President's Column

My mind wandered away from the sermon being given by the indigenous priest at the most sacred holy setting for Latin American Catholics in Esquipulas, Guatemala. Maybe it had to do with the black pilgrims from rural Latin America sitting in front of me, or maybe it had to do with the social justice theme of his sermon. This all resonated with me since I was there working on a death penalty case, of all places, in the "Valley of Pain and Suffering." This situation reminded me of a recent visit to the Colombian Psychological Association where the keynote speaker proposed that life in their country was in a traumatized state and what the government could not deliver to make peace a reality, psychology could.

Both had been talking about governments unresponsive to the needs of the marginalized and the traumatized. Besides outlining the numerous maladies, historical and present, they went on to provide a litany of suggestions of how to improve the difficult situations both countries were facing. There was talk of misunderstanding by both sides about the critical nature of how change occurs—within and outside systems. They discussed the importance of forgiving each other, understanding the affected and valuing the beauty of sharing power, as well as appreciating the critical nature of collaboration.

In the midst of the emotional nature associated with change, I wondered about generalizing what I heard in these foreign lands to my home at APA. Speaking as a neuropsychologist, could we take a moment to slow down our sympathetic nervous systems and let our frontal lobes guide us through these turbulent times? Challenging conversations must be had and thoughtful solutions producing continued growth must occur.

As I begin to wrap up this most interesting and wonderful year, my thoughts reflect on the messages I had recently heard in Latin America. As we move APA forward past our 125th anniversary, our prescription for success must include collaboration among all of us as well as understanding, changing, and forgiving and appreciating people who are marginalized and traumatized.

Winds of change and challenge are among us. From this we must trust each other and rise together, for us and for those we seek to understand and serve. This is especially true for our Texan, Floridian, Mexican and Caribbean colleagues as they begin to reconstruct their lives after devastating natural disasters.