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Changing Our Consciousness
Imagining the emotional experience of the other


Waging Dialogue


Emotional Imprint


The mission of COC is closely aligned with that of the Hot Stove Project The Hot Stove Project

The Hot Stove Project

Why Do We Have War and What Can Our Generation Do About It? Conversations with Dr. Vamık D. Volkan and Lord John Alderdice

View the transcript of the Volkan video in PDF

CHANGING OUR CONSCIOUSNESS is a non-profit organization that develops theoretical, methodological and educational tools to understand and mitigate intergroup conflict. By developing emotional literacy – the capacity to view the world through others' eyes – we facilitate dialogue between people of different thoughts, beliefs and communication styles, counter prejudice and stigma, and transform education.

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Our video, Why Do We Have War & What Can Our Generation Do About It? includes "A Conversation with Dr. Vamık D. Volkan" and "A Conversation with Lord John Alderdice." These were filmed in January 2014, and September 2015, with young people associated with the Emotional Imprint program. Dr. Volkan is a five-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee who has led mediation efforts on the world stage and Lord Alderdice negotiated the Belfast Agreement in Northern Ireland. Both are globally renowned for their work on the dynamics of prejudice, ethnic conflict, and the forces that lead to war."

“The Psychology of Borders” Trumps “Stronger Together”

If Vamik Volkan had won the Nobel Peace Prize, Hillary Clinton might have run a more effective campaign and Donald Trump might not have been elected.

The left tends to embrace the idea that we’re all one people and differences don’t or shouldn’t matter. We’re expected to blind ourselves to racial, sexual, cultural and physical differences; triggering language is not permitted on college campuses. This was expressed in Hillary’s campaign slogan, “Stronger Together.”

Trump challenged that idea in direct, cartoon-like attacks that were equal-opportunity-offensive. Women are sex objects, Muslims are terrorists, Black people are more likely to be criminals, immigrants should stop taking our jobs and go home.

These are vastly different models of how societies do, or should, function. Both are partially right and partially wrong.

Dr. Volkan teaches us that groups of people have identities, just as individual people do. Religious, ethnic and cultural groups live under their own unique “tents,” with unique histories, symbols, rituals, “chosen traumas” and “chosen glories.” When conflicts arise, boundaries need to be preserved while efforts are made to talk across those divides.

In an interview with our Emotional Imprint interns, he explains, “There are two principles that you don’t change if you’re going to make peace. One, thou shalt not be exactly the same as your enemy; then you lose your identity. And have a psychological border between the two of you so you can talk, but you keep your identity and you keep your identity. You don’t have to like each other all the way and be lovey-dovey. You just have to talk.”

This is a time when we need to stop throwing mud at each others’ tents, tolerate our differences rather than attack them or demand that they not exist, and begin new conversations across our vast cultural, ethnic, religious and political divides.

Toward that end, I’m going to continue the dialogue project that I began 6 months ago: Talking Across Divides: The Paper Airplane Project. If you’re motivated to reconnect with Facebook friends you may have lost during and immediately after the campaign, invite them back and see if you can catalyze a discussion. We’ll see what works and what doesn’t, and write a paper together a few months from now.

If you’re intrigued, please contact me at or Friend Alice Lombardo Maher and join the Depth Perception Party dialogue group on Facebook, follow Alice Maher on Twitter, and “like” the Hot Stove Project and the Emotional Imprint pages.

Read more, from Dr. Alice Maher and others, at the Changing Our Consciousness blog >>