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Kaunitz, P.E. (1973). The Threat of Impending Disaster. Contributions to the Psychology of Stress: Edited by George H. Grosser, Henry Wechsler and Milton Greenblatt. Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press, 1971. 335 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 42:157-158.

(1973). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 42:157-158

The Threat of Impending Disaster. Contributions to the Psychology of Stress: Edited by George H. Grosser, Henry Wechsler and Milton Greenblatt. Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press, 1971. 335 pp.

Review by:
Paul E. Kaunitz

This is a reprinting of a group of essays prepared for a 1962 symposium organized in the aftermath of the Cuban missile crisis and held under the auspices of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Psychiatric Association, through the latter's Committee on Research. Stress reactions are described through the methodology of general systems theory, perceptual sets, collective responses, and stimulus configuration. One section describes the fear of nuclear attack as related to attitudes toward the construction of fall-out shelters, reactions of psychiatric patients to the missile crisis, and responses of victims to the Hiroshima bombing. A brief section studies astronauts' handling of danger situations. Experiences of concentration camp inmates, prisoners of war, people living under enemy occupation, and dying patients, are studied by various authors from the particular vantage points of their own fields of expertise.

Reissue of this book arrives at a propitious time—the American Psychoanalytic Association, American Psychiatric Association, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science as well as other scientific groups have lately organized programs of study aimed at understanding violence and aggression. Our own country has undergone an unusual degree of turmoil during the last several years: assassinations, riots, escalation of drug abuses, alienation of youth, increasing violence in the community and on the TV screen, a seemingly endless purposeless war. And in the background there is a chronically unstable international environment and the ever-present possibility of unheralded total nuclear extinction.

How have we changed under this perpetual and particular threat of impending disaster? There has been a spate of articles, journals, societies, and conferences related to the study of death and dying. Perhaps the time has come for a symposium which would not confine itself merely to the 'psychology of stress' but which would recognize the fundamental bases of all thought and behavior.

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