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Suggestions for responding constructively when major crises or conflicts affect people we know - either in our own community or across the world.

When people we are connected to are affected by major conflicts or crises – across the world or close to home – we are impacted both personally and collectively.

Use these eight top tips to assist you with managing the impact and assisting others with this:

  1. Challenge stereotyping, narrow analyses of the problem, disaster or crisis, and blaming of whole groups for the actions of few.
  2. Be careful to separate angry thoughts and feelings about specific people who behave in cruel ways from the larger cultural or religious group to which those people may belong.
  3. Talk about how to treat others, and share values about what sort of a society you want to have.
  4. Promote understanding of people from different groups.
  5. Support ways that strengthen people’s cultural identities.
  6. Learn conflict resolution skills.
  7. Have open discussion about realities in society, and the ways in which some people who live in this country are treated. Hate and prejudice are not innate, but learned. No one deserves any acts of violence as a result of their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, culture, or other beliefs.
  8. Look for the helpers and the people doing kind or heroic things in response to the tragedy. Be a helper and doer: join the hive.
    See this publication from the Australian Psychological Society for more details.

Tragic optimism vs tragic positivity

‘Tragic optimism’ is a useful concept to add assist understanding of the impact tragedy can have on our everyday thoughts and feelings. In his book Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl described tragic optimism as “the ability to maintain hope and find meaning in life despite its inescapable pain, loss, and suffering”.

This is optimism in the face of “pain, guilt, and death,” Frankl said. It is “saying yes to life in spite of everything”. The “tragic optimist” believes we can make suffering meaningful, use guilt as motivation to improve ourselves, and interpret the “transitoriness” of life as a reason to find meaning in life. Tragic optimism encapsulates the profound belief that amidst the depths of tragedy we can still cultivate a life filled with happiness, contentment, and hope.

‘Toxic positivity’ is the belief that we should advocate for the denial of heartache and suffering. This approach compels us to pretend that heartache and suffering don’t exist. Instead, it proposes extreme avoidance or dismissal of any uncomfortable emotions that arise from life’s tragedies and challenges.

Tragic optimism, in contrast, uses heartache and suffering as tools for growth. It allows us to acknowledge the power of hope and recognise its potency, even amid deep sorrow and despair. Rather than avoiding negative emotions and adverse encounters, advocates of tragic optimism welcome them as opportunities for forging a more profound sense of significance and purpose.

Tragic optimism uses heartache and suffering as tools for growth. It allows us to acknowledge the power of hope and recognise its potency.

Services to assist

These services can all assist with developing tragic optimism:

  • Solicitors Outreach Service. This service offers access to three confidential consultations with experienced registered psychologists. The service has been outsourced, to maintain your privacy and confidentiality. Contact: PeopleSense on 1800 592 296
  • Mental Health First Aid training. This is is a comprehensive course to develop awareness and prevention. Register for the next training course.
  • Vicarious trauma and resilience programs also support your wellbeing and assist you with supporting others. Find out more at this link.
  • Reflective space small groups. This opportunity is coming soon from the Law Society’s Wellbeing team. Check at this link.
  • The Law Society’s Mentor/Mentee program. Call: 02 9926 0333