A peace reflex is any immediate and proactive act of appeasement towards a person or group, whose desire for violence can be sensed or is flaring up. It can be offered either by an outside witness or by one of the persons within the conflict.
In this case, it is about making the choice of replacing one’s usual reflexes of violence, those which feed conflicts when faced with a physical, verbal or other form of aggression, by peace reflexes which will bring appeasement. It is about offering balm in lieu of feeding the fire.
Peace reflexes can be innate (spontaneous, heartfelt) or acquired. Practice helps people improve their peace reflexes and apply these in emotionally-charged situations, including seemingly unsolvable ones.
Categories of peace reflexes
There are two types of peace reflexes, depending on whether it’s a relational conflict or a case of physical danger:
- In case of a relational conflict, a peace reflex is an act of convergence, marked by caring: it will consist in reaching out to the other person, to his heart, to lower his tension and progressively build a sense of connectedness, for the relationship to become enjoyable, peaceful and long-lasting.
- In case of physical danger, with the risk of being injured or killed, peace reflexes will consist in using tactics to disarm the aggressor’s desire of violence so as to protect oneself.
Those two types of peace reflexes also apply in the case of ethnic or nationalist conflicts: peace becomes possible when both civilians and politicians succeed in adopting peace reflexes which appease past psychological and physical wounds in order to defuse the desire of violence of each side. This implies that civil society is proactive, ie it acts to positively influence politicians towards peace and conversely.
Conflict resolution methods
Peace reflexes are tools of appeasement and conflict resolution, which privilege:
- the desire to quickly calm the heart of the other, before anything else
- the choice to contribute oneself to the appeasement (proactive responsibility)
- the respect for the other’s dignity, of his/her physical and psychological integrity.
They take place upstream of the conflict resolution process and can be a useful complement to other tools and methods of resolution (emotional alphabetisation, overcoming fears, building self-confidence, listening and dialogue skills, facilitation, mediation, NVC (non violent communication) negotiation techniques, reconciliation processes…).
This begins with becoming aware of our desire for peace, of our human values (those which link us to the other person’s humanness, those which we wish to receive from others, such as respect, openness, greeting attitude, appreciation, empathy…) and our moral values (those which guide us not to do to others what we would not wish for ourselves, and notably, violence). It is this triple awareness that helps us to operate in peace reflex mode and to contribute more effectively to peace.