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Sklarew, B. (2002). Reflections on September 11th and its Aftermath. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Stud., 4(4):469-472.

(2002). Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 4(4):469-472

Reflections on September 11th and its Aftermath

Bruce Sklarew, M.D.

Summary of discussion drop-in sessions at the May 17, 2002 meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association (cochaired by Richard Fox, M.D., former President of the American Psychoanalytic Association, and Stuart W. Twemlow M.D., Chairman of the Committee on Psychoanalysis in the Community) with additional commentary.

Effects of September 11

Since September 11, denial about our safety has been shattered, leading many to experience an ongoing sense of helplessness, humiliation, anger, fear, and grief. The removal of our defense of invulnerability has left us with a sense of how small we really are. Some people report an exacerbated fear of flying because of their sense of helplessness on a plane, and prefer the illusion of being in control while driving. Others attempt to magically avoid disaster by avoiding crowds, bridges, or tunnels. In a letter to the editor of the New York Times, “Pain Found to Linger in Young Minds,” Mark D. Smaller, Cochairman of the Committee on Public Information, wrote: “I have adult and child patients who still refuse to fly and have nightmares and anxiety related to Sept. 11—and that is with continuing psychotherapy or analysis. It is unfortunate and shortsighted that health care insurers imagine that such symptoms can be resolved in 5 or 10 visits. Incomplete therapeutic work on symptoms related to childhood trauma creates longstanding problems in learning, relationships, and work. Today's traumatized child is tomorrow's depressed, phobic, or isolated adult.”

In another communication, Maxine B. Rosenberg noticed that adopted children are particularly traumatized by the events of September 11. Not knowing the whereabouts or safety of their adopted parents rekindles early intense feelings of loss and abandonment, including worry about the loss of their birth parents. Clearly, many people beginning psychotherapy for the first time tap into traumas from their past.

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