EMOTION REGULATION #6: CONFLICT EVENTS & EMOTIONS

Guest author: Oliver Fink, University of Basel

Some weeks ago, in a predawn raid, Israeli forces detained several minors in the Westbank relatively close to where we live. An event common in the Westbank but not one you will ever hear or read about. Nothing that touches the headlines like the recent events in Gaza or Syria, nevertheless I want to invite you to a little thought exercise:

Imagine you are the person currently in detention, from your perspective you haven’t done anything bad apart maybe hanging out with the wrong guys. How do you feel?

Or imagine you are his parent, deeply convinced that your child is a good boy and also needing to console the crying younger children and your distraught spouse?

My point here is not on the different perspectives, other people work on this important issue. Also we’re on purpose focussing on the Palestinian emotions and not on the Israeli side as we wanted to have a closer look at the experiences the Palestinians are facing in this intractable conflict as well as the mix of emotions linked to different types of events. There is some interesting work from a clinical / trauma angle but not much from a social psychology perspective. We want to find out more about general emotional reaction patterns, ideally even linking it further towards political extremism tendencies.

To summarize a complicated study design, although the frequency of conflict related events for the average Palestinian doesn’t seem too oppressive compared to what is shown in the media, the impact of the various events is quite intense and there are strong links to emotions like group anger or individual hatred leading – as expected – to stronger support for more extreme political views.

If we enlarge the initial example further, imagine you are a neighbour that doesn’t like the detained very much. Although he comes from a respected family, he’s a well known troublemaker, always has been – how do you feel?

Clinical psychology has the concept of “secondary traumatisation”, being impacted by events that you have not experienced directly – will we find something similar linked to conflict related events? Will for example the events in Gaza have an impact on emotions in the Westbank?

This is one of the many further issues we want to find out in our next study that we are just finalizing, stay tuned…

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