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Emotional Neutrality and the Quest for Peace: Northern Ireland as a Case Study
 
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Code: DJ 8.2 (1) Ferrera
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Stephanie J. Ferrera, MSW

Emotional neutrality or de-triangling as defined in Bowen theory is a basic principle of family psychotherapy. The question addressed here is what application this principle may have to larger systems. Large-scale conflict is driven primarily by emotional process, a process that operates in communities and whole societies much as it does in families. Escalating conflict puts pressure on a community or a society to intervene. Intervention often involves the use of force, with the possibility of calming a disturbed system but also with the risk of further escalating conflict. Northern Ireland was a deeply divided society from the time of its creation in 1921 until recently. In a decades-long peace process, the people of Northern Ireland have found ways to resolve their differences through negotiation rather than violence. In Paths to a Settlement in Northern Ireland, Farren and Mulvihill studied this remarkable change from the perspective of Bowen theory . They propose that shifts in key relationships, particularly Britain's move to a neutral position, were the essential changes that freed the Northern Ireland communities to find their own way to peace.


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