Peacemaking as a Primary Psychoexemplary


In what ways can we make peace?

world peace



As I wrote my Memorial Day column on honoring fallen military, which in turn followed a focus on John Lennon’s song for peace, I realized I had perhaps unconsciously stumbled back into what I have tentatively called the psychoexamplaries. About 3 months prior, on February 23, 2024, I seemed to set the stage for a positive social psychiatric classification with the column “Social Psychoexemplaries: The Other Side of Social Psychopathologies.” In a popular slang way, they are “besties,” not only of friends, but more generally socially. Today we will begin a series about them, with the assumption that some individuals are motivated as much or more by positivity than fear.

One of those psychoexemplaries mentioned had to do with peace, that is, peacemaking. Thinking about peace more, perhaps its potential is present from the individual to the international.

To examine these possibilities in more detail, first a definition of what can be a nebulous feel-good concept. In general, peace is usually defined as freedom from disturbance or an atmosphere of tranquility. Peacemaking would be the process involved in obtaining and making peace. Here are some examples all along the long spectrum.

Peacemaking Within the Person. In one way or another, internal peacemaking is the goal for most individuals and patients. That is relevant to the traditional psychodynamic goal of resolving intrapsychic conflict as well as the disturbances of undue anxiety, depression, and psychosis, for example.

Peacemaking at Home. Previously we discussed this a bit with the implications of the Hebrew word Shalom. One of the definitions of Shalom is peace, especially peace at home. One of the saddest scenarios I have faced in clinical care or community relationships is hearing about family members not only in conflict, but not talking to one another, sometimes to the death of those involved and the end of any more positive resolution. Couples and family psychotherapy, underused as they are, are devoted to finding family peace, even if one of the outcomes can on occasion be parental divorce.

Peacemaking in the Peace Corps. The other side of military service might be our Peace Corps. It provides a voluntary way to serve for those who either lean toward pacifism or who value unusual time-limited cultural opportunities around the world.

Peacemaking Internationally. War between peoples and countries have taken place throughout history. Some are religious-based wars, some not. Whenever such conflicts have been contained for peace is desirable. International coalitions like the United Nations are designed to help establish peace, though their outcomes often seem less hoped for. Promisingly, psychiatrists are becoming increasingly involved to help with international conflicts via Track II Diplomacy.1

Peacemaking Prizes. The Nobel Peace Prize was developed after World War II to honor efforts in any way contributing to a more peaceful world. The Physicians for Social Responsibility, which has included many psychiatrists, shared in the 1985 Prize “for spreading authoritative information and by creating an awareness of the catastrophic consequences of atomic warfare.” Perhaps the greatest risk to humanity and the planet, so far there has not been an atomic war.

Peacemaking in the American Psychiatric Association. Peace made its presence in the recent annual APA meeting, leading to a emerging movement to establish a caucus devoted to peace, conflict, and psychiatry. One member, in his recent article for Psychology Today, gave a shout-out to a related interfaith session that I was on2:

“An outstanding APA session this year explored religious framings of anxiety in Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Christianity, and I commented that ‘collegiality is an antidote to anxieties of all kinds’. . . This collegiality is the kind of harmony that produces mental health and a deeper peace.”

These examples provide clear evidence of the positive social psychiatric presence of peacemaking in psychiatric practice and societal conflict. Perhaps without realizing it, psychiatry seems to be progenitors of peacemaking, maybe even to the extent to be deemed a peacemaking profession.

There are more psychoexemplaries, which we will cover in this new series.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry and is now in retirement and retirement as a private pro bono community psychiatrist. A prolific writer and speaker, he has done a weekday column titled “Psychiatric Views on the Daily News” and a weekly video, “Psychiatry & Society,” since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged. He was chosen to receive the 2024 Abraham Halpern Humanitarian Award from the American Association for Social Psychiatry. Previously, he received the Administrative Award in 2016 from the American Psychiatric Association, the one-time designation of being a Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Speaker of the Assembly of the APA in 2002, and the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill in 1991. He is an advocate and activist for mental health issues related to climate instability, physician burnout, and xenophobia. He is now editing the final book in a 4-volume series on religions and psychiatry for Springer: Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, Christianity, and now The Eastern Religions, and Spirituality. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times.


1. Aggarwal NK, Dulat A, Durrani G. Restarting track II diplomacy in intractable conflicts: How psychoanalytic concepts may be relevant. Psychodynamic Psychiatry. 2023;51(2):206-223.

2. Chandra R. Responsible dialogue on the “Goldwater Rule” must continue. Psychology Today. Updated May 24, 2024. Accessed May 28, 2024.

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