Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Archive for July 18th, 2013

Crime Vs. Terror

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on July 18, 2013

Security Hero

Last night at the Hammer Museum….


More than a trillion dollars has been spent on homeland security since 9/11, yet two amateur terrorists—with homemade bombs that cost $100—were able to shut down Boston for a week. John Mueller, author of Terror, Security, and Money: Balancing the Risks, Benefits, and Costs of Homeland SecurityJeffrey Simon, author of Lone Wolf Terrorism: Understanding the Growing Threat; and William Arkin, co-author of Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State, evaluate whether the enormous cost of security is making us any safer.


These three gentleman spoke about how fear generated from terrorism has led to billions of dollars being spent on homeland security, under the direction of both democratic and republican governments. Fear gets dollars was how I understood the process, even though, statistically speaking we should be spending our money on more likely threats to our existence, such as motor vehicle accidents. All crime generates fear, so Jeffrey Simon posed the question about the difference between crime and terrorism. This question intrigued me because I think the difference is the extent to which fear is generated. A neighborhood murder creates fear in that area, but the Boston Marathon bombing creates fear in the world. The internet has made terrorism more potent, both in gathering together terrorists, and spreading the fear at rapid clip. Still, Mr. Simon reminded me that antisocial behaviors create a continuum of fear, and as such, terrorism is not so easily defined. The generation of fear gives power, and so fear, seems to be the psychological reward, for terrorist behavior. That said, if we could respond to these crimes without getting scared, then maybe we could diminish the motivation of the perpetrator. Spending a lot of money on a low-likelihood event seems to reward the criminal. This seems to be the world of forensic psychologists, trying to understand the thinking of the evil-doer. Once again, understanding can change how we allocate our resources. So, we have another argument for the value of digging into mental states.

Posted in forensic psychology, Hammer Museum, Terrorism, Trauma | 6 Comments »

Re-Posting: Analyzing The Transference: Critical or Over-stated?

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on July 18, 2013

“The ability to understand and handle transference is perhaps the single most important aspect of psychodynamic psychotherapy, and the subject that separates the truly skillful therapist from the adequate therapist,” says my local colleagues Drs. Thompson and Cotlove in their book, “The Therapeutic Process,” which by now, many of my readers have probably guessed,  I am reading in an effort to begin teaching my class tonight on psychoanalytic technique. With all due respect to my esteemed colleagues, this sentence disturbs me greatly. Understanding how the past impacts the present is the basis of psychodynamic psychotherapy. Transference is an inherent aspect of that inquiry. However, I do not think that one can identify any specific understanding which separates out the “skillful therapist from the adequate therapist.” Therapists have different skills to offer different patients. Each dyad brings out different material which, in turn, creates a different therapeutic process. The complicated nature of the patient/therapist relationship does not lend itself to focusing in on one aspect of the relationship. At the same time, I do agree that shedding light on issues in which past important and critical relationships are interfering with the present relationship may save a therapeutic relationship which is otherwise about to fail. These “transference interpretations” are what some colleagues call “high risk, high gain comments,” since they could make the patient feel humiliated in that they are repeating a past abusive relationship with their therapist, or it could make the patient develop deep insights into why difficult relationships are a pattern for them. I have a new class tonight. I hope I can make this distinction in a clear and meaningful way. The adage that if one wants to really learn, then one should teach, might be true. However, and I know I am a skeptic, I think that also depends on the students. Easily stated phrases always make me question. Our need for simplicity must fight with our desire to explore complexity. Exploring complexity wins when the stress is not too great. I hope my students will agree.

Posted in Teaching, Teaching Psychoanalysis, Transference | 6 Comments »

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