Psychological Responses to the New Terrorism: A NATO-Russia Dialogue


Wessely, S.,
Krasnov, V.N.

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Terrorism is to create a state of terror and fear. Therefore it is important to study the psychological factors and to understand and mitigate our response to terrorism.
It is the creation of states of mind, of reducing people’s resilience and will to resist, and causing such psychological and social pressure that eventually the political aims of a terrorist group will be fulfilled. This book is not about the prevention of terrorism, but concerned with the consequences of acts of terror and their impact on populations. It describes what citizens, professionals and governments can do to mitigate the consequences. The focus is less on the 'timeless' or 'universal' trauma reactions captured by labels such as post traumatic stress disorder, but more on culture and place specific reactions. A comparison is made between the responses visible in Russia (large scale adversity) and the western reaction (a cultural shift towards an age of anxiety and risk aversion). Also 'new' terrorism (chemical, biological and nuclear terrorism) is discussed, but in practice most terrorist attacks remain steadfastly conventional. A last topic is communication; such as communication between government and its citizens; between terrorists themselves, between terrorists and citizens and between citizens themselves. People talking to each other in the immediate aftermath of terrorist incidents gives much needed support and reassurance. More attention needs to be given to assisting these normalising processes and more needs to be done to safeguard such communications in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack.