relationship has broken down then I strongly, strongly encourage you to get some help to be resilient. It is so much better for you and especially for your children if you can cope with what has happened and get on with living a happy and peaceful life. If you are not angry and scary you will probably find that things settle down, you’ll be able to resolve any disagreements and find peace with your ex.
Hiding the pain
The other really common thing that we do as humans is hide our pain. Even from ourselves. This is a very common source of post-traumatic stress disorder.
We are designed to hide our pain when we are in the middle of a crisis. You may have been injured but because of the adrenaline and urgency of the situation you didn’t even realise until later. This is a survival mechanism. As long as we can function well enough to get ourselves out of the danger zone our injuries don’t matter. We can deal with them when we are safe.
When I talk about wounds I don’t just mean physical wounds. In fact I mainly don’t mean physical wounds. The more damaging wounds are the psychological ones. They damage our self-esteem and self-worth. They damage our ability to have good self-control and be protective of our own well being. They cause us to self-harm or disregard our own safety and needs.
Psychological wounds can be much more deadly in the long run than physical wounds.
That old saying, “Sticks and stones can break my bones but names can never hurt me.” might have had a positive intention of trying to help people to ignore bullying and abuse but it is not true. Being called names. being treated as being worthless or being treated unkindly does hurt. It hurts a lot and has long term consequences.
Post traumatic stress first became something that we understood as a result of war. People had to keep going in intolerable situations and for many people it broke them. In the First World War it was called “shell shock” and poorly managed as our understanding of the human psyche was limited. People were often dumped back into society with no treatment or support and they caused untold suffering to their families and instituted generational trauma that passed down to the children.
In just another generation there was the Second World War and of course there have been horrendous periods of conflict, violence and war in many other parts of the world. It isn’t just those that are fighting that are hurt by conflict. Everyone is affected by the fear, anxiety and disruption to peace.
In Australia many indigenous communities are living with the legacy of government policies that caused their families huge disruption and dislocation. The problems with violence and substance abuse we see are legacies of that intergenerational trauma.
You need to understand what happens to humans if there is no safe place. If we live with constant and repeated fear it harms us. Children who live in families full of conflict experience trauma as well. We now know that even when they are not the targets of the violence they are still harmed. Their brains are actually changed (and not for the better) by being constantly exposed to stress hormones and they often develop symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder as well.
If you have negative or dangerous thoughts that intrude into your mind, if you feel like you can’t control your emotions, if you sometimes behave in extreme ways (doing things that 90% of the population would never do) then it is probably time you got some help to deal with your past and learn how to be at peace with yourself so that you can enjoy peace with other people.
A good psychologist will help you to develop new strategies and approaches to living. There is no need to relive the trauma in order to heal it. There is the need to recognise it and let go of it though.
That response we have in an emergency of shutting off our awareness of our injuries until we are safe and then dealing with them has probably been interrupted in you.
That might have been because you locked it away and pretended that it didn’t happen such as is common with young sexual abuse victims when the abuser is a close family member. Locking away hurt from our thoughts doesn’t make it go away.
You might have been dealing with the trauma but in the end it was just too much for you to deal with. That is often the case for emergency services people, paramedics, police, army, doctors and lawyers. They see a lot of terrible things. If their workplace is unsupportive and does not help them to be protected by providing them with the opportunity to debrief and cope with the psychological impact of their experiences they often turn to substance abuse in the form of legal drugs like alcohol or illegal drugs and then have the additional effects of behaviours that result from the uninhibiting effects of the substances.
In a healthy state we have control over our behaviour but when we are too traumatised or we hide our pain by getting wasted we lose that control and are likely to lash out hurting and traumatising others. And then the cycle continues for another generation.
How do you get peace in your relationships?
As a mediator and family dispute resolution professional my job is to help people to find peace in their relationships. I founded Interact Support because sometimes peace needs a helping hand. This diagram of the conflict volcano explains what is needed to de-escalate conflict and disputes and prevent them escalating into violence and war.
When a dispute resolution professional talks about war we don’t usually mean war between nations. We mean the escalation of conflict to the point where people are willing to commit atrocities. Parents who kill their children to prevent their former partner having them have reached a point where they are beyond violence and will behave in completely unnatural was as far from peace as you can get.
We want to intervene well before there is any risk of that kind of behaviour because when a volcano blows there is often very little time between the escalation into war and atrocities being committed.
Peace is the natural state of existence and it is the environment where growth is at it’s maximum. The arts, intellectual pursuits, learning and development flourish in times of peace.
But the reality is that there are always differences. It is through negotiation and the acceptance of differences we find peace. When you try to force others to thing, feel and behave in the same way as you then you have disagreements and conflict.
The current war going on with the Australian Government in August 2018 is a perfect example of the conflict volcano.
The differences in the party have gone unresolved. There are factions that believe that their way is the only way and nothing that the prime minister has done to try and get them to work towards a shared future has worked.
That unwillingness to resolve the problems and reach agreement has escalated. There have probably been forces at work in the background and back bench fanning the flames of discontent and the sense of entitlement that those who are destabilising the party and causing the conflict seem to feel.
The dispute has not been managed well enough and we are seeing a war between potential leaders who seem to have completely lost focus on what their war is likely to cost their party in terms of their chances of being re-elected.
I’m writing this on the morning of the showdown so time will tell what will happen when the dust subsides from this very public brawl in our house of government.
The majority of the people who elect politicians want them to focus on helping our country to find peace and the opportunity to continue to grow as a country. I hope that the majority of people in Australia accept and value difference and diversity for the many benefits that it brings.
Peace doesn’t require an absence of difference it requires an acceptance of it. I might even say an appreciation of it.
If you are not feeling at peace within yourself, within your relationship or within your workplace there is help available. Dispute Resolution Professionals like Mediators and Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners are the people who have the training to help with that intervention. Contact Us to find out more.