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Nobel Peace Prize Nominee Scilla Elworthy on Breaking Cycles of Violence

Necessity of training oneself to be present in the moment of intense situation

In a thought-provoking conversation, Scilla Elworthy, a three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee shares her insights on breaking the cycle of violence. Elworthy emphasizes the critical role of self-awareness and inner work in addressing the root causes of violence and fostering lasting peace. This article explores Elworthy's understanding of the cycle of violence, the importance of psychological assistance, and the transformative power of deepening our human potential.

Understanding the Cycle of Violence
© Liis LuksElworthy begins by explaining the components of the cycle of violence. She describes how an atrocity leads to immediate terror, which then evolves into fear, grief, anger, bitterness, revenge, and retaliation. This cycle can persist for generations, with the profound effects of past traumas shaping present conflicts. Elworthy highlights the need for action on a human and psychological level to heal the trauma of war and break this destructive cycle.

The Role of Psychological Assistance
According to Elworthy, providing physical and political safety is crucial, but equally important is offering psychological assistance. She emphasizes the significance of trauma work and counseling in helping individuals and communities affected by violence. Elworthy challenges the notion that psychological assistance is a soft approach, emphasizing its effectiveness in addressing deep-rooted trauma and facilitating healing. She also advocates for enabling victims to eventually meet with those who have harmed them, fostering reconciliation and understanding.

The Importance of Self-Work
Elworthy asserts that individuals working in conflict areas must first engage in deep self-work. She believes that the level of self-awareness directly impacts the effectiveness of peace-building efforts. By cultivating self-knowledge and authenticity, individuals can transcend fear and be fully present in violent situations. Elworthy cites Aung San Suu Kyi's ability to remain calm and bring about peace in the face of violence as an example. Additionally, she highlights the need for those in helping professions to address their own anger and fear to prevent conflicts within organizations and maximize their impact.

The Power of Inner Transformation
Elworthy emphasizes the necessity of training oneself to be present in the moment, especially during intense situations. Drawing parallels to Olympic training, she suggests that meditation plays a vital role in developing the inner spaciousness, compassion, and intelligence needed to respond differently to crises. Elworthy advocates for incorporating the inner and interpersonal dimensions into education, going beyond intellectual development. She suggests practicing nonviolent communication, such as Marshall Rosenberg's approach, to foster understanding and empathy in personal relationships and wider society.

Scilla Elworthy's profound insights shed light on the complex nature of violence and the path to breaking its cycles. By addressing the root causes of violence through psychological assistance, self-work, and inner transformation, Elworthy offers a holistic approach to peace-building. Her wisdom serves as a reminder that lasting peace requires a deep understanding of ourselves and others, as well as a commitment to healing and reconciliation.

Marta Guglielmetti
Executive Director. Board Member. Catalyst for systems change. Breakthrough public-private partnerships. Impact and innovation in ESG, climate, health, and migration. Former Executive Director, Global Solidarity Fund. Held leadership positions at the World Health Organization, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and UNDP.

Gesellschaft | Pioniere & Visionen, 01.07.2023

     
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