Emotional Recognition and Coping Mechanisms via Nonviolent Resistance

Skill Share Lesson – Conflict Resolution Pedagogy
By: Chelsie Kuhn and Jeff McGuire
The School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution
George Mason University

Introduction and Background: This lesson was conducted for a Conflict Resolution Pedagogy class at GMU’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. The goal of the skill share was to provide students with the social/emotional intelligence to affecting deal with anger, in the context of maintain nonviolent discipline while a participant in a nonviolent resistance movement.


  • Projector/Screen to show film clip
  • White Board Markers to capture debrief


1). Sample Introduction Script:

  • “Anger is inside of all of us, and has the ability to raise up inside of us at moments when we don’t want it to, and moments when it is not beneficial to be angry. But it’s a fact of life, and a fact of our existence. What prevents anger from having a negative impact on our actions and our lives is having the personal intelligence on how to deal with and harness anger when it does arise. This is a kind of discipline. We’re not necessarily arguing that anger needs to be suppressed per se, just that we all need to be knowledgeable about the negative impact it can have.
  • It’s our responsibility as conflict resolution practitioners to have skills that focus on remaining peaceful and nonviolent, even when it’s very easy to become violent. Nonviolence or violence exists in all aspects of our lives; our language, our demeanor, our social relationships, how we view ourselves, how we view ourselves within society, and how we interact with others. I argue that it’s an important personal objective to allow for nonviolence – as opposed to violence – to be the leading frame in our lives. Part of filling this objective is having the skills to harness powerful emotions, mainly anger, when they arise.
  • Nowhere does this take on a more important role than in the context of a nonviolent movement or nonviolent action. Throughout history, nonviolent actors have succeeded in creating widespread, revolutionary change. This is often done in the face of severe, violent repression by those who want to prevent change and maintain the status quo. These actors – desperate to get out from under oppression – made the tactical and strategic decision to resist the urge to take up arms and lead a violent movement toward change.
  • But for every nonviolent movement or specific nonviolent act that succeeded, there are ones that failed. The presence of a violent actor or the committing of violent acts has the ability to completely hijack nonviolent ones, and drastically diminish chances of success. Anger that transitions into violence can shift the entire narrative in a way that can basically ruin everything. The same way one bad apple can ruin a batch, or one misplaced domino can stop momentum, or a single drop of oil can contaminate a gallon of water. So, it is extremely important that we develop the skills to have personal intelligence about anger. How does anger feel? What does it feel like inside of us? What does anger make us want to do?
  • I’d like to show a short clip now, from a documentary film titled A Force More Powerful. This clip is a brief explanation of the workshops that James Lawson led during the Civil Rights Movement. Lawson led trainings and workshops for the Nashville Student Movement and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, both crucial actors during the Civil Rights movement, particularly in the Nashville sit-ins, which for those of you who don’t know, were a challenge to segregation at lunch counters.

2). A Force More Powerful: Training for Nonviolent Action (James Lawson)


3). Facilitated Imagination Exercise: Handling anger in the face of violent oppression –> Nonviolence

  • Imagine constantly being policed and harassed by others (police, teacher, etc.). What would that feel like?
    • Open up discussion
      • What did it feel like?
      • Where in your body did the emotions come up?
      • Why do you think you’re feeling this way?
      • Why might this matter for our field as a whole?
        • Emotions and Trauma come up in our bodies, and we need to deal with them accordingly.
      • What do you think you did personally to keep yourself from being _____? How did you express this?
    • How can you discharge some of this energy?
      • Journaling exercise
      • Give someone a high five
      • Different visualization
      • Metta meditation?
    • Spinning them out of trauma
      • Shows the importance of doing it
      • Resources to guide people
      • Capacity building

4). Learning Outcomes:

  • Students will be able to recognize emotions coming up for them
  • Students will be able to identify and connect emotions and the body
  • Students will be able to list potential coping mechanism that could help them
  • Students will be able to discuss why coping mechanisms are important for practitioners in conflict analysis and resolution

Nonviolent Movements and the Military

This is a 3-part presentation on the connection between nonviolent movements and the military.

Part I: How Nonviolent Movements Should Engage with the Military
Part II: How the Military Should Engage with Nonviolent Movements
Part III: The Role of Nonviolent Movements in Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration

Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments at jeffwmcguire1@gmail.com







Peace Education Workshop


Introduction and Background

The following lesson plan was used by a group of Conflict Analysis and Resolution Master’s and PhD Candidates for a day-long peace education workshop with a class of 8th grade students from Washington D.C. The students were a part of a U.S. History course, but had been studying peace education and the history of nonviolent conflict in their course and were interested in learning more.

The following lesson plan is broken down into three main sections: Introduction and Ice Breaker, the Counter-Rally Activity, and Exercises in Identity.


Learning Objectives

-Introduction and Ice Breaker:

  • Learning the value of prototyping
  • Synergizing ideas on the fly
  • Working under pressure

-Counter-rally Activity:

  • Students will conduct a narrative analysis of dominant political narratives
  • Students will develop strategy and tactics for a political rally
  • Students will identify methods and areas to express nonviolent agency

-Exercises in Identity:

  • Students will learn different types of identities
  • Students will pinpoint certain values that make up their identity
  • Students will self-reflect on how they prioritize identities within their own lives


Time Needed

Total: 4.5 hours

Breakdown:        Intro and Ice Breaker (45 minutes)
Counter-Rally Activity (2.5 hours)
Exercises in Identity (1 hour)


Materials Needed

Index Cards
Dry erase markers/board
Permanent Markers
Spaghetti Noodles
Masking tape
Poster board
Computer w/ Internet connection



-Introduction and Ice Breaker:


1). Provide 20 pieces of spaghetti, 1 marshmallow, 1 yard of masking tape, 1 yard of string for each group of 4-6 participants

2). Explain the rules:

  • The goal is to create the tallest freestanding structure with the marshmallow at top, which means the structure has to be standing on its own at the end of the activity without the assistance of participants or being taped down to the surface
  • The marshmallow must be stuck onto the top of the spaghetti tower in its entirety, meaning it may not be split or even eaten
  • The spaghetti, tape, or string may be broken up to be used at the team sees fit. The team may use as much or as little as they want.
  • It may be a good idea to repeat the instructions or even have participants explain it again for the whole workshop.

3). Time is limited to 18 minutes. Depending on the need, this may be shortened, but leave enough time for the participants to actually have the opportunity to build something.

4). Start the challenge, preferably with some appropriate music.

5). In case the teams are all having a difficult time, hints can be given at set intervals, which also serve as time reminders.

6). A round of applause should be given to the team that has the tallest structure

7). Debrief Questions

  • What steps did you take to build the structure? Did you talk and build at the same time or did you talk then build?
  • What were some issues that arose? Can you think of some possible solutions?
  • What were some observations that you made? Please elaborate

8). This activity itself should be fun and active, while the debrief should serve as a “calm down” session.


-Counter-rally Activity

1). Screen video clip for students of Donald Trump campaign rally: http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2016/02/donald_trumps_build_that_wall.html

2). Conduct de-brief after video:

  • What are your reactions to this video?
  • What is Trump’s message in it?
  • How does it make you feel?
  • (What) had you heard about the wall before this video?
  • Why do you think people support the wall? Why do you think people are opposed to it?
  • What picture does he paint of people crossing into America at the US-Mexican border?
  • What kind of story is he trying to tell in this speech?
  • What kind of things do you think people at this rally might believe about undocumented immigrants? What words might they use to describe them? Why do you think that is?

* What images and stories of Mexican immigrants is he not including or giving voice to? Why do you think that is?

3). Pose the Situation and Project

Trump supporters are holding a rally in support of the wall. You’ve been tasked with holding a counter-rally against the wall. You have two hours on a Saturday to plan an event for that day.

You’ll be able to break up into teams to plan different parts of the rally. Allow students to choose groups, unless they’re really out-of-balance and then encourage a few volunteers to change groups.

  • Messaging – What slogans, catchphrases, descriptions, language do we want to use for this rally?
  • Programming – What will be happening in the rally? When will it be happening? Where? How?
  • Arts/Design – How can we use creative arts to promote the rally? During the rally?
    Banners, chants, songs?
  • Outreach/Social Media – How are we going to turn people out? How are we going to use social media to promote the event?

Before picking groups, choose a name for the rally. If they don’t decide in the time allotted, encourage the messaging group to choose one from the current options.

Also, encourage the groups to communicate with each other to ensure that they have a collective vision for the event.

4). Independent Working Time in Groups

5). Group Collaboration on Presentation

Give the group 10 minutes to come back together as one large group and check in on their progress. Encourage them to make a plan for how they will present to the leaders and who will present.

6). Presentation to Leaders

7). Debrief the activity:

  • How was this activity for you? What did you like about it, if anything? What did you not like, if anything?
  • What was easy about this exercise? What was hard about this exercise?
  • What are you taking away from this?
  • What are some risks of this kind of activism?
  • What are some opportunities that can come from this kind of activism?


-Exercises in Identity

This activity works best with even numbers, so the students can pair up. To begin, divide your group in half and create two concentric circles: one inner circle and one outer circle. The students in the outer circle should face inside and the students in the inner circle should face outside. Each inner circle student will pair up with an outer circle student. Students may stand, sit on the floor, or use chairs for this activity.

1). Hand out the index cards and pens for each student

2). Ask the students to think about their individual values and what makes up their identity.

3). Instruct them to write one value or identity on each index card, with the goal of having around 10 index cards. Some example of these values:

  • Race (Hispanic, Arabic, Asian, Black)
  • Religion (Muslim, Christian, Atheist)
  • Occupation (Engineer, student, teacher)
  • Family (sister, brother, mother,)
  • Hobbies (athletics, cooking, reading)
  • Health (healthy, immobile, diabetic)
  • Socio-economic (wealthy, middle-class, low-income)

4). Once everyone has their values and identities written down, have the students share with their first partner why they chose to write down the values they did.

5). After the discussion is complete, ask all students to rip up one of their cards. This part of the activity gives participants an opportunity to reflect on how they prioritize their identities. Ripping up the card should help the participants imagine living without that part of their identity.

6). After the participants rip up one card, the outer circle will rotate one partner to the right. Everyone should have a new partner now.

7). The students will now discuss with their partner why and how they chose the card to rip up.

8). The process continues until all participants are each left with one card – their most important value.

9). Debrief the activity:

  • How did it feel to do this activity?
  • What was easy? What was challenging?
  • What groups/categories did folks pick?
  • Is there any category that you would identify as your “core” identity?
  • What similarities and differences did emerge?
  • Did you identify any environments where one identity was more salient than another?
  • What invisible identities (inside/outside identities) became visible as a result of this exercise? Any thoughts about this?
  • How/why are these categories helpful or not helpful?