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Balkans Aftermath:
The post-war transition - denial, crisis & world peace

Dai Williams, 9 August 1999

  1. The post-war transition
  2. Initial shock: first responses to trauma and war
  3. Provisional adjustment: euphoria, disbelief and denial
  4. Doubts and inner contradictions
  5. The post-war transition crisis
  6. Recovery and enlightenment
  7. Downside risk: multiple transitions and extended crisis
  8. Transition support and recovery programmes
  9. International recovery and the Millennium
  10. Footnote: consultation and action
    & International trauma support links


The events and traumas of the Balkans war will have started a post-war transition period for individuals in many countries. This psychological aftermath could cause increasing social and political hazards in the next 4 months but also opportunities for healing and recovery. The effects on refugees and civilians have crucial implications for reconstruction in the Balkans region. But this transition is also likely to affect many military personnel, aid workers, media teams and politicians.

The war may have had traumatic effects on senior politicians in the UK, USA and other Nato countries, as well as those in the Balkans and Russia. If this has happened then political leaders and parties in several countries may enter periods of crisis between September and November 1999. The severe stress involved leads to errors of judgement and could jeopardise international relations. But successful transitions can liberate new insights, energy and optimism that offer a narrow window of opportunity for international peace initiatives before the Millennium.

[Note for web edition, July 2000: This paper was drafted for government, media, aid workers and peace groups. It warned of a potential post-war crisis period in several countries for individuals, communities and governments. It also suggested positive opportunities in the later recovery period. 12 months later these forecasts can be tested against actual events in the Balkans, Russia and Nato countries. These will be reviewed in a separate paper. Comments and alternative analysis are welcome on the Eos Forum ].

1. The post-war transition

The transition process appears to be a fundamental human survival mechanism, the mind's way of making sense of major life events and adapting to change.(1) Trauma and change can disrupt our beliefs, identity and how we understand the world. This creates deep inner conflicts that have to be recognised and resolved.

Awareness of the transition process can enable individuals to work through it with more confidence, and help employers, families and aid teams to give more support during the crisis phase. People grow through their changes and even traumatic transitions can become turning points in people's lives. But severe traumas can cause Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that needs specialist therapy.(2)

Figure 1 shows typical stages of transition and approximate timings applied to the Balkans war. Initial reactions differ for victims, aggressors and others. But after 3-4 months similar reactions and varying outcomes follow most major changes, good or bad.(3)

Figure 1: Psychological stages of "transition" from the start of the Balkans war in 1999
Crisis and recovery scenarios forecast on 1 August 99

{Graph: stages of transition from Balkans war to Jan 2000}

2. Initial shock: first responses to trauma and war

The main aim of this paper is to anticipate the psychological aftermath of the Balkans war over the next 6 months. But to do this we need to be aware of the initial stages of this transition. Everyone involved in the war - whether they caused, suffered or responded to Serb ethnic cleansing and Nato air attacks - will have experienced some level of shock or trauma with predictable psychological effects.

Anxiety, anger and fear from local atrocities were growing for months before Nato started air attacks on Serbia at the end of March. Then local traumas within Kosova became part of an international trauma affecting all the Balkan states, Nato countries and Russia - the largest military conflict in Europe since World War 2.

War is an age-old human experience. Psychological coping mechanisms have evolved to enable individuals to survive trauma and change. Violence, or the threat of violence, creates anger or fear and triggers the fight or flight response.(4) During the first shock of war adrenaline enables individuals to cope with immediate survival tasks. This stimulates physical and mental responses to immediate situations, accelerates learning and numbs normal emotions. Adrenaline is exciting and sharpens reactions for fit, trained people but causes confusion and panic for others.

Individual responses to danger differ sharply. If there is a prospect of winning the fight reaction is triggered and aggression increases. At extreme levels the fight reaction, combined with group conformity, enables individuals to commit torture, murder and other atrocities without guilt - literally "fighting mad". [see Fear and violence in stressed populations].This is crucial to understanding atrocities in the Balkans and elsewhere like Rwanda and Sierra Leone. In a more controlled form it may also be a factor for political and military leaders who command lethal action - a drastic shift from normal behaviour.

If an individual is powerless to respond to danger the flight reaction is triggered. For communities in fear whole groups abandon their homes and become refugees - the aim of ethnic cleansing. Individuals who suffered or witnessed atrocities would be most severely traumatised. They would be likely to suffer PTSD unless they received specialist trauma counselling - ideally within a few days.

Levels of stress and fear were already dangerously high in parts of the Balkans due to Serb ethnic cleansing. Nato air attacks inevitably raised them further, increasing the likelihood of extreme fight or flight reactions. Without the personal threat of ground attacks these were likely to create more anger than fear for Serb troops, unwittingly accelerating the rate of atrocities. Fear of these atrocities plus the bombing accelerated the flight of refugees. This may account for the astonishing scale and speed of the refugee exodus. 750,000 people left Kosova in 3 weeks, far more than Milosevic could have planned. These unintended psychological effects of Nato's air attack strategy need extensive analysis and debate.(5)

The fight or flight reaction is a response to stressful situations. But this is only the first stage of a more fundamental psychological task - the period of transition required to come to terms with a major trauma or life change. This process is seldom recognised outside the fields of bereavement and career counselling where it has been used for nearly 30 years.(6),(7) Transition theory has been applied to organisation change for over 10 years.(8),(9) Its application to trauma and change in political organisations and communities is more recent (10) but offers one approach to forecasting the potential psychological aftermath of the Balkans war over coming months.

3. Provisional adjustment: euphoria, disbelief and denial

After initial shock or excitement individuals make a provisional adjustment to the new situation. They cope with immediate tasks, often very resourcefully. This gives the illusion of having adjusted to the change. But in this second stage of transition the mind suppresses the deeper implications of the trauma or change for several months in optimism or denial. In war this reinforces group identity and patriotism.

Many politicians, troops and civilians would have entered this phase after the first few days of the conflict. It usually lasts 3-4 months ie from April to July.

The Balkans conflict was relatively quick. The ending of air attacks on 10th June was an immense relief to most people in the Balkans and Nato countries - a cathartic release from weeks of severe stress and accumulated fatigue. The prospect of peace was likely to cause a combination of euphoria and disbelief. Would the cease-fire hold? It has done with Serb forces but incidents are increasing in Kosova.

The immediate aftermath of the war obviously varies between winners and losers. But the war itself was a trauma to both sides with radical swings for civilians between confidence and hopelessness. Kosovan refugees who faced despair three months ago are now returning to greater freedom, but also to chaos and grief. Serb civilians and troops that previously supported Milosevic's regime now face guilt and economic collapse. Many Serb civilians from Kosova are now becoming a new cohort of refugees. Psychologically everyone whose life or work was deeply affected by the war faces the task of adjusting to its aftermath.

The cease-fire may have started another transition pattern for many people in the Balkans. This may have extended the post-war transition period but could not cancel out the psychological disruption already begun. This may postpone the crisis period by 2-3 months for Kosovans and Nato forces, but exacerbate it for Serbs.

Many negative consequences of the war on civilians and the environment are still being minimised by governments. This denial phase for governments began during the war and has continued over recent weeks. Examples include:

  1. The Serb government refused to acknowledge responsibility for ethnic cleansing atrocities and tried to minimise concern for the economic and environmental effects of the war by heavy media censorship.
  2. The UK Government refused to hold a public enquiry into the conduct of the Balkans war including the possibility that Nato strategy may have increased the level of atrocities and scale of refugee problems. But ministers will not be able to avoid growing inner doubts about their roles and decisions, and may face growing public censure.
  3. The US Government continues to deny the hazards of using Depleted Uranium weapons and refuses to disclose DU combat locations that jeopardise the health of civilians, aid workers and troops. This also represents a continuing denial of potential guilt for health effects of DU on troops and civilians in the Gulf war.
  4. Nato governments still refuse to acknowledge the dire consequences of the war on civilians in Serbia. This is a humanitarian, not political issue. As in Iraq the civilian population of Serbia have been dehumanised and scapegoated for the actions of a military regime over which they have minimal influence. Lack of prompt aid may contribute to thousands more deaths in the coming winter.

This second phase of transition enables individuals to get on with immediate tasks. In the Balkans this involved adjusting to the war itself, and then to reconstruction. Even for victims this phase gives some psychological energy to work on practical issues eg refugees finding temporary shelter and then returning home, and Serbs repairing essential infrastructure eg bridges.

Politicians put energy into setting up new power structures to consolidate the peace. The military set about replacing munitions and use the opportunity to ask for more. But the positive energy of this phase is unlikely to last because of the denial it involves. People cannot suppress deeper psychological issues indefinitely.

4. Doubts and inner contradictions

During the second three months of a transition individuals begin to experience doubts and inner contradictions. Some deeply held beliefs or basic assumptions about oneself or the world have been violated by events. These conflicts become evident in growing confusion, disillusionment, stress and loss of perspective. Issues will differ between people and countries but the psychological effects will be similar.

Individual anxiety and depression also affects interpersonal relationships - increasing stress and tension in families and communities. Family members may also have been traumatised by concern for relatives involved in the war and be working through their own transition. Morale deteriorates in communities and organisations and conflicts may increase. People appear to be unreasonable to others because the reasons for their distress are not obvious - even to themselves.

In Kosova physical help with reconstruction cannot offset the delayed emotional reaction to grief for lost relatives and friends. Gratitude for Nato's liberation may be offset with concern for the scale of destruction that occurred and the lingering menace of cluster bombs and DU contamination as well as Serb landmines. Growing resentment may cause a new wave of incidents from the KLA including the recent attacks on Serb and gypsy communities.

In Serbia defeat and global news may lead people to begin to acknowledge the atrocities committed in their name and the catastrophic consequences of Milosevic's war with Nato. Some protests have already begun. These are likely to increase during the second three months (July-September) as the Serb population begin to realise the full consequences of their loyalty to his regime.

In Russia there may be new recriminations for not standing up to Nato more robustly. This may stir greater concern for their loss of global influence since the break up of the Soviet Union.

In Nato countries conviction that the air war strategy was right may weaken as their full effects become obvious, including their contribution to the scale of atrocities and refugee problems. Opposition parties may become more active. Faith in military technology as the ultimate solution to resolve community conflicts may come into question.

In the United Nations other countries may resent excessive US influence and UK support for US strategies. This may be important as governments come under local pressure. This may cause a crisis within the UN as an organisation.

During this phase governments - both in Serbia and Nato - may put greater pressure on the media and investigation teams to minimise the effects of the war. But they cannot reverse a psychological process that began for individuals months earlier.

Media reactions will be interesting over the next 6 months. Since the Gulf War satellite communications have provided faster news coverage. During the Balkans war the Internet created far greater public participation in news gathering and campaigning. Consequently the international media were more vocal in dissent during the Balkans conflict than in previous wars.

The post-war transition is likely to affect media teams and editors in the Balkans and their home countries. There is a risk of PTSD (2) for field crews and the possibility of transition effects for others as well. This may result in distress for some individuals who will need understanding and support. It may also cause a temporary increase in stress levels within media organisations (usually fairly high). But the new insights that emerge may lead to interesting developments in relations between media organisations and governments, or perhaps an international media campaign on global issues arising from the war eg the roles of Nato and the UN.


The cease fire and summer vacations may give many people time for reflection and to recover from the strain and exhaustion of three months of war. For some this may help them to explore and resolve some of their potential inner conflicts. For many it may only serve to realise the extent of their loss or guilt. People vary in how they cope. Religious beliefs and personal circumstances (see 8 below) can be important.

Time for reflection may enable politicians and media analysts to assess initial consequences of the war and whatever new reality is emerging in international relations. They may develop a wider, wiser perspective on recent events and rethink their implications for the future of their governments, foreign policies and the UN.

But for people in the Balkans region this phase is likely to be a period of increasing psychological distress, exacerbating anxiety about the real physical threats of the coming winter. Governments and aid organisations need to act urgently on both these issues. There is a serious danger that action on obvious physical problems will divert attention from a potential psychological and mental health crisis - a major public health issue. This is likely to affect neighbouring countries that hosted refugees as well as Kosova and Serbia, and could destabilise the political situation in the region again.

5. The post-war transition crisis

Eventually these inner conflicts are likely to surface in a personal transition crisis. This 'dark night of the soul' typically occurs 5-6 months after the trauma or change began. For Kosovan refugees and Nato leaders this stage of the process may be delayed by 2 months because the cease-fire and return home created a temporary compensating life event. But the transition cycle started by initial events is likely to take its course for losers and winners.

In this crisis phase people may become deeply distressed. Some may quit jobs, relationships or life itself. Others may be aggressive. This has major implications for mental health, family life and paramilitary action in the Balkans. Similar hazards may apply to staff and families in Nato forces, governments and aid organisations.

During a transition crisis there is a risk of individuals making serious errors of judgement or behaving dangerously (moments of madness). In governments politicians may resign (La Fontaine quit the German government without notice just under 6 months after their election). Others may become depressed or aggressive, projecting their inner angst onto scapegoats elsewhere. If this affects national leaders they may start conflicts elsewhere. President Clinton and Tony Blair were both under severe pressure when they proposed attacks on Iraq in January 1998, attacked Sudan/Afghanistan in August and Iraq in November 1998.

When whole groups eg cabinets become highly stressed this often emerges in scapegoating weaker members. This may affect governments and military forces. Today President Yeltsin dismissed his latest Prime Minister - after 3 months in post and just under 5 months after the war started. This may be the tip of an iceberg.

The tensions of the transition crisis period could be a crucial factor in the collapse of Milosevic's regime. Unrest would need to develop on a larger scale for ordinary people to disrupt a powerful regime. So this is more likely in mid-autumn if a collective transition crisis develops in Serbia.

The post-war transition crisis phase could have serious implications for international relations. The Russian government was deeply humiliated by the Balkans conflict. China was affected. Nato countries were affected too, particularly Italy and Greece. By mid-autumn tensions in many countries, combined with the personal traumas of national leaders, could lead to another international conflict. This is more likely to be due to psychological crises and strategic errors than political or economic factors.11 It is essential that national leaders should be held more accountable by their governments, the UN and the media during this vulnerable period.

6. Recovery and enlightenment

Despite the hazards of the crisis period transitions provide the gateway to a new era for individuals and communities. The transition process seems to be an ancient survival mechanism that enables individuals to adapt to major life changes and traumas. This process serves its maximum evolutionary purpose after wars. The psychological loosening up of the crisis phase is necessary to enable individuals to let go of obsolete attitudes or beliefs in order to adapt to their new reality.

The natural transition process can move from crisis to recovery within a few weeks. Many individuals in politics, religious organisations, the military and media may come up with radical re-assessments of their personal life mission and professional or political direction. For individuals this may provide new insights and enlightenment better suited to shape the new life phase that follows a major trauma or life change. For communities and societies the collective insights of many key individuals may shape a new era eg after World War 2. In the Balkans this recovery phase may be crucial to build new optimism for reconstruction, provided there is real help from other countries.

Those people who can face and resolve their inner conflicts, eg between old loyalties and personal integrity, can break out of crisis into the recovery phase within a few weeks. This may happen in defining moments (10) where individuals make bold decisions to change their life or beliefs. Groups in recovery tackle problems more creatively with greater co-operation and experience a major boost in morale.

This recovery process could be seen in the UK Cabinet after its post-election transition crisis (from December 97 to February 98). Several ministers took bold initiatives, some putting their careers on the line eg Mo Mowlam's visit to The Maze prison that opened up Irish peace talks. Within weeks (February - March 1998) harmony was restored and the next two months saw a successful budget and the peace breakthrough in Northern Ireland.(3)

Some military strategists and leaders may also breakthrough from psychological crisis to recovery. They may also experience defining moments when they put their careers on the line for their new vision of the future. Hawks may become Doves eg generals who become mediators. Doves may gain the courage and vision of eagles eg Nelson Mandela.

These signs of recovery are easy to recognise - seen in radical new initiatives or life choices by individuals. The media are quick to recognise signs of crisis for public figures. So their defining moments are equally obvious and may get rapid acknowledgement. These people are potential social catalysts, inspiring others to make radical changes too. They may become new or rejuvenated political and community leaders.

However new insights can be hazardous if they are expressed too soon ie before others still in crisis are ready to accept the need for fundamental change. These people need recognition and encouragement. In the Balkans they will be crucial to rebuilding hope and morale through the winter. In Nato governments they may be new influences in peace initiatives, military strategy and international relations.

Unfortunately the individual defining moments of ordinary people that signal recovery in a distressed community are easily overlooked by politicians and media - eg the marriage this spring of a couple seriously injured in the Omagh bomb last August or the Omagh Council's invitation to host Kosovan refugees. It is the mass of these personal transitions that is essential to the transformation of a society to peace. So after conflict recovery has to be nurtured and recognised at all levels of society. The international media could play a major role in identifying this trend in the Balkans, especially while local media are still censored in Serbia.

7. Downside risk: multiple transitions and extended crisis

Most individuals work through transitions to recovery within 6 - 9 months. But this may take longer after major traumas, or for individuals and organisations that are coping with multiple transitions. Refugees and war victims have had their lives totally disrupted requiring adjustment to health, wealth, grief, relationships and identity.

The greatest hazard is for people unable to recognise or resolve their inner conflicts, or who do not have sufficient resources to cope with their new situation. These may remain stuck in an extended crisis. It is normal to experience a brief period of depression during a transition crisis. This is not a mental illness. But an extended crisis can last for months or years leading to serious mental health problems like nervous collapse or clinical depression, and social problems like crime and divorce.

If they do not have sufficient resources and encouragement whole societies may lapse into extended crisis and hopelessness after war or disaster eg after famines in Africa or Eastern Europe under Stalin.

For civilian populations in the Balkans a mass extended transition crisis would result in widespread hopelessness, especially in Serbia and the refugee host countries whose may receive less aid than Kosova. This could seriously impede their fitness and motivation to cope with the physical problems of reconstruction and the winter. This psychological despair may compound the obvious physical problems they face in the coming winter. Refugees relocated overseas may have lost family and community support. They also need help to avoid an extended crisis.

Political leaders in extended crisis from personal or political traumas can get into serious difficulties.(3) Some may become exhausted eg the Norwegian Prime Minister who wisely took 4 weeks off to recover from depression in September 1998. Others may become more aggressive projecting their personal angst onto political opponents (eg the Malaysian Prime Minister after economic collapse) or onto other countries in military action (eg President Clinton during the Lewinsky affair). Some may become more intransigent holding on to old military or diplomatic stances no longer appropriate to the new reality, carrying old grudges as unfinished business (eg Milosevic). [See also Professor Freeman's analysis of mental health issues for national leaders in 1991(11)].

8. Transition support and recovery programmes

Ideally transition support starts from the time of the first trauma or change. But it can be effectively offered at any stage of the process. Transition awareness is best understood from one's own life experiences. On average most adults experience 10-20 major life events which cause transitions. It takes less than an hour to map past transitions and compare them with the theory. Most individuals can then understand the process, ways of coping with each stage and of understanding and supporting others in transition. Most important is the hope of realising that recovery is possible even after traumatic loss or change - that grief can lead to inspiration.

The transition process appears to be a natural coping cycle. In normal times most people work through their transitions successfully without being aware of how they are doing it. But two key factors enable optimum recovery: economic security and emotional support.(12)

The need for basic economic security (accommodation, food, clothing, medical facilities and employment) is a prime objective of aid and reconstruction programmes. It is essential that most of these are in place within the next 2 months to stabilise the post-war transition crisis period as well as to survive the winter. Nato's delay in recognising this need in Serbia as well as Kosovo may help to destabilise Milosevic's regime politically. But it jeopardises the psychological as well as physical health of the Serb nation. This need is equally important in neighbouring countries disrupted by the refugee crisis.

The need for emotional support could be a major problem for displaced or otherwise traumatised individuals and families. In traditional societies there is often considerable support through religious practices, rites of passage and extended families. But when a whole community or society is traumatised many people may be in crisis at the same time, with less emotional energy to support each other. This may leave vast numbers in extended crisis for months or years, and hence even more vulnerable to the dangers of the winter.

Individuals can recover spontaneously from a period of extended crisis when some new life event occurs later eg a new job, birth of a child or a new home.(12) Individuals and communities in extended crisis need practical support and new opportunities to make such changes possible.

But after the Balkans war thousands of people will be suffering severe trauma and the whole population may be in transition or extended crisis. Many will need professional counselling or therapy to help them come to terms with their trauma or loss. Trauma therapy on a national scale is not feasible. However transition awareness could be communicated quickly through public education programmes to compliment religious and social traditions for coping with grief and loss. (13)

Aid programmes can help communities to break out of extended crises by offering new opportunities eg new employment, schools or hospitals. Symbols of optimism and achievement can also provide a great boost to community morale eg sporting and cultural achievements.

New sports and cultural facilities could make important contributions to the psychological recovery of traumatised communities. Other countries could make special efforts to invite Balkan competitors and performers to participate in international events this year and next.

Refugees who have relocated overseas may be economically more secure but may have less emotional support than those still in the Balkans. Similar needs for emotional support during the crisis phase will apply to people from other countries who have been directly affected by the war eg troops, aid and media workers.

One method of providing transition support outside the Balkans region will be self-help groups (13) , or Balkans war support groups, like those started for returning hostages from Kuwait after the Gulf War. But these groups should be planned to last at least one year to bridge the full transition crisis and recovery periods. These groups could draw on professional counselling resources. Sadly the Kuwait hostage support group was closed down shortly before the first suicide occurred, 6 months after he was released.

9. International recovery and the Millennium

The Balkans war put a major strain on East ~ West international relations. Reports in May suggested it had re-started the Cold War in Russia. These tensions are likely to increase in the autumn as individual leaders and their governments go through their post-war transition crises.

There are several threats to world peace in the next 6 months including:

1. The danger of individual world leaders or governments starting new political conflicts during the post-war transition crisis period, possibly in October or November eg local conflicts in the Balkans or increased US attacks on Iraq.

2. The possibility of moderate to severe economic disruption in many countries from January onwards due to Millennium bug problems.

3. The possibility of terrorist organisations taking advantage of unstable political or economic conditions in the autumn or New Year.

The Balkans war may have been a fatal distraction in a number of countries. It occurred just when governments needed to put maximum priority on Millennium contingency planning. The post-war transition crisis may create further diversions from Millennium preparations.

World peace may soon depend on the courage of individuals in governments, religion, the media and society that speak out for new global peace initiatives in the aftermath of the Balkans war. These may be needed to stabilise tensions in the autumn, and even more so if there is serious economic disruption in the New Year.

The recovery phase of the post-war transition may give a narrow window of opportunity for Balkan and world peace talks in the late autumn. The rejection of the Milosevic regime opens the path to transforming ethnic relations in the Balkans. Political shifts in other countries may lead new initiatives on the future role of Nato, to repair relations with Russia and China in case of nuclear accidents in the New Year and to global re-affirmation or redefinition of the role of the UN.

These issues may start the Millennium peace debate. It has to get underway fast - before the Millennium transition starts in January. But people can recover in weeks from transition crises that take months to develop. Some in key public roles will be the catalysts needed to stabilise world events next year, architects of the new era.

The Balkans war showed the futility of using the most advanced military technology to resolve endemic ethnic conflicts. Military force may contain military dictatorships but has failed to displace them in Iraq, Serbia or many other conflicts since World War 2. Nato's air war strategy appears to have exacerbated not reduced atrocities and ethnic cleansing at immense social and economic cost to the region. A fraction of this cost would have transformed the Balkans economy and society with less grief. Why is making peace left to charity while making war is a highly profitable industry?

Top Pentagon officials highlighted this issue on 20 July. They complained that: "the United Nations is lagging in setting up a police force and civil administration in Kosovo, putting added strain on US and other NATO peacekeeping troops in the Serbian province" (Washington Post 21/7/99). One response to this need would be to develop a new international peace force to work pro-actively in regions suffering ethnic or religious tensions, as well as providing social reconstruction programmes after conflicts.

Investment in such a resource could take equal priority with Nato plans for increased military resources. It would use the new peace technologies like conflict resolution, community development and social justice that harness human potential for growth instead of violence. They are emerging in countries like Northern Ireland, South Africa and the Philippines. National peace resources could enhance traditional policing and be available for international projects (eg the RUC team going to the Balkans).

Radically different solutions like these are needed to ensure world peace in the new Millennium. New insights from the post-war transition and recovery may start a psychological sea change in many countries needed to construct this new era.

But if the post-war transition is not recognised and harnessed recovery will take far longer. Another humanitarian disaster will develop in the Balkans through the winter. And the world may enter a very uncertain Millennium with many unstable governments and the imminent prospect of a new Cold War.

The challenge to Nato leaders in the next 5 months will be to put as much energy and resources into world peace as they put into the Balkans war over the last 5 months. Their aim must be to avert any new conflict in the next 18 months. The challenge to many world leaders and UN officials will be to work through the post-war transition in their own lives, manage its hazards and then harness its opportunities for their countries and world peace.

Dai Williams
Chartered Occupational Psychologist
9 August 1999

Footnote: consultation and action

The concept of transitions used here is based on Hopson's model 6 combined with analysis of life and career transitions for some 500 people over the last 12 years. The application of transitions to political organisations and communities is based on events in the UK and other countries during the last two years.

The possibility of a post-war transition affecting people and governments involved in the Balkans conflict needs discussion with other specialists in transition and analysts from other disciplines. Transition is only one aspect of post-war reconstruction. The key test is whether it makes sense to people with detailed knowledge of the Balkans or practical experience of other post-war environments eg medical and community workers, religious and aid organisations, troops or police in peacekeeping roles, peaceworkers, diplomats and historians. [Comments welcome on the Eos Forum].

Trauma programmes will already be part of aid work for PTSD victims in the Balkans. But the wider hazards and opportunities of the transition process are not always recognised in PTSD or public health programmes. Transition awareness programmes can be developed quickly from a number of sources. But application to community programmes in the Balkans would need to be integrated with local faiths, traditions and healing resources to be most effective.

Update April 2004: International trauma support resources have developed in many countries see Eos contact list at http://www.eoslifework.co.uk/profnet.htm#traumasupp.


1. Williams D. Human responses to change. Futures 31 (Aug 1999) 609-616 Elsevier
2. Scott MJ & Stradling SG. Counselling for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Sage 1992
3. Williams D. Parliament in transition - effects of the 1997 UK election landslide. BPS Occupational Psychology Conference Proceedings, 1999
4. Goleman DP Emotional Intelligence. Bantam 1997
5. Williams D. Rising global tension: stress, violence and peace in the Balkans, and Appendix Fear and violence in stressed populations April 1999
6. Hopson & Adams. Transition: understanding and managing personal change. 1976
7. Sugarman L. Lifespan Development. Methuen. 1986
8. Nicholson N and West MA. Managerial Job Change: Men and Women in Transition. Cambridge 1988
9. Herriot P, Hirsh W and Reilly P. Trust and Transition. Wiley. 1997
10. Williams D. Parliament in transition - Honeymoon Crisis and Recovery. Eos. 1997
11. Freeman H The human brain and political behaviour. Brit. J. Psychiatry, 159. 1991
12. Williams D. Life events and career change: transition psychology in practice. 1998
13. Schlossberg, Waters & Goodman. Counselling adults in transition. Springer 1995

© Eos Career Services 1999
This paper may be copied for discussion, non-profit making organisations and research purposes provided Eos copyright is acknowledged. Eos copyright is reserved and no part may be used for commercial purposes or publication without prior agreement from the author.

Your comments on these issues are welcome on the Eos Life-Work Forum or Email Dai Williams at eosuk@btinternet.com

Links updated 6 April 2004

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