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June 1992

Violence (and a Message for the 90s?)

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1992;49(6):485-486. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1992.01820060065011

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Egregious instances of violence stun the human consciousness into momentary, horrified silence. Their frequency dulls the senses. Such acts by definition abrogate discourse and the vocabulary we normally use in regulating collective and individual excesses. Thus, the challenge by George Lundberg and C. Everett Koop to the American Medical Association family of journals to address their June issues to aspects of violence that are medically relevant is timely.

Yet, the breach of norms and aspirations entailed in violence comprises a difficult complex of behaviors for the intrinsically limited sciences to disaggregate and engage. We still lack an adequate classificatory "anatomy" of different aggressive behaviors and the biosocial contexts in which they arise. Clinical and forensic psychiatry daily deal with specific problems (even though the latter's intimate experiences with aberrancies are poorly articulated for the practitioner). General psychiatry, using psychodynamic insights, often recognizes "negative identifications" in instances of impulsive "acting out."

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