The Third Side: Sources of Injury

Sources of Injury

A psychological wall of suspicion and hostility typically separates parties to intractable conflict. Often, this is a direct result of past harm that one or both sides have suffered. The following essays provide background information that pertains to the damage caused to human relationships as a result of protracted or violent conflict.

  • Costs of Intractable Conflict - Costs of conflict include the loss of human life, long-term injuries associated with combat, rape, and torture, psychological trauma, and loss of resources. These injuries tend to linger well after fighting has come to an end.
  • Breakdown of Personal Relationships - Damage to relationships is almost inevitable in intractable conflicts. The friendliness and openness that may have previously characterized a relationship are replaced with distrust, fear, and anger.
  • Violence - While other aspects of conflict are damaging, violence takes the heaviest toll, by far. This essay explains why it is important for individuals, officials, and third parties to seek alternatives to violence.
  • War - Because modern warfare is so costly in terms of human life and resources, it seems appropriate to ask whether the ends of a particular war justify the means. This essay raises questions about whether wars can fulfill their political goals.
  • Terrorism - Terrorist acts are damaging, not only because they yield death and destruction, but also because they instill fear and anxiety in the mass public. This essay suggests that in order to address the root causes of terrorism and prevent future violence, various wounds must be healed.
  • War Crimes - Certain horrors of war are thought of as crimes, for which perpetrators could be held legally accountable. This essay discusses the connection between intractable conflict and gross human rights abuses, and outlines approaches that individuals, states, and third parties can take to prevent these crimes.
  • Genocide - Genocide is generally defined as the intentional extermination of a specific ethnic, racial, or religious group. Compared with other war crimes and crimes against humanity, genocide is generally regarded as the most offensive. This essay discusses some causes of genocide and its horrible impact on societies and human relationships.
  • Refugees - Conflict can cause people to flee an area, either because of intolerable living conditions or forceful expulsion. Such situations can lead to more conflict, both in the host country and when refugees try to return home.
  • Victimhood - Victims are those who have suffered attacks on their well-being and dignity. This essay describes the psychology of victimhood, and its connection to self-esteem, shame, and disempowerment.
  • Humiliation - Feelings of humiliation often lead to antagonism, anger, and even rage. This essay explores the psychological injury associated with humiliation.
  • Polarization - When individuals on either side of the conflict take increasingly extreme positions that are more and more opposed to each other, trust and respect diminish. This essay explores the causes of polarization, as well as ways to address it.
  • Human Rights Violations - To violate human rights is to deny individuals their fundamental moral entitlements, and treat them as if they are less than fully human. This essay discusses various types of human rights violations, and explores how such violations can lead to social, economic, and political breakdown.
  • Aftermath of Colonization - After being under foreign rule for decades, newly independent governments often lacked governmental institutions, good governance skills, and the governing experience needed to effectively rule their newly sovereign nations. In most cases, the transition from colonial province to independent state was a violent and arduous journey that had heavy human costs.
  • Dehumanization - Opponents who view each other as less than human — and thus not deserving of moral consideration — are unlikely to be capable of any positive interaction. This essay explores how the psychology of dehumanization can have disastrous implications for human relationships.
  • Stereotypes - Negative generalizations about the members of a particular group may shut down communication, heighten tensions, and ultimately lead to conflict escalation. This essay describes how inaccurate stereotypes can injure relationships.
  • Prejudice - Negative attitudes on the basis of differences are likely to blind parties to all that they have in common, and strain interpersonal relationships.
  • Anger - While anger is a natural and potentially productive emotion, it can also get out of control and become destructive. Anger sometimes leads to rage, which in turn may lead to hatred and violence. This essay explores the functions of anger and how to deal with one's angry feelings.
  • Fear - Parties who view each other as a threat are extremely unlikely to form positive relationships. Instead, each group will attempt to avoid or eliminate the other group. This essay describes how fear has a negative impact on human interaction, and offers some strategies for dealing with this.
  • Guilt and Shame - Both guilt and shame can have important implications for our perceptions of self and our behavior toward other people, particularly in situations of conflict. While guilt tends to elicit responses that seek to mend the damage that has been done, shame can lead to withdrawal from social situations, defensiveness, and retaliatory behavior.
  • Distrust - Distrust is the confident expectation that another individual's motives, intentions, and behaviors are sinister and harmful to one's own interests. Our distrust of others is likely to evoke a competitive stance that stimulates and exacerbates conflict.
  • Revenge and the Backlash Effect - In many cases, the response to coercive force is far more intense than the initial provocation. If this sort of cycle continues, conflict is likely to become increasingly destructive.

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.