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Roth, B. (2007). Second Thoughts at Ground Zero. Psychoanal. Rev., 94(2):245-262.

(2007). Psychoanalytic Review, 94(2):245-262

Second Thoughts at Ground Zero

Bennett Roth, Ph.D.

In the summary of the paper (Roth, 2004) describing group events immediately following the 9/11 attack, I conclude that the attack was a particular kind of traumatic large group event that marks historical change in behavior, attitude, and values for a national group. I now believe more strongly that those events marked an intensification of many cultural and psychological values and faults embedded in the United States political and value systems. As this country reacted to the events of 9/11, I began to understand the complex forces at play and to understand these forces in relation to the group dynamics I witnessed around the World Trade Center (WTC) site called “Ground Zero.” This paper is a partial result and continuing effort to explicate these forces in relation to large-group theory.

Herein I reexamine group data that I reported and collected from my work with groups of various sizes immediately after the attacks at the WTC. Comprising observations of the aftereffects of violent “group dissaroy” (Turquet, 1975), and the attempts to rally the city of New York and the entire nation to face the ensuing crisis, that report is now interpreted in terms of anxious searches for group leaders and changes in large-group sentiment, seeking a punitive strict father morality (Lakoff, 2002). The unconscious threat to the large group represented in the destruction of the “Twin Towers” aroused a “national anxiety or dread” that allowed the acceptance of moral terms like “evil” (evildoers) and the suggestive phrase “weapons of mass destruction” that played upon this dread. These media events aroused unconscious and unexpressed fantasies that led to violently attacking another culture and large group in displacement.

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