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Thomas, N.K. (2017). Gaslighting, Betrayal and the Boogeyman: Personal Reflections on the American Psychological Association, PENS and the Involvement of Psychologists in Torture. Int. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Stud., 14(2):125-132.

(2017). International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 14(2):125-132

Gaslighting, Betrayal and the Boogeyman: Personal Reflections on the American Psychological Association, PENS and the Involvement of Psychologists in Torture

Nina K. Thomas, Ph.D., ABPP, FAPA, CGP

The American Psychological Association's (APA's) sanctioning psychologists' involvement in “enhanced interrogations,” aka torture, authorized by the closely parsed re-interpretation of relevant law by the Bush administration, has roiled the association since it appointed a task force in 2005. The Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS) task force, its composition, methods and outcomes have brought public shame to the profession, the association and its members. Having served on the task force and been involved in the aftermath, I offer reflections on my role to provide an insider's look at the struggle I experienced over loyalty to principle, profession, colleagues, and the association. Situating what occurred in the course of the PENS process and its aftermath within the framework of Freyd's and her collaborators ‘theory of “betrayal trauma,” in particular “institutional trauma,” I suggest that others too share similar feelings of profound betrayal by an organization with which so many of us have been identified over the course of many years. I explore the ways in which attachments have been challenged and undermined by what occurred. Among the questions I have grappled with are: Was I the betrayed or betrayer, or both? How can similar self-reflection usefully be undertaken both by the association itself and other members about their actions or inactions?

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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