Climate Instability and Psychological Security

September 22, 2014
H. Steven Moffic, MD

Today's headlines about security breaches leave me wondering: how do we accurately assess our own security risk?

PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE NEWS

Although I was especially looking for coverage on the climate marches in NYC yesterday, what really struck me this morning were the multiple news reports on threatened security. Among them:

. A renewal of nuclear arming in the USA

. A search for the "cop killer" in Pennsylvania

. The disappearance of 3 Afghan soldiers in Cape Cod in addition to the UVA student

. A possible American in an ISIS video

. The breach of security at the White House

. A tourist bus overturning in Delaware

. The Texas tuberculosis scare in a children's hospital

All of these headlines got me thinking of Maslow's hierarchy of psychological needs. Safety needs are second only to biological needs, such as food and sleep. Dr. Maslow posited that the higher needs of love, esteem, and self-actuallzation would be more difficult to obtain without the lower needs being met.

So, today's security news leaves me wondering: how do we accurately assess our own security risk? Is this just the news media preying on our natural insecurities? Do these reports of everyday insecurity prevent us from attending adequately to future risks like climate instability?

In my clinical work, it was always a challenge to assess the accuracy of patients' insecurities. We were taught that there was always a grain of truth in a paranoid delusion. Essential to helping traumatized patients was to help them see that they were safer now than in their internalized past.

For all of use to reach our human potential, one of the things we need is the accurate assessment and improvement of security.