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Altman, N. Davies, J.M. (2002). Out of the Blue: Reflections on a Shared Trauma. Psychoanal. Dial., 12(3):359-360.

(2002). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 12(3):359-360

Out of the Blue: Reflections on a Shared Trauma

Neil Altman, Ph.D. and Jody Messler Davies, Ph.D.

On September 11, 2001, the American People Awoke to an entirely unanticipated and utterly horrifying series of events. Though we have heard many times since that day how these events unalterably changed our world, it is perhaps more accurate for us as analysts to claim that it is we, our vision, our experience of the world, and not the world itself, who are different. Trauma has a way of penetrating what has been inviolate, and forcing an accommodation to the realities it carries—realities that, in many cases, we have chosen not to acknowledge beforehand.

But attempting to give shape and meaning to the events of September 11 remains a daunting and multilayered task. Profound personal loss, deep national trauma, and a political conundrum that has essentially reshaped geopolitical divisions of long standing have created an emotional/cognitive quagmire from within which most Americans now attempt to face an uncertain future. As analysts, we struggle with these issues alongside our patients. Though we have grown used to thinking of ourselves as having something to offer with regard to early childhood traumas, or even acute-onset adult traumas, the current situation leaves us wondering how our particular areas of expertise might be useful to those who have been most deeply affected by these recent tragic events. We wonder, as well, what a psychoanalytic perspective might have to offer the larger society in understanding the ongoing and deeply disturbing situation in which we find ourselves.

It is still early. Many papers will be written on the psychological effects of living with long-term terrorism. Papers have yet to be conceived that struggle with the transference-countertransference implications of a patient and an analyst both buffeted by the same traumatic events.

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