Letters to the Editor
Preventing Terrorism
Psychiatric News
Volume 41 Number 6 page 42-42

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.

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