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Peace Is A Way Of Thinking

 ""Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding."  Albert Einstein
       Peace is a mindset, a way of thinking about relationships that is about collaboration rather than competition. It is something we must offer to the world rather than hope for the world to offer it to us. This can be a challenge, because people hurt, disappoint, even destroy us in various ways all the time. We can be deeply wounded by life and abandoned by everyone who should care, and it is still possible to be a person who creates peace. Some ideas:       
     One of the most powerful tools a therapist trained in action methods learns is role-reversal - the act of taking on another person's reality as best we can. To put this into action, we have to get up out of our own space, sit or stand someplace else in the room, and take on the physical posture and attitude of the person with whom we are reversing roles. We say their words. We say the person's own words, with the same cadences and emphasis they use. Through a combination of imagination and improvisation we explore as best we can what it is like to be that person. To see the world through his/her eyes. To believe what he'she believes. To look back at ourselves through the lense they use when they see us. The more conflicted we feel about the person, the harder it is to reverse roles in this way. Ongoing conflict and hurt feelings in our relationship with a person can harden our defensive positions. The amazing thing about role-reversal is the ways that it can change our frame of reference . We may not like the person any better after exploring in this way, we may not agree with how they think or live, but we may have a grasp of what it is like for them to be in the world.
     Tell the truth about a relationship. Ongoing disappointment in another person is a clue that we are holding onto an illusion rather than facing reality. Letting go of the false and disappointing might mean letting go of the relationship altogether, but there will be new energy to create something better and something real by moving on.
     Peace in the world may be a distant dream but we can move toward it by thinking and acting in ways that promote it in our personal lives. Role-reversal does two things that can increase peace in our personal world: 1) it humanizes the other person and reminds us that most people are neither gods nor demons; 2) it expands our creativity to use our imagination in this way. Creativity and spontaneity are the energy of change. When creative energy is available we can generate something new and productive even when somebody else slings the same stuff or inflicts the same old hurt.
   Albert Einstein, one of the greatest thinkers of all time, might have had something like role-reversal in mind when he encouraged us to work at "getting" each other over what can seem an enormous psychological distance. "As human beings, we "experience our thoughts and feelings as something separaed from the rest...a kind of optical delusion" he said. "This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."

Nick Wolff, LCSW, BCD, TEP is a psychotherapist in private practice and trainer in action methods and psychodrama. His weekly professional training group meets on Wednesday evenings, 7-9 p.m. at Lifestage, Inc in Smithtown. Contact him by phone at 631-366-4265 or by email at


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