In This Issue

Div. 19 president's message

Thomas J. Williams, PhD, discusses convention, international partnership and APA independent review.

By Thomas J. Williams

Members of Div. 19 (Society for Military Psychology), welcome. I would like to share with you and highlight some of my observations regarding several very important issues and initiatives.

First, the APA Annual Convention (Aug. 6-9 in Toronto) is fast approaching, and we are very fortunate for the very strong program that allows us to champion the great and varied contributions by members of our division. Thanks to our program co-chairs, Nate Ainspan and Rebecca Blais, we have an excellent array of offerings that vary from presentations focused on physical bravery; leadership in high stress environments; posttraumatic growth; foundations of military psychology and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) since World War I; treatment of PTSD with military and family members; the Ebola outbreak and preparation of deploying unit personnel; military sexual trauma; as well as numerous really excellent and valuable skill-building and competency-focused offerings in our divisional suite by our student leaders and early career psychologists. As a specific example, our International Military Psychology Committee is leading a symposium focused upon resiliency programs. The session brings together program developers, managers, clinicians and researchers from Canada, U.S. special operations and other nations to discuss the important contributions of resiliency and lessons learned from a multinational perspective. Our Society of Military Psychology has a comprehensive and inviting program to share with our membership and other psychologists attending the convention. Indeed, it gets better every year due to the hard work and participation of all our members. Please do join us in the division-sponsored sessions in Toronto, many of which offer continuing education credits. For next year, start thinking about how you can help out in this effort to build an even more ambitious program.

Second, staying with our international theme, I would like to update you on an historical linkage that we are re-establishing between the International Military Testing Association (IMTA) and our division. Thanks to the many efforts of our International Military Psychology Committee leadership by its chair, Bob Roland, along with members of that committee, Paul Bartone and Marty Wiskoff, we have submitted our request to establish closer affiliation with IMTA. A special thanks to Bob, Paul and Marty for helping us extend the reach of our society to the collaborative, supportive and shared interests of the membership of our two organizations.

Our Student Affairs Committee, chaired by Angela Legner, continues to reinforce that our future is indeed strong given their vision to help lead us with (and sometimes catch up to) 21st century technological innovations. They are also providing us with opportunities to extend the reach and benefits of Div. 19 membership. For example, Angela has spearheaded our division's acquisition of Adobe Connect that will allow meetings, immersive webinars and learning, bringing us virtually closer and helping to fulfill a vision of my presidency to offer online CE credits as a benefit of membership within our division. More to follow as we catch up on putting this new reality into action for the benefit of each of our members. Special thanks to Angela for all her many efforts to make this happen.

Lastly, I want to share some of my thoughts about the independent review that has been undertaken by the American Psychological Association's (APA) Board of Directors and calls for the report to get released directly to the public. The objectives of this review are very straightforward: Fully investigate allegations that have been repeatedly raised that APA colluded with and supported the CIA's enhanced interrogation program during the Bush administration and take appropriate actions if warranted. To address the repeated and often fractious allegations, the APA Board of Directors took this prudent step to have a fully independent and definitive review conducted by an outside attorney, David Hoffman. Hoffman is very experienced and has an unchallenged reputation for conducting independent reviews. The APA leadership has approached this outside review in an open, professional and transparent manner; granting Hoffman free access to all emails, computers and documents for all APA staff. While I am hopeful the results of this review will help put this issue to rest for most psychologists, there is a small, vocal group who are expressing distrust of the APA Board of Directors and Council of Representatives (COR). For example, they are demanding, on the one hand, the immediate release of the report while attempting to discredit and question the true intentions of the APA leadership. That is very unfortunate.

Too often this group is asking us to join them as they lace together disparate facts to then assert a collective, strong belief that, to them, appears as truth and is unshakeable to other reasoning. We know from great philosophers that while truths of fact are compelling, we choose to ignore for convenience that these so-called facts are contingent and therefore the opposite of their asserted truth is also possible (Arendt, 1978, p. 61). What seems also ignored is that within our profession, even in those areas where some of us might disagree, we still must approach disagreements by striving to understand those areas as a profession with a foundation of science and with a quest for knowledge to identify the irrefutable truth (Arendt, 1978). I fear that even with irrefutable truth, some will never accept the truths of reasoning.

Therefore, I think it ill-advised, as some are calling for, to have the independent review findings released directly to the public without providing the APA leadership an opportunity to review the report. Those who are calling for that action are likely mistaking “the need to think with the urge to know” (Arendt, 1978, p. 61). I think we all can appreciate their urge to know. However, as thoughtful and reflective professionals, it seems reasonable that we would accept that our elected leaders both desire and deserve the time to think about the results they requested.

Anytime I see individuals challenging leaders and asserting their independent views with what seems their personal agenda, their actions remind me of Count Pierre Kirillovich, one of Leo Tolstoy's most memorable characters in “War and Peace” (Tolstoy, 2008). Great novelists are great observers of human behavior and Tolstoy is among the best at capturing the nuanced character in Pierre. Tolstoy describes Pierre as well-meaning but awkward and out of place; intelligent but driven more by emotion than intelligence, often revealing that he is ungracious and prone to unpleasant outbursts. He too was moved by passion and therefore when he gave his word, it meant nothing to him. In Pierre's view, “all those words of honor were mere conventions, with no definite meaning…that sort of reasoning often came to Pierre, destroying all his decisions and suppositions” (Tolstoy, 2008, p. 31).

As members of the profession of psychology, when others are losing their cool, when emotions are high, we need to maintain ours to ensure we are moved by both reason and emotion. We cannot and will not disregard or willfully ignore the facts. But that also means that if something is unclear or ambiguous to us, we cannot just assert some deception or allege there must have been a cover-up otherwise things would today be clearer and less ambiguous. Just as importantly, strong beliefs woven together into a web of alleged deception and repeatedly asserted — however well-meaning the intent — will, just like with Tolstoy's Pierre, over time seem increasingly awkward and out of place.

Our duly elected representatives on the APA board and the COR need and deserve the time to deliberate and reason through the results of the independent review. Meaning and purpose do not follow from efforts to undermine nor with the various attempts to incite distrust toward our leaders. It seems that some within the ranks are seeking to have the APA leadership bend to their will by releasing the report and not allowing our duly appointed leadership their need and desire to deliberate on the findings and action plan.

I find it very unfortunate that there are those who seem intent on sewing distrust and doubt in members about our APA leadership. By their actions they seek to have our leaders “bend to their awe” without regard to the whether their actions will break the confidence of our members and undermine public support of our profession (cf., Shakespeare, 2011, “Julius Caesar,” Act I, Scene ii, lines 222-5). We need to affirm the importance of calling for the independent review, place our awe in regard to the transparency of the process, and stand in support of the APA leadership as they deliberate on the findings and determine what actions, if warranted, are needed to address any findings. That is what professional organizations do and what professionals within it should wholeheartedly support.

Stay strong and vigilant for ways to promote the multi-faceted contributions of military psychology. Thanks to all of you for your continued support.

 

Reference

Arendt, H. (1978). Thinking, the life of the mind. Harcourt: San Diego.