I would like to encourage APA, possibly through Psychiatric News,
to stimulate discussions about terrorism prevention. My understanding of this
complex problem is that it has many facets, but inevitably we hear about
damage to the developing self when we learn some of the histories associated
with those who subsequently engaged in terrorist behaviors. And as we know,
the damaged self tends to expand in terms of entitlement, grandiosity, and
disinhibition of violence.
Individuals who suffer from developmental damage but have an otherwise
healthy sense of self are not by any means restricted to those outside the
borders of the United States. In considering ways to prevent terrorism, two
things appear to be missing: First, there is a reluctance to look at the
possibility of self-terrorism, in the sense of internally based or
intranational origination. In fact, some terrible terroristic acts have
already happened "at home."
Second, if terrorism relates to developmental injuries to the growing self,
then we may be paying a price for overlooking some of the more obvious
narcissistic injuries in our culture: educational problems, inaccessible
medical health care, inadequate mental health care, and problems around
imbalanced distribution of wealth.
What can happen at home is just as dangerous—maybe more so—than
what can happen at the hands of a more distantly imagined"
terrorist." I believe that psychiatry has much to offer in this
area, but we need to focus more on prevention. It is unfortunate that people's
interests and motivation, particularly as manifested by budgets, fail at
prevention. It's as though we have to wait for a disaster that was predictable
before prediction is given its just credibility. Psychiatry can help us get
past various forms of epidemic denial. What psychiatry often finds is that the
person who gets looked at last, namely oneself, is really the person who
should have looked at oneself first.