IFS and Beyond Words

In anxiety, Dr. Dick Schwartz, IFS Workshop Photos and Collages, Internal Family Systems, Israeli Palestine Womens Peace, Mindfulness, Palestinian Women, Psychotherapy, Uncategorized on December 16, 2009 at 5:09 pm

Photo by Osnat Arbel from the Beyond Words IFS Level 1 Training

Many were touched at the Annual IFS Conference in Chicago this past October by Nitsan Gordon’s moving presentation of the work of Beyond Words. Based in Isreal, Beyond Words uses the IFS module as a tool in the effort to heal the wounds and the deep pains of women living in an active area of conflict.

The Beyond Words Newsletter:

People are like stained-glass windows.  They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.  ~Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

What is there to explain?

While sitting on the plane on my way to the United States from Israel , I watched the film Iron Jawed Angels. One scene touched me in particular. In it, Alice Paul, the leader of the National Woman’s Party, who was struggling to procure women’s right to vote in the United States between 1917 and 1920, is sent to a work camp along with many of her colleagues. The charge is “obstructing traffic” — they were standing in front of the White House with protest signs from morning till night during all seasons and in wartime. She is placed in solitary confinement and begins a hunger strike. After several days, she is sent to a psychiatrist who asks questions trying to prove that she is delusional or suicidal so they can lock her up in a psychiatric ward.

He asks her: “Can you explain, using your own words, this suffrage movement and what is it that you’re struggling for?”

There is a moment of silence. She is very pale and weak from hunger. Then she looks up at him and replies steadily: “You ask me to explain myself. I’m just wondering, what needs to be explained? It should be very clear. Look into your own heart—I swear to you, mine is no different. You want a place in trade and profession where you can earn your bread; so do I. You want the means of self-expression; so do I. You want to satisfy your own personal ambitions; so do I. You want a voice in the government in which you live; so do I. So what is there to explain?”

While women in the United States did get the right to vote in 1920 following this struggle, human rights violations against women worldwide have not ended and are actually on the rise. According to Amnesty International at least one out of every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. The human rights violations of women include forced child/underage marriages, female genital mutilation, sex trafficking, forced prostitution, honor killings, dowry-related violence, rape as a weapon of war, female infanticide, and enforced sterilization. (For more information see the book Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn)

So there is actually no need to explain why it is that we are seeking to empower women to create a change. The simple phrase “Look into your own heart—I swear to you, mine is no different” is more than enough an explanation. What may need explaining is how the empowerment of women is related to world peace.

We believe that women who reconnect with their inner strength have the potential to promote justice, peace and healing in our society. Their role in this transformation is crucial not only because they are the mothers and main caregivers and thus hold a key role in shaping the next generation but also because of their ability to work together, connect from the heart, nurture, inspire and unite to create change.

Recent scientific research has given a solid foundation to this claim. Studies have shown that women have the ability to bond with others, independent of political lines, more easily then men do. This tendency is due partially to the structure of women’s brains. The corpus callosum, the part of the brain connecting the right and left hemispheres, is larger in women than in men, allowing more integration when solving problems, and the amygdala, the part of the brain that can be wired for aggression and fear is larger in men.

Women also produce more oxytocin — commonly called the “bonding hormone” — in response to stress than men.  This hormone, combined with female reproductive hormones,  is known to “promote nurturing and relaxing emotions “. This is why in addition to the “freeze, fight or flight” response that men have when faced with a threatening or stressful circumstance, women have another built-in response called “tending and befriending.” This response involves nurturing those around them and befriending others (from a finding by researchers, including Shelly E. Taylor, PhD, a distinguished professor in the department of psychology at UCLA) .

Men, on the other hand, produce smaller amounts of oxytocin and higher levels of testosterone (a competition/aggression chemical), and thus “lean toward the tried and true fight or flight response when it comes to stress — either bottling it up and escaping, or fighting back.” It is important to note here that what we are talking about are tendencies, inclinations, not absolute divisions.

Another finding shows that within women’s brains, there are more active sensorial and emotive centers, and better linkage of these centers to language centers than within men’s brains. Concurrently within the male brain, the cerebellum, an action and movement center, tends to be larger than in the female brain. Thus men tend to communicate more nonverbally, with more emphasis on movement and physicality while women communicate better using words.  (http://www.genderleadership.com/leadership_and_sexes3.html)

Based on these findings it seems that women are born with built – in biological mechanisms that can be very useful in resolving conflict and building peace. These mechanisms include a strong tendency to use words rather than actions to solve problems, an ability to befriend and bond with others across political, religious and cultural lines, and an inclination to tend and nurture their families and communities.

It is self – evident that women will not be able to easily access these natural attributes if they are uneducated, have become a part of the oppressive social system, live in poverty and/or fear of violence against them and their children.   The Beyond Words Organization seeks to empower women so they can reclaim these qualities.

The first part of our approach, also called  Beyond Words, is designed to empower women emotionally so they can work through their fears and reconnect with their inner strength — their voice — and learn to use their emotional intelligence and  their verbal, bonding, tending and befriending abilities to promote social change and peace-building. The second part of our approach, called Accelerating Women Entrepreneurs (AWE), is designed to empower women economically so they will have the financial means to spread this transformative work within their families, communities and countries.

Imagine empowered, economically independent women all over the world who have re-claimed their ability to tend, nurture, bond, befriend and solve problems, using words as a means to ending conflicts and creating the necessary foundation for living in harmony.  Maybe this is what John Lennon had in mind when he wrote: “Imagine all the people living life in Peace”?

— Nitsan

Good News Projects

Our projects for 2010:

1. Women in the Center – is our center for the empowerment of Arab and Jewish women and peace-building in the city of Nazareth . Courses at the center include: Core Energetics www.annbradney.com , IFS www.selfleadership.org and Beyond Words training for facilitators www.beyondwords.org.il , financial empowerment training for women entrepreneurs www.acceleratingwomen.org , support groups for parents, leaders’ training for social activists and other courses that nurture and empower women. Approximately 400 women will be participating in the courses and trainings this year.

2.  Healing and Wellness in the Kindergartens of Diverse Cities —Akko and Nazareth – The goal of this program is to teach kindergarten teachers simple listening, dialogue,  and conflict resolution tools as well as well being educational practices which they could then convey to the children in the kindergartens and the children’s parents. We believe that transforming the current rift between Jews and Arabs within the cities should start both at a young age and include interventions that will affect both the children and their parents. Thus this project will be an integral part in a comprehensive effort to change the social climate within the cities. Participants this year – 30 -50   teachers.

3. Joint Ventures for Peace with NISPED and the Shorouq Society for Women – a program for Jewish and Palestinian women entrepreneurs which includes empowering Palestinian and Israeli women to work for peace and building economical partnerships across borders. Some of the members of this group will travel to  Esalen in 2011.  Participants this year –30 entrepreneurs.

4. Research about the effectiveness of the Beyond Words approach, IFS and other approaches we use. The research will be designed to test whether these models are effective in empowering women, and increasing understanding of and empathy towards those who are different from us.

5. Publications –Completing and publishing of a 50 page manual for facilitators. Completing and publishing our book about the BW unique approach for healing and conflict transformation, and stories of the women, for the general public.

6. Retreats and trainings — for ambassadors of the BW model in the USA in collaboration with Ann Bradney and Dick Schwartz

8. Women weaving peace – basket weaving and emotional awareness workshops for women throughout the Galilee .

Special Thanks

To  Phyllis Blees and the AWE team in Austin Texas, Betsy, Karen and Laura from the Krieger Fund , Dick Schwartz and the IFS community, Paula D’Arcy and the Red Bird Foundation, Ann Bradney, Jerry Giles, The Omega Institute, The Esalen Institute and all of our Friends of Beyond Words for the wonderful love and support

More Information

To join this group and become a friend of Beyond Words in the USA and to find out more about our work and how to support us visit us at:


Nitsan Gordon – Giles MA, Director
The Beyond Words Organization


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