Almost everyone who survives situations of violent conflict will have experienced significant trauma. The impact of such experiences on the processes of conflict resolution and peacebuilding is however, not well appreciated or understood. This article considers how the traumatic experiences of individual leaders and their collective constituents, their people, influence their respective abilities to engage in peace processes. It highlights the problems of shame and avoidance following trauma and describes what happens when an "encapsulated" past traumatic experience is reactivated or "triggered": the individual and collective minds regress to a level that limits their ability to think about complex situations in the ways required within peace processes. Adopting a psychodynamic approach, this article also discusses how trauma affects the relationship between the leaders and their people, starting with how traumatized collectives choose a particular type of leader who promises to save them from their predicament, against all apparent odds, and upon failing to do so, finds scapegoats among them or creates external enemies. This need for an enemy contributes to the entrenchment of intractable conflict.



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