A huge part of DIS – and what attracted me to it – is experiential learning. This past week was “Core Course Week,” the week when my fellow Positive Psychology classmates and I explored applications of positive psychology in Gothenburg and Stockholm. Some of the professionals we engaged with included social workers in prison, a positive body image researcher, and a human geographer/ ethnographer studying the intersection of well-being and the built environment. What does a field study at DIS look like?
Imagine boarding the subway to meet up with a former neo-Nazi and current leader of Exit Sweden, a group helping violent extremists de-radicalize. Laying eyes on him, Robert Örell (check out his Ted talk!) looks like any ordinary Swede you’d pass by on your daily commute. He held his son’s hand, walking us up to his office where he made us coffee. The only indication that this meeting was out of the ordinary came when the conversation started.
How do people become radicalized to the point where they would be willing to commit unthinkable atrocities against fellow human beings? This was a question I had never genuinely entertained. Yet, acts of terror have become commonplace in today’s world. Listening to Robert’s clients’ stories of becoming radicalized reframed how I thought about the issue. Each story spoke to human needs of social inclusion, control, and security. I realized that thinking of these perpetrators of violence as any less than human for what they’ve done is using the same black and white mindset that created the violence in the first place.
Robert is a testament to the human capacity for change. Witnessing his turnaround makes me ask myself: am I willing to face my own pre-conceived notions about terrorists? Open-minded inquiry, like adversity, never leaves you where it finds you. While this just illustrates one example of the many opportunities DIS provides us with, every day I find myself inspired anew by an interaction or conversation. Very excited to see how the rest of the week unfolds as we turn the page to explore meditation and mindfulness as a class. It’s been a busy few days, so hejdå until next time!