Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry - News&Viewpoints


Published in the New York Times
November 13, 2001

A New Way of Thinking

To the Editor:

In his speech on Nov. 8, President Bush said, "The moment the second plane hit the second building, when we knew it was a terrorist attack, many felt that our lives would never be the same" (front page, Nov. 9). 

Indeed, these events have disrupted our illusion of national safety. Our unrealistic belief that terrorism could not happen here has been replaced by anxiety that homicidal terrorist attacks could happen to anyone, any time, anywhere.

Returning to the way things were is no longer an option. We need a new mental framework to reconcile the president's advice to be more alert yet simultaneously live a normal life. 

Our committee of psychiatrists believes that the challenge is to forge a national and personal reality that acknowledges the threat of terrorism without becoming paralyzed or overreacting. 

This is a process. We must recognize and accept our vulnerability while transforming anxiety into attentiveness, and helplessness into effective activity. Adaptation will require developing a new national self- image, less simplistic, less grandiose, but better suited to a changed world.

Committee on Psychopathology
Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry
White Plains, Nov. 10, 2001