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Storm Bridge II. Presenters: Professor Harry Russell, MSW Dr. Ira Neighbors, DSW Dr. Patricia Guillory, PhD Professor Claude Montegut, MSW Professor, Edgar Blanchard, MSW. Storm Bridge Infusion Model Workshop.

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storm bridge ii

Storm Bridge II


Professor Harry Russell, MSW

Dr. Ira Neighbors, DSW

Dr. Patricia Guillory, PhD

Professor Claude Montegut, MSW

Professor, Edgar Blanchard, MSW

storm bridge infusion model workshop

Storm Bridge Infusion Model Workshop

Developed by : Lance Hill, PhD, Ervin Staub , PhD, Jullianna Padgett, PhD, Harry Russell, MSW, GSW, Ted Quant, Michael Kane And Adin Thayer, MSW

Based on the Work of Ervin Staub, PhD

Principal Consultant and Trainer to the development team


The conception of understanding the roots of hostility and violence, healing and reconciliation are based on the work of Ervin Staub. See Staub, E. The roots of evil: The origins of genocide and other group violence, New York: Cambridge University Press; Staub, E. The psychology of good and evil: why children adults and groups help and harm others, Cambridge, and two forthcoming books, Staub, E. (2010). Overcoming evil: genocide, violent conflict and terrorism, and Staub, E. (2010). The panorama of mass violence: origins, prevention, healing and reconciliation and the creation of caring, both to be published by Oxford University Press. See also the website, for downloads of relevant articles.

    For the “RICH" model of healing by Pearlman and associates see especially Saakvitne, K. W., Gamble, S.J., Pearlman, L.A., & Lev. B. (2000). Risking connection. Lutherville, MD: Sidron Press

core concepts
Core Concepts

Knowledge – Understanding origins of conflict, Psychological symptoms and effects of ethnic group conflict, and the methods of healing and reconciliation (Building Trust)

Respect – Validation through acknowledging injustices and actions that restores trust; Method: Testimony and empathy

Connections – Reconnecting with self, in-group and out group; Method: Testimony, dialogue, and prolonged positive engagement that builds trust

storm bridge theory and model rationale
Storm Bridge Theory and Model Rationale

(1) The difference between natural disaster trauma and ethnic group trauma are that the causes, symptoms, and solutions are different.

(2) That psychological education on inter-group behavior in ethnic conflict and the psychological impact of trauma (a) removes the harmful behavior from the realm of the incomprehensible evil and irrational; (b) leads to healing because while we cannot control evil, we can control human behavior; (c) allows us to identify, remedy, and prevent in the future the causes of behavior (meeting basic human needs) ; (d) helps us recognize the propensity for this harmful behavior in all of us and which contributes to breaking the cycle of vengeance and retaliation.

(3) Avenues of healing and prevention: Group Testimony regarding trauma releases people from the trauma symptoms. Empathy is key: Humans don’t relate to abstracts; people must hear the pain and suffering to re-humanize the victim, but must help those who have suffered to tell their story in ways that does not re-traumatize the victim.

things to note
Things to Note

Storm Bridge is not a substitute for other approaches

Developed in the wake of a great disaster, intense suffering, pain and polarization

Participants need careful and extensive preparation for participation: 1. Each group in conflict must first go through a process of education to acquire knowledge, 2. The process of healing and reconciliation will start with small steps


Daniel Hoffmeier, right, with the Coast Guard, along with an unidentified police officer, helps load children into a helicopter while transporting victims of Hurricane Katrina from the civic center to the airport, Saturday Sept. 3, 2005 in New Orleans, La.. (AP Photo/Rob Carr) 

  • As community healers, our understanding of problems and solutions can be based upon both:

Objective Truth – What actually happened

Psychological Truth – What people believe happened (Perception)

key to ending the cycle of devaluation and conflict
Key to ending the cycle of devaluation and conflict

Is to understand that people engage in ethnic group behavior to fulfill unmet human needs.

  • Even the dominant group may be attempting to fulfill needs for a safe community that provides adequate social services. That achieving these needs may come at the expense of others may make them unjust, but understandable just the same.
psychological dynamics of ethnic group conflict
Psychological Dynamics of Ethnic Group Conflict
  • Ethnic Group Identity and Human Needs

When human needs are frustrated, people tend to fall back to ethnic group identity to fulfill those needs

  • Dominant Group

Tends to believe that it is superior, more capable of governing and maintaining a just and equitable society

psychological dynamics of ethnic group conflict knowledge
Psychological Dynamics of Ethnic Group Conflict (Knowledge)

Group Behavior:

  • When individuals find their basic human needs frustrated, they tend to fall back on ethnic group identity. In part, because we all define our individual identity by our group culture. We look to others to validate reality. We find our psychological and material needs fulfilled in the group.

But we pay a price. We surrender our individual moral values and judgment.


images from the yahoo slideshow about the hurricane Katrina. Note the difference between the descriptions, the black guy "looted" food from a grocery store while the white people "found food" at a grocery store

psychological dynamics continued
Psychological Dynamics Continued
  • Just World Hypothesis

Deny injustice

To prove the system which their group controls and which they identify with is fair and just

May deny injustice or blame victim for other reasons

psychological consequences of ethnic group conflict trauma
Psychological Consequences of Ethnic Group Conflict Trauma


A protester gestures as about 2,500 black demonstrators marched towards a high school in Vryburg, South Africa Thursday, March 19, 1998 where racial violence has flared in recent weeks. Demonstrators were marching in support of black students who say they no longer feel safe at Vryburg High School, which has been the scene of repeated racial clashes over the past month. The marchers demanded that the school, which has resisted racial integration, be closed, that the principal resign and that the schools governing body disband.

  • Different sources of trauma are likely to have: 1. different psychological effects on individuals, groups, and group interaction; and 2. Somewhat different avenues to healing and prevention
  • Difficult life conditions and conflict over material issues can be starting points for ethnic group conflict. (Can be legitimate or illegitimate issue)
psych consequences of ethnic conflict cont trauma symptoms and effects
Psych Consequences of Ethnic Conflict cont.Trauma symptoms and effects
  • Consequences of trauma, including ethnic trauma, can include similar symptoms. (Psychologically and physically- Behavioral)

For Victims:

- Diminished self, vulnerability

-See the world and people as dangerous

-Disconnect and distrust of people outside the group (possible disconnect within group also)

-Human devaluation and bad treatment lead to anger, desire for revenge ; may result in aggressive or hostile behavior

consequences cont
Consequences cont.

-Difficulty seeing other groups’ perspective

-Reacting strongly to perceived new threat

-Greater likelihood of aggressive response to conflict, in to defend oneself

-Aggression can begin as displaced aggression on proximal target victims

-Feelings of injured honor and shame/humiliation unlike in Natural disaster

-Victimhood can bestow moral exemption

-Feeling diminished, can lead to submission and giving up

Protesters unable to get into the packed City Council meeting in New Orleans clashed with police. The council voted unanimously to tear down four public housing developments. (Alex Brandon/AP Photo)

for passive bystanders
For passive bystanders

In the dominant group, they may accept the justifications of the group leaders and continue to blame and devalue the victims to reduce guilt and maintain their belief that their group is fair and just.

There is a price to pay for acting on individual moral conscience once one falls back on their ethnic group identity; ethnic groups tend to punish and ostracize dissenters. The outcome is that an individual’s behavior as part of an ethnic group appear illogical, unfair, and immoral to the victim group.

for perpetrators and bystanders
For perpetrators and Bystanders

-Tendency to devalue victims

-Distance oneself from their suffering and blame them for their problem

-Reduced empathy and diminished capacity for empathy, especially for victims

-Denying responsibility and resisting acknowledgement of harm one has done

both groups believe to be victims
Both Groups Believe to be Victims
  • Both believe their group is moral and right, and the other group is wrong, responsible, and immoral
  • “Mirror Image” in beliefs about and attitudes toward the other (creates greater polarization and a turn more toward ethnic – cultural group for validation and support)
subordinate ethnic groups
Subordinate Ethnic Groups
  • Especially in difficult times, individuals seek to fulfill their basic human needs through their ethnic group identity. The group demands loyalty and tends to view attacks on group individuals as an attack on the group. They can view these attacks as a threat to their identity and legitimate claims that the system is unfair.
  • To demonstrate their loyalty, individuals deny the failings of group members or their group as a whole. The group can easily slip into a destructive cycle of vengeful violence against the adversarial group, which is behavior that the dominant group uses as evidence that the subordinate group is the source of the conflict, less than human, and beyond moral obligation.
natural responses to trauma
Natural Responses to Trauma
  • Fight – Flight – Freeze 
  • Physiological reactions occur automatically
  • Psychological reactions occur automatically
  • Dehumanizing
  • Automatic reaction to preserve self-esteem and level of functioning
  • Scapegoating
  • Aids in releasing the guilt
  • Misdirected, accumulated anger
natural response continued
Natural Response Continued
  • Desensitizing
  • Mitigates emotional responses
  • Psychological Numbness 
  • Habituation
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy 
  • “Choose to live a conscious life” and not live on automatic pilot.
devaluation process
Devaluation Process

People Change by Doing

- Devaluation/dehumanizing makes it easier to harm others

- Reactions to devaluation justify more mistreatment

- Continuum of harm starts with small acts

- Long Term: reduction in empathy generalized to other groups

- Even after the conflict, the dominant group continues to justify their actions (Face Saving)

devaluation continued
Devaluation Continued

Under certain conditions of life, small acts of mistreatment lead to further acts of mistreatment that change the perpetrators, making it easier and easier to justify and perpetuate the devaluing and mistreatment of others

  • If victims fight back, then this justifies more mistreatment
  • Group mistreatment begins with small acts but escalates, increasing the capacity for harm and indifference to it.
people change cont
People Change cont.
  • Long Term:

The lack of empathy generalizes to other groups (racial/ethnic, etc.) and even members of their own group (Blk on Blk crime)

After the Conflict, the dominant group continues to devalue and justify their past actions to maintain face and be accepted in the moral community

City of Gretna: “…The town stands by its decision to bar the New Orleans evacuees.”

cultural devaluation
Cultural Devaluation
  • Centuries of discrimination made anti-Semitism a part of German “Deep Structural” culture
  • This act made Jews a “Pre-Selected” group for cultural devaluation
  • Another example: Rwanda: Tutsis and Hutus
  • A history of devaluation, negative stereotypes, and images of the group, its culture, literature, art, etc.(i.e. America’s history of devaluation of African Americans; It’ll be interesting to see what happens now that a African American is President)
cultural devaluation cont
Cultural Devaluation cont.
  • Eugenics Society” Beautiful Baby” contests popular at state fairs in the 1920’s made the movement’s central point:

“Genetically Defective” members of society including non-white races were out-reproducing the “normal” members of society and passing on their deleterious genes at the expense of the “normal.”

  • Forced sterilizations started in the US and spread to Nazi Germany. (Recently this has been presented again by a current candidate for La. State Legislature)
deep structure of devaluation
Deep Structure of Devaluation
  • Deeply embedded in the culture
  • Difficult for participants to observe, become self-reflective about issue
  • A cultural “given” [issues discussion goes underground]
  • Reinforced in media, and self-reinforcing: Crime headlines

In the tangled story of the teenage knuckleheads of Jena, La., stupid gestures led to macho bluster, which in turn escalated to fistfights and beatings. A sad tale old as time. What made it a national incident was the prosecutor's decision to charge only the black students with major felonies. Thousands of protesters marched on the little town and by year's end, the youths were out of jail.

deep structure meta silence and the elephant in the room
Deep Structure: Meta-Silence and the Elephant in the Room
  • Societies engage in conspiracies of silence to block information from coming into awareness. (Syphilis studies at Tuskegee, low-income Housing plans for displaced and homeless)
  • There are rules against noticing or talking about the silence
  • When the “elephant” is wrong-doing and devaluation occurs, it is not mentioned; rather it is normalized
silence is paralysis
Silence is Paralysis

Murders committed by Klansmen four to five decades ago are only now being prosecuted due to the silence of bystanders (Witnesses to the injustice but did nothing to address it) who have decided to break the silence


Silence in the face of devaluation has a cumulative dimension

The Hebrew root of “silence” is “paralysis”

Protest against the Ku Klux Klan in Jena, LA in January 2008 

cultural devaluation and emerging ideologies
Cultural Devaluation and Emerging Ideologies

Starts Local

affects the nation

“We can create a better community if only these people would not stand in the way.” –some people in various communities

Out-group is designated as standing in the way of “progress”

The devaluation usually draws on pre-existing conditions

Seattle Joins Thousands In Jena ProtestSeptember 20, 2007, 10:40 PM PDT

healing of survivors
Healing of Survivors

Three Key Points:

  • Knowledge: Understanding why groups harm each other
  • Respect: Collective testimony within one’s group first, listening with empathy, telling one’s story in a group, safe, empathic context
  • Connection: Entering into relationship with “the other” around common interest experiences and moreover the common good.
  • Understanding why groups harm each other is essential to the knowledge process
  • We are not victims of blind evil
  • We cannot reconcile with evil or arrogant (stupid) people but we can reconcile and rebuild with people we perceive as human and rational
respect and connection
Respect and connection
  • Normalize the traumatic stress experience
  • De-pathologize the symptoms
  • Empower survivors to become agents in this process (Speak out using the knowledge and respect)
collective testimony
Collective Testimony
  • Engage past painful trauma events

- Collective, empathic settings

- First within victim group to avoid re-traumatization and re-build human connection

In cross- group dialogues after careful preparation

letting go
Letting Go
  • Engage, then disengage with the past as an avenue to healing
  • Not synonymous with forgiving: Letting go does not depend on the other
  • Letting go in the sense that the trauma does not define who I am. (Survivor not victim)
  • Empowering from transformation into action in the social environment (examples, the Grey Panthers, Black Panthers, National HIV/AIDS coalition, etc.)
letting go cont
Letting Go cont.
  • Once the trauma is acknowledged and worked through, life still continues
  • Transformation: Work to prevent it happening to others: engage in anti-racism work, work with at-risk devalued groups- i.e. Grey Panthers, work to unify and or diversify neighborhood community groups, and other such social engagement
reconciliation between groups trust building
Reconciliation Between Groups(Trust Building)
  • Acknowledgement from conflicting group

One city, one community, one suffering ideology deprives victims of special suffering because of race or income from articulating their experience and finding healing and justice; thereby preventing the process of healing and reconciliation

-- Acknowledging means accepting legitimacy of victim groups emotions and perceptions

-- Defense shields, protects bystander from confrontation with emotional pain of victim that leads to guilt or shame.

  • Acknowledgement may be through dialogue or statements and actions of conflicting group in public discourse and policy
  • Reconciliation most likely to occur with “Bystanders”
  • Acknowledgement can mean acknowledging injustices committed by members of your ethnic group for which you were not personally responsible

Police used chemical spray and stun guns Thursday as dozens of protesters seeking to halt the demolition of 4,500 public housing units tried to force their way through an iron gate at City Hall.

reconciliation and healing cont
Reconciliation and healing cont.
  • Reconciliation Aids healing of victims

Demystifies evil and serves to discourage venting

  • Developing A Shared Truth

This cannot be predetermined; It is a process that occurs in both groups and ultimately is determined by victims

Different histories can be sources of continuing conflict (Bridge the differences)

a new inclusive vision
A New Inclusive Vision

Students gathered in Polk Place on Wednesday for a four-hour informational rally meant to raise awareness about criminal injustice in North Carolina. The rally was organized by the Campus Y's Criminal Justice Action and Awareness Committee and was co-sponsored by the Black Student Movement and Students for a Democratic Society.

The rally focused on six criminal cases with racial overtones. Amelia Black, co-chairwoman of the committee, called the controversies the "North Carolina Jena 6" for their similarities to the case in Louisiana where six black students were prosecuted on accusations of assaulting a white student.

  • Dialogue between groups must move from past to future

- Create a new vision and recovery ideology of post disaster/ problem recovery that can compete with the old recovery ideology

  • Deep Engagement (Connection)

Prolonged, meaningful, neighbor-to-neighbor model

Reconnecting with and gaining trust with conflicting group: (Share group identity but not being so imbedded that we cannot be critical of group beliefs and actions (behavior)

how do we achieve these goals
How Do We Achieve These Goals?

Storm Bridge used both “Top-down” and “Bottom-up” approaches

  • Through a comprehensive briefing program at the level of government, business, and media that educates them to our approach and how they can apply it to the institutions they control.
  • Through community level intervention programs
    • Infusion Approach—Integrating the Strom Bridge concepts and methods into one’s current work to augment its effectiveness.
      • Follow-up consultation and meetings with workshop participants to reinforce methods, help creatively apply them to existing work, and develop new theory from practice.
      • Invite participants to become part of ongoing learning network that shares information on racial healing and reconciliation.
    • Stand-alone dialogue programs (SUNO, health, educators, youth, barbers)
    • For Diaspora communities too
    • Through popular education (television and radio series)
    • Through the performing and visual arts
infusion workshops
Infusion Workshops

Infusion workshops for community interventionists in which participants integrate the concepts into their existing work.

Creating a new program within your work based on Storm Bridge principles and with the assistance of the Storm Bridge team.

Using techniques immediately in individual or non-structured interactions one can use elements of this theory and model to help people heal and reconcile. (exercise:brainstorm on this)

Storm Bridge will adapt this workshop to specific audiences: cultural workers (arts, music), healthcare, educations, neighborhood groups, youth, etc.

The same curriculum will be offered in the Diaspora communities through workshops and a train-the-trainer program.

contact information

School of Social Work

Lake Campus 33

6801 Press Dr.

New Orleans, La. 70126

(504) 286-5376