A Phenomenological Study of the Lived Experiences of Syrian Refugees: Combating Refugee Anger and Hate to End Protracted Violence.

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War destroys more than just physical landscapes and buildings.  War destroys lives in a myriad of heartbreaking courses of action; one is the creation of refugees.  Today, due to the violence in Syria, there are thousands of refugees massing in Jordan.  Refugees are defined by the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees as:

A person who ‘owing to well-founded fear or being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.

Of these refugees many are young adults or children who have begun to express their pain and anger at the loss of their homes, families and ways of life through violence directed at other refugees or aid workers.  These “unruly youth”  must be given other choices and opportunities to express their anger in order to quell the cycle of violence in the refugee camps as well as when they return home (Gilbert, 2013).   It is essential to address these issues immediately in order to prevent continued violence against those perceived as perpetrators by Syrian refugees once the violence of the civil war is ended as there is significant potential for retributive violence to occur.

This paper will outline a qualitative study, using phenomenological methods to explore the lived experiences as a Syrian refugee focusing specifically on how refugees are experiencing the feelings of anger and hatred towards those who contributed to their displacement and how those feelings might be channeled away from violence to other means of expression.    The first goal of this study will be to gain an understanding of the experiences of hate and anger that refugees are facing.  The second goal will be to create a mechanism through practice that will assist in stopping the spread of anger and hate within the refugee population in order to quell continued violence against perpetrators on their return to Syria.  The research will be framed by several theoretical approaches.  First, human rights theory will be addressed and explored.  Second, I will employ the use of The Duplex Theory of Hate (Sternberg, 2008) address the growing issues of anger and hate within the refugee camps that is contributing to increased violence within the camp as well, which may also potentially contribute to violence once refugees return home.


First, we must address the nature of human rights and forced migration and the theoretical standards of human rights.  On January 6, 1941, Franklin Roosevelt delivered his Four Freedom’s Speech in which he declared that everyone, everywhere had the right to freedom of speech and expression, freedom to worship God, freedom from want and freedom from fear (Roosevelt, 1941).  Refugees are often subject to the loss of their homes and economic power when they are forced to migrate from their residences due to war.  As a result they experience a sense of great loss.  Syrian Refugees have expressed that they often “feel homeless now” (Gilbert, 2013).  They have lost homes and family members.

In addition to feeling want, many Syrian refugees are also experiencing a deep sense of fear derived from aggression directed at them by the Syrian government as well as from the bubbling anger developing within refugee camps.  “People are angry, and so many small problems makes people want to explode” (Gilbert, 2013.)  In addition to Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms, the United Nations has also held that each individual has the right to life, liberty and the security of persons (UDHR, 1948). It is highly evident that the human rights of Syrian refugees are being violated.  These violations of human rights have contributed significantly to the anger and fear felt by those displaced due to the civil war in Syria.

The Duplex Theory of Hate provides a new view on continuing cycles of violence and is of particular use for studying violence in refugee populations.  The Syrian civil war has raged for nearly three years, with 1.4 million displaced persons according to Jodi Rudoren (2013).  War causes trauma both physical and psychological.  War foments anger and hate within the affected population which is often transferred back to the perceived perpetrators of the initial and continued violence.  Syrian refugees are angry and feel hatred toward Bashir and others who have contributed to the violence in addition toward those who have failed to intervene.  “Others . . . were much more angry in their response, claiming that Russia had no interest in easing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power and those other countries weren’t doing enough” (Kenny, 2013).  If these tensions and this anger become deeply imbedded within the psyche of Syrian refugees, it is highly likely that violence will continue once the civil war is ended on a nearly genocidal level, according to the Duplex Theory of hate.

However, before we can implement the Duplex Theory of Hate we must define and attempt to grasp other theories related to hate and violence.  As the research for this study will be based on the phenomenon of hatred within the Syrian refugee population it is essential that we explore the various concepts of the experience of hate.  There are many definitions of hate but perhaps one of the most powerful and useful is from Gaylin (2003) who defines hate as “an intense and irrational emotion that is an adaptive response that allows you to fight against an enemy.”   This emotion is often accompanied by a desire for revenge often resulting in retributive violence.  In addition to a variety of definitions of hate there are numerous theories, some more accepted than others in the literature of hate.  Drive theories, stemming from Freud and Lorenz while explanatory in nature are hard to validate empirically and will not be addressed within the confines of this study.

Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil”(1964) concept contributes to the study as I attempt to understand the normality of hate within refugee populations.  Often violence and hate becomes an accepted and normal part of the psyche of those traumatized by war.  This contributes significantly to the ease with which violent acts are perpetrated as it becomes a component of the social fabric (Baumeister, 1996).  It is highly likely that Baumeister’s concept that those who perceived themselves as victims were more likely to dwell on the long-lasting effects of the actions and the situations.  Syrian refugees will be faced with long-lasting effects of the the perpetrators of violence in Syria which will be an integral component of understanding the potential hate and anger in the upcoming phenomenological study.   There are significant limitations to theories based on the concept of evil as they often refer to group level thought, ignoring the important piece of individual lives within that group.

Two theoretical stances will be used significantly within the research for this study.  Gordon Allport (1954) examined the nature of prejudice in creating hatred in depth and believed that prejudice often leads to swift retaliation against perceived wrongdoings.   Allport defined five degrees of action which will be essential for determining where Syrian Refugees stand in terms of desiring revenge against perceived traumas.  Antilocution involves the talking about perceived slights and prejudices against the target group by likeminded individuals.  Avoidance is the direct avoidance of the target group or individual.  Discrimination is the direct taking of measures against the target group.  The next stage is physical attack of the target group and is directly connected with intense emotional feelings.  Finally, is extermination of members of the target group.   This study and research will work to prevent the movement of hatred from the level of Antilocution.

In addition to Allport’s contribution we must also explore Sternberg’s Duplex Theory of hate (2003) which defines hate as comprised of a triangle of three components: negation of intimacy, passion and commitment. According to the theory hate can be captured on either triangles of feeling or action, each of which is individually defined by the subject expressing the emotion of hate or anger.  The first of the three components is negation of intimacy, which is dependent on the subject’s desire to seek emotional and physical distance.  Propaganda and family stories of refugee life will be the contributing factors to this point of the triangle.    This is where perceived victimization plays a role.  The second component within this theory is passion in hate, or anger and fear.  “Anger is particularly likely to follow violations of one’s autonomy, that is, individual rights”  (Rozen, Lowery, Imada & Haidt, 1999).  Syrian refugees face one of the most primary violations of individual rights, loss of security, and thus face the feelings of anger toward those who displaced them.  “We are likely to hate those whom we fear for causing our fear” (Sternberg, 2008).   It is likely that the experiences of Syrian refugees will foment these feelings. The final component is decision or commitment in hate which leads to devaluation of the target person or group via contempt.  This is the stage that contributes to genocide or mass killings and is the stage I seek to assist refugees in avoiding within this study.  When these three components are combined, it is easy to view hate as an embedded part of the social fabric of refugee societies.  Also, essential within to this theory is the concept of perceptions or the stories of the refugees in regards to the situation and those they view as responsible.  I hypothesize that the stories that will be heard from most Syrian refugees will be what Sternberg defines as The Death Story or the Murderer Story(2008).  In these stories the target represents death and destruction and creates significant threats toward life and security.

Finally, in order to be able to frame the study within the Duplex Theory we need to understand the seven types of hate that exist. Non-hate is just that, no feelings of hate.  Cool hate is disgust or negation of intimacy alone.  Hot hate is comprised of anger or fear (passion) alone.  Cold hate is devaluation or commitment alone.  Boiling hate is defined as revulsion, the combination of negation of intimacy and passion.  Simmering hate is loathing or negation of intimacy combined with commitment.  Seething hate is defined as passion, plus commitment.  Finally, burning hate is “need for annihilation” or the combination of all three components of the triangle of hate (Sternberg, 2008).  Based on these stages Sternberg has also created danger levels ranging from 0 or no hate based danger to 3 which is severe hate based danger.


The first goal of this study is to gain a greater understanding of the lived experience of hate and anger currently being encountered by Syrian refugees.  First, are Syrian refugees experiencing feelings of anger and hate toward their situation?  I hypothesize that there will be a great deal of anger toward their situation as they have been forced to flee leaving behind their homes and families.  I expect that I will find a range of hatred experienced by a variety of refugees, each of which will be expressed in a variety of ways.  I believe that it will be interesting to discover exactly how Syrian refugees are beginning to express this anger and hate while still displaced and how they perceive their own feelings.  Do they believe that they will bring this anger and hate back with them when they return home?  Do they believe they will act violently toward those they perceive as the perpetrators of their displacement?   What do they feel other refugees and outsiders might do to help them find more appropriate coping mechanisms for dealing with their anger and hatred?  The second goal for this study will be to assist the Syrian refugees in creating social mechanisms for better understanding their own emotional responses to their experiences as refugees, for finding non-violent ways to address their feelings of anger and hate toward perceived perpetrators and to assist them in implementing these processes and procedures through facilitation.

The research for this particular case is viewed within an interpretivist paradigm.   I have chosen this paradigm as constructed by Schultz (1962), Cicourel (1964) and Garfinkel (1967) because there is a general assumption that our reality is established intersubjectively through social experiences.  How we understand the world is vital to how we know our neighbors, our surrounding society and ourselves.  Our reality is also highly fluid in this paradigm, allowing for changes within the social constructions of thought.  There are often multiple claims to knowledge.   It is also vital that we address the ethical and substantive validity of the research as we progress in this paradigm.  We must recognize that our research and the methods we use could have serious political and social consequences and must make an assessment of our biases through the duration of the research process (Angen, 2000).  Through this paradigm methodologies generally assume a naturalistic approach of interviewing and observation.  Interviewing and observations allow for the researcher and participant to create meaningful dialogue through interaction.   As such this paradigm leans heavily toward the methodology of phenomenological inquiry.

The goals of this study inform the use of phenomenology as I am exploring the phenomenon of hate and anger within a refugee population and how that hate and anger could lead to potential violence.  There are five elements of phenomenological research.  The first is an identification of a shared experience.  In other words there is a phenomenon that is found that has influenced a group of people, which allows for comparison of the experience.  When you create a study with multiple subjects, it allows for a fuller understanding of the experiences.   When a shared experience is found and explored, it suggests that there is something universal in the nature of the experience being studied.  As such, phenomenological research attempts to find that universal experience within the subjects of the study.  Researchers who use the phenomenological method depend on collective accounts of individual experiences and may not necessarily have a full understanding of the experience being studied.  It is important within the study of the universal experience that the phenomenological researcher looks for the patterns that emerge in the experiences.  Third, it is vital that the phenomenological research attempts to identify the shared experience among a wide variety of individuals experiencing the same phenomena.  The diversity within the subject pool will allow for diverse accounts of the experiences, allowing the researcher to see the patterns and create a general picture of the experiences.  Another aspect is that the researcher should make every effort to locate the “essence” of the experience.  This can be achieved by showing empathy for the subjects, taking note of the emotions during the experience and visualizing what the experience is like.  For example, was the subject sad, angry, ecstatic, tired, etc.  The fifth and final element discussed in this section of videos is that the account of the experience includes what was experienced and how it was experienced.  As such, the researcher must include a variety of questions, both broad and deeper in order to create a full picture of the phenomenon and the experiences (Campbell, 2011).

I am focusing on the lived experience of these emotions within a particular group of Syrian refugees.  This methodology was first popularized by Edmund Husserl within the realm of philosophy in order to refocus on real-world situations and problems within lived experiences of populations (Creswell, 2007).  There are multiple theoretical perspectives under the umbrella of phenomenology; however several are prominent in social science research.  First is hermeneutical phenomenology, discussed in depth by van Manen (1990).  Hermeneutical phenomenology focuses on discovering an “abiding concern” which is of interest to researchers (van Manen, 1990).  The researcher then reflects on their source material in order to find essential themes within the context of the research and find interplay between inquiry and writing or interpretation of the findings.    Clark Moustakas popularized a second phenomenological method called transcendental phenomenology which focuses much more on the participant’s experiences of the phenomenon than on the researcher’s interpretation of the lived experiences (1994).  Within this form of phenomenology it is essential for the researcher to “bracket” their own experiences of the phenomenon in order to see the phenomenon in a new light (Moustakas, 1994).    A third phenomenological process of inquiry, existential phenomenology, was defined by Pollio, Henley and Thompson in The Phenomenology of Everyday Life  (1997).  Existential phenomenology is the chosen method for this study as it allows the researcher to view the phenomenon as relational between the chosen population, the phenomenon and the world at large (Pollio, Henley and Thompson, 1997).

There are numerous research stages defined by Pollio, Henley and Thompson (1997) that I will put to use within this study.  First, a topic is selected and a research bracket interview conducted.  Essentially the researcher composes a statement on the research topic and speaks of their perceptions and biases that may exist.   For this study I have chosen to explore the lived experiences of Syrian refugees in regards to their feelings of anger and hate toward their situation and the perceptions toward perpetrators.  Bracketing is important for this study though I do not believe any researcher can completely separate themselves from their preconceived ideas of the topic.  Prior to conducting my interviews I will have an in-depth discussion with a mentor in order to explore any biases I might have and document them within a personal research statement.  We, as researchers, should openly acknowledge any bias that might exist and accept that is there, present and attempt to separate that bias from our interviews and interpretations.

Second, the researcher chooses the sample population and conducts interviews.  The sample for this study will be drawn from the Zaatari Camp in Jordan, which is five miles from the Jordanian border where refugees have been faced with large crowds and some reported lawlessness (Gilbert, 2013).  This camp currently houses 110,000 people with few structures to regulate and enforce camp rules.  I believe that due to these circumstances there will be a greater amount of anger toward the situation currently being experienced by refugees.   I will contact aid organizations currently working with the camp to identify a sample of participants representing a diverse selection of the population.  Diversity in the selection will be achieved by including both males and females who self- identify in various socio-economic statuses.  Due to the nature of the refugee camps (55% of the refugee population is under the age of 18) some participants will be minors and will require specific regulations, as defined by the Institutional Review Board, to ensure their safety and confidentiality (Rudoren, 2013).

I intend to conduct phenomenological interviews with up to 25 participants dependent on when saturation in thematic patterns is reached.  The interviews will take place at a neutral, quiet l location within the camp identified by aid workers and the researcher.  Interviews will be scheduled, however the participant will dictate the duration of the interview, dependent on the variety of open-ended questions asked and the direction in which the discussion takes.   I will begin with question that is open-ended but closely related to their experience of the phenomenon of hate and anger.  Additional questions will be prepared but participant responses will inform the direction of questioning and discussion.  I will begin by asking the participants what they experienced that made them feel they had to flee their homes.  I will then ask them to describe the feelings they experienced as they fled, both toward the situation and those they felt were responsible for their need to flee.  Another question for the interview would be to tell me stories they have heard from others that could potentially represent propaganda against perpetrators.  I would also like to ask them what they believe can help them to remain peaceful toward perceived perpetrators on their return home.  Additional questions suggested by Moustakas (1994) could include “how has the experience affected you? “And “have you shared all of your significant experiences related to this phenomenon?”  A potential problem with the interview process will be the language barrier as I do not speak the native language of the refugees.  Two options are for me to immerse myself in the language to learn it well or to utilize the services of a translator, which of courses poses potential problems of language interpretation.

Then the researcher conducts transcription and analysis.  This process begins with the organization of data.  Using the existential model of phenomenology I will first organize all data by recording interviews, labeled with first name only ( to preserve confidentiality) and age of the participant, filed using the date the interview occurred.  All interviews will be contained on my personal Mac with a backup on an external hard drive.  During the research process both items will be kept in afire safe lock box that only I have access to in my home office.  These items will not leave my home office for any reason during the research process.

Second, according to existential phenomenology is complete immersion in the data.  It is vital that I listen to the recorded interviews numerous times in addition to reading the transcripts repeatedly.   This repetition allows the researcher to become “intimate” with the data for deeper analysis of the lived experience phenomena (Pollio, Henley and Thompson, 1997).  This immersion according to the authors creates the “transformation from protocols to themes” and is essential in coming to a greater understanding of hatred and anger in this population.  In addition to immersion is the importance of horizontalization.  Within phenomenology you must look for units of meaning within the data, in this case I would be searching for words or phrases that illuminate the experience of hate and anger in refugee populations.  In order to locate and document these key words and phrases I would methodically read through the interview transcripts and notate repeated words and phrases pertaining to this phenomenon.  This process creates what Moustakas refers to as horizons or meaning units (1994).  These horizons will then be “clustered” into thematic umbrellas which will allow me to identify truly emerging themes within the research.    At this point I would then revisit the research interviews in order to ensure that these themes reflect what was actually meant by the participant by checking the context of these emerging themes.    Once these themes are checked I will then proceed to developing a thematic structure as outlined in The Phenomenology of Everyday Life (1997) in order to create an overall structure that illustrates the essence of lived experiences of Syrian refugees in regards to hate and anger.  I will use these themes to determine which type of hate, as defined by Sternberg (2008)  each participant appears to be experiencing.

The fourth stage is vital as the researcher reconnects with the interview subjects in order to share findings and ensure analysis is accurate which strengthens the validity of research findings.  The nature of refugee life could make this portion of research difficult, as populations may have moved, on however I will do my best to reconnect with participants in order to complete member-checking.   Finally, a final report is prepared and presented for publication.  It is difficult to know how the research will progress or what the final findings will be however it is vital to stress the importance of sharing research once completed.

Ethical considerations must be examined throughout the entire process. There are three ethical considerations for social scientist researchers.  Stressing those ethical considerations should always take precedence over the data we collect.  The first consideration is moral deliberation.  Deliberation should factor into our ethical considerations throughout the research process.  We must consider and deliberate on the ethical implications of our research on all levels, from design to report of our data.  Researchers must consider what impact our interaction will have with participants and those surrounding them.  We have to think about what our research means and about errors that exist within our own reasoning.  The second ethical consideration is that of choice.  When we conduct our research we must ensure that we are selecting the better option and we must be able to justify our choices.  Third, we must consider the concept of accountability.  Accountability is inherently connected to knowledge in many realms (Mauther et al, 2002).  I will ensure that I am following all of the ethical considerations throughout the entire process as this research deals with a vulnerable population by continually assessing myself and my research process as it progresses.

Prior to conducting the proposed research I will provide participants with consent forms and gain the approval of these forms from the university’s institutional review board.  I will provide these consent forms in both English and Arabic and ensure that each participant understand the nature of my research before proceeding, answering any questions they may have about the nature and confidentiality of interviews.  The nature of refugee life has created gaps in many families and children are often separated from family members.  As this is a very vulnerable population I will work closely with IRB in order to determine appropriate measures of consent for minors.  I will remain aware of the situational factors that could influence emotional distress during interviews and stop interviews if needed at any time.    I will ensure the confidentiality of all participants by providing pseudonyms within the published findings and ensure that all interview records are disposed of after a set period of time to protect participants.

Sampling of potential Interview Questions

  1. Tell me the story of how you came to be here at the camp?
  2. What are your feelings toward Bashir and his wife?
  3. What are your feelings toward the government controlled militias?
  4. What are your feelings toward the rebels?
  5. What are your feelings toward outside nations that have not assisted in ending the civil war?
  6. If you were to come face to face with any of the aforementioned groups or people how do you think you would react?
  7. What words or phrases come to mind when I ask you about each of the groups or people?
  8. Were you aware of your feelings toward these groups or people prior to my asking?
  9. Do you ever find yourself talking to other people about your feelings toward these other groups or people? What types of things do you say to them?  Do you worry about future violence based on your feelings toward these groups or people?
  10. Is there anything else you would like to share with me about your experiences here in the camp?

These questions are intended to begin an opening up of the participants own awareness of their emotional state and how they may be transmitting that state to others around them which assists in the fomenting of hate and anger within the social fabric of society.  These questions inform the potential means of quelling the violence that may occur on return to Syria.


Hate and anger are deeply held and very personal feelings that each participant will likely define and describe differently.    It will be essential to Syrian refugee populations to acknowledge these emotions and find ways to cooperate within their society in order to ensure that retributive violence does not occur because of hatred.  I believe that the practice of facilitation will be of great use in the Syrian refugee situation for numerous reasons.  There are significant benefits to the use of facilitation in conflict situations (Rees, 2005).  Facilitation would allow Syrian refugees to establish group motivation in the support of decisions because of the involvement required in the process.  Group efforts can produce significantly better results in resolving conflict than in individual efforts.  Groups working together increase productivity in resolving conflict.  Facilitation allows participants to contribute and feel as if they are integral to the result and the team.  Innovation and problem solving skills are also built into the system of facilitation.

The benefits of facilitation derive from the core values inherent in the process as defined by Schwartz (2002) and Bens (2008).          Syrian refugees were not free and informed in making the choice to flee their homes.  Facilitation would provide the refugees with an opportunity to make free and informed choices in ensuring that hatred and anger does not result in retributive violence.  The information uncovered through the facilitation process allows for valid, personal information and insight to be uncovered and validated.  A third core value is that facilitation can create a strong internal commitment to the choices made in combating post-refugee violence.  It creates an arena of active listening in order to provide participants with the feeling that they are being heard, that their concerns are understood and appreciated.   This active listening corresponds to the concept of neutrality on content and giving and receiving feedback with an open mind.  You can openly test assumptions, it is easy to stay on track and it allows for the collection of ideas and the ability to summarize them completely.   The data from the research portion of this study can be implemented in the creation of these thematic ideas for greater understanding of the refugee experienced of hatred and anger.    It will also be essential to incorporate methods of intervention in situations of hate and anger as outlined by Sternberg (2008).  These methods will be outlined more significantly in the following pages.

As the facilitator I would begin with determining a neutral location for participants to meet, secure any needed translation services and prepare documents in both English and Arabic for use during the process.  Participants from the research portion of this study would be contacted to inquire into their interest in participating in this facilitation process once peace has been achieved in Syria and they have returned to their homeland.  Participants would also be invited to include family members within the same household if they wished in order to reach a wider population of refugees.  Ideally, members of society viewed as perpetrators of the violence that drove the refugees from their homes, would also be included though likely brought in at a later date, once the initial refugee group has come to a better understanding of their own experiences of hate and anger.

Initially, we would begin with the setting of ground rules and establish a code of conduct for the participants (Knutson) (Bens, 2008).     Typically during facilitation you address task issues first and social, emotional and political issues second, however due to the nature of the research topic it will be vital to address these issues first.  As facilitator I would acknowledge the highly emotional nature of the session and encourage participants to be open, willing to learn and willing to express those emotions.  I would lead the participants in determining time limits for session discussions, determining how to deal with interruptions, when and how breaks would occur and any other issues that need to be addressed at that time.

I would begin by introducing my research to the participants in its completed form and allow them to verbalize their opinions regarding my analysis and thematic discoveries.  This would allow me to not only validate the findings but also to validate the experiences of the participants.  Each participant would be invited to verbalize what they were experiencing now, in terms of anger and hatred regarding their experiences as refugees and any epiphanies they might have encountered during that period.  I would also allow them the opportunity to verbalize the level of hatred they currently felt toward those they viewed as responsible for their refugee experiences. Discussions must be allowed to surround the social and emotional issues experienced by the participants.  Breaks will be taken as necessary in order to encourage openness and allow for cooling off periods.  The facilitation will be closed with several questions and follow up opportunities.

The facilitation would be built on the following sample scenario.  Participants would begin by introducing themselves to the rest of the group.  I would also ask the participants what they would like to get out of the facilitation activities or what goals they would like to meet at the present moment.  As there is not one single, appropriate way to combat hate and anger I theorize that each participant will have fairly different goals in mind.  Some may want to come to terms with their own hate toward others without interaction with perpetrators; others may seek to confront those who they perceive as having harmed them.  These facilitation sessions will seek to assist in building tolerance and re-creating a culture of peace within a potentially violent return home.    After participant introductions we will determine which level of hate the participant is at as facilitated interventions will differ according to each level and break the participants into smaller, level associated groups if needed.

Once I have established the levels at which the group stands I will begin to ask “probing questions” in order to engage the facilitative process (Bens, 2008).   I would engage the participants by asking the following questions:

  1. How would you describe the current situation (i.e. your experience of hate or anger?)
  2. How do you feel about the current situation?
  3. Why do you think your hate or anger has not been resolved?
  4. Who wants to change the feelings or anger or hate?
  5. What or who is contributing to these feelings?
  6. If your anger or hate were completely resolved, what would that look like for you?
  7. What do you see as being the biggest barriers to resolving your hatred?
  8. What will help you succeed in forgiving those who harmed you?
  9. Are there any solutions that are taboo or unacceptable?
  10. What are the worst/best outcomes for forgiving those who harmed you?
  11. What is your level of commitment to moving forward?

As facilitator I would only offer if I have information that the group might not have considered or if a question fails to make an impression.  As each question is answered it would be vital to check the “Four P’s” regularly (Bens, 2008).  How is the group’s progress?  Do you feel we are moving along at a pace acceptable to you?  Is this process working?  Do we need to change anything in this process?  What is the group’s “pulse” as we move along?


I believe, in the case of Syrian refugees, that there will be a great need for multiple facilitation sessions as there are a great deal of issues that must be discussed openly for healing to occur and to facilitate the movement toward forgiveness and peace.  At the end of each session, it is vital that the group make a clear statement about any decisions that have been made.  Each participant would be asked to create a detailed action plan as to what they would like to achieve in terms of combating their own hate and anger including dates for these goals to me met.  An agenda would be created for the group based on these goals and preferences of the participants, including around up of items not discussed in the current session.   A means for follow-up would be created, likely written.  Transcriptions of any flowcharts would be made for the record.  At the end of each session it is essential to gain feedback from the participants in order to ensure their needs are being met in the session.  The closing of the session would reiterate what each participant was going to do and what they can do to help others in the room.

During the facilitation, dependent on participant responses and levels of hate, various steps can be taken to assist in the diminishing of prejudice and hatred toward perpetrators.  Several interventions can be built if participants are presenting with hatred based on negation of intimacy (Sternberg, 2008).  Facilitation allows participants to gain an awareness of their negative feelings toward the target group or persons.  By assisting participants in coming to an understanding of their own negative feelings toward the perpetrators they may discover that their feelings and behavior are inconsistent.  This dissonance creates an opportunity for participants to acknowledge the inconsistencies and actively attempt to reduce their level of prejudice toward the object of their anger and hate.  Facilitation can emphasize a common group identity and it allows people to engage in constructive inter-group/personal contact.    Sternberg (2008) refers to this process as recategorization, where group members make the group salient by coming to terms with differences yet finding mutual similarities.  In the case of Syrian refugees a facilitator may likely be able to find common ground through prayer, food or shared stories of loss during the war.  By facilitating positive inter-group contact you address the third component of negation of intimacy and begin to eliminate deeply held biases.

The second component of hate is passion (Sternberg, 2008) and facilitation can provide the foundation to ensure that this component is addressed.  Passion refers to intense feelings of anger and hate that usually arise from a threat.  “When one has been harmed, feelings of victimization stay with one for a long time and one experiences anger over the injustice. . . and may seek revenge” (Sternberg, 2008).  This specific component is the one that causes the most damage to peaceful resolution of conflict and must be addressed with the refugee population in order to ensure that violence does not enter a perpetual cycle.  Facilitation can lead a group to be able to forgive as they come to terms with the negative emotions they are experiencing.   Facilitation addresses the four phases of forgiveness as defined by Enright (1998).  First, facilitation allows the victim to uncover their emotions of anger and hate.  Second, the facilitation can assist the victim in deciding their hate is unhealthy.  Third, is work, in which the victim reframes the events in order to attempt understand what occurred and finally deepening in which facilitation can assist the victim in finding meaning in the offense and in the forgiveness of the perpetrator.  Forgiveness is an active process that can be addressed specifically during facilitation by incorporating questions for the group to answer regarding forgiveness.

  1. Tell the group about a time you had to be forgiven.  Tell the group about a time you decided to forgive someone.
  2. What was this process like for you at that time?
  3. Do you think you can recreate that process here, now with the perpetrators?
  4. What do you need to have happen in order to reach forgiveness?

It is vital to point out that forgiveness takes place in the heart and mind of the victim, while reconciliation depends on the repentance of the offender (Sternberg, 2008).  As such it will be important to ensure that perceived perpetrators are included in the facilitation process in order to assist them in coming to an awareness of the cause they harmed.

Facilitation may not be successful if the third component of hate, commitment, is deeply entrenched.  Commitment is the highly cognitive portion of hate (Sternberg, 2008).  If a victim is committed to their feelings of hate it can be incredibly difficult to persuade them to let go of their negative cognitions.  Sternberg (2008) stresses the importance of cognitive therapy in combating the third aspect and although some questions may be able to be addressed in facilitation this therapy is out of the scope of this study.    There are also numerous techniques mentioned by Sternberg (2008) that address all three components of hate that are currently being utilized in Rwanda, post-genocide to train for forgiveness and reconciliation.  It is therefore essential that facilitation take place before the entrenchment of commitment to hate within Syrian refugees.

Expected Contributions

This study will contribute to the current scholarship on the nature and role of hate in traumatized populations.  While there have been considerable amounts of theory produced  on the nature of hate I have found relatively little research conducted on the mechanism and experiences of hate that results in violence.  The findings of this study are potentially relevant not only to the Syrian refugee and academic communities but also the world writ large.  If I can gain a better understanding of the experiences of hate, why hate and anger toward another person or group forms, and the mechanism for expression of that hate I may be able to address the situations that lead to protracted violence.  I see this research as being vital in assisting bringing peace to the Holy Land and Northern Ireland, where deeply held hatred leads to regular violence.    I expect to share findings from this research at various conferences and in article or book contributions.


The hate and anger experienced by Syrian refugees is evident in various news interviews released daily by international publications (Gilbert, 2013) (Rudoren, 2013).  The lived experiences and expressions of hate and anger must be understood in order to be able to create methods in which conflict resolution professionals can assist communities in ending hate-based violence.    This study of the phenomenon of hatred and anger in Syrian refugees is vital to a greater understanding of the phenomenon.  History, in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, illustrate the vital importance of addressing issues of hate and anger so that atrocities and massacres do not continue to occur.  We must explore how hate and anger begin to percolate under the surface and how those experiences may drive us to extreme violence.  The literature on the theories of hatred provides a clear framework for analyzing the situation in Syrian refugee camps yet little significant and specific research has been completed in populations prior to outbreaks of true violence.  The findings of this study have the great potential to assist conflict resolution professionals in addressing these issues before they escalate to extreme violent acts of victims seeking revenge for past traumas.  This phenomenological study will contribute significantly to an understanding of hatred and anger.


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