The Third Side: Approaches that Healers Might Find Useful

Approaches that Healers Might Find Useful

The role of healers consists of creating a climate in which people's wounds may be addressed. This involves building trust, listening and acknowledging, and encouraging apology. The following essays discuss approaches that healers may find useful in repairing injured relationships.

  • Apology and Forgiveness - Apologies, sincerely offered, play a vital role in helping emotional wounds heal and restoring injured relationships.
  • Trauma Healing - Those who have experienced hardship and suffering often experience lasting trauma from the experience. Traumatic events can fundamentally change not only victims' way of life, but also their psychological outlook. This essay describes some techniques that have emerged to help trauma victims heal.
  • Trust Building - Insofar as trust is associated with enhanced cooperation, information sharing, and problem solving, building trust is often crucial for healing injured relationships. This essay explores various ways in which trust can be developed.
  • Humanization - Humanization is a matter of recognizing the common humanity of one's opponents, and including them in one's moral scope. This essay describes strategies to foster empathy, and encourage parties to sympathetically imagine how their "enemies" must feel.
  • Transformation - Conflict transformation emphasizes peace and justice, the building of positive relationships, respect for human rights, and nonviolence as a way of life. This essay explores ways to make constructive change at an individual, relational, structural, and cultural level.
  • Reconciliation - Through reconciliation and the related processes of restorative justice, parties to the dispute explore and overcome the pain brought on during the conflict, and find ways to build trust and live cooperatively with each other.
  • Focusing on Commonalities - Understanding the differences between parties, and finding ways to move forward on the basis of their shared interests is often the best way to make significant progress. This essay explores how discovering commonalities can bring estranged parties closer together.
  • Envisioning - One way to foster the healing process is to ask parties to imagine their peaceful future together. This essay describes several approaches to envisioning that help such positive images of the future come alive.
  • Dialogue - Dialogue's goal is not to resolve disputes, but rather to improve the way in which people with significant differences relate to each other. Because it emphasizes the development of shared understandings, dialogue can help parties to repair damaged relationships.
  • Empathic Listening - One of the most powerful methods for healing a relationship is to listen and give one's complete attention to the aggrieved person for as long as he or she has something to say.
  • Channels of Communication - This essay describes how to reestablish lines of communication, and enable parties to share their intents and beliefs. Opening the lines of communication often paves the way for mending relationships.
  • Narratives and Storytelling - Recounting personal stories can help to reduce inter-group tension, and promote unity and reconciliation. This essay describes the transformative role that narratives sometimes play in conflict situations.
  • Recognition - Recognition is largely a matter of validating others' feelings, and showing them that you recognize their concerns as legitimate. As parties acknowledge each other's grievances, they can begin to move toward reconciliation.
  • Lustration - Lustration is a means by which some countries deal with a legacy of human rights abuses. If an earlier regime was discredited due to significant abuses of human rights, it is important that the new government not appear to be the same as the old one. Preventing members of the old, abusive regime from holding office in the new government is one way to at least appear to be changing policies.
  • International War Crimes Tribunals - International war crimes tribunals are courts of law, established to try individuals accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Before a society can begin the process of reconciliation, any crimes that have exceeded the normal parameters of war must be confronted.
  • Restorative Justice - The surrounding community's reaction to violence can often make the difference between vengeance and reconciliation. Restorative justice is concerned with healing victims' wounds, restoring offenders to law-abiding lives, and repairing harm done to relationships and the community.
  • Truth Commissions - Part of the healing process often involves acknowledging the truth about past harm and injustice. Truth commissions can be established to collect and investigate the accounts of victims, make recommendations about reparations, and help put the brutal past to rest.
  • Compensation Programs - There is a growing awareness that addressing past injustice is a crucial part of the process of healing and reconciliation. One way to acknowledge and respond to the wrongs and injuries of the past is through compensation programs and reparations.
  • Humanitarian Aid and Development Assistance - External development assistance, to reconstruct a country's infrastructure, institutions, and economy, is often a key part of building peace in the aftermath of war. This assistance ensures that the country can heal, rather than sliding back into war.
  • Reconstruction Programs - One essential element of peacebuilding and societal healing is the reconstruction of the economy, governmental institutions, and communities.
  • Addressing Injustice - This essay describes various ways of responding to political and social injustice, so that human rights receive greater protection in the future. These include political and economic reform, war crimes tribunals, truth commissions, and reparations.

For More Information

Much of the material on this user guide is drawn from Thanks to William Ury and Joshua Weiss for giving us permission to republish their material here.