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Segal, H. (1987). Silence is the Real Crime. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 14:3-12.

(1987). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 14:3-12

Silence is the Real Crime

Hanna Segal


This paper aims to show that psychoanalysts have a meaningful and specific contribution to make to the understanding of psychological causes and effects of the nuclear arms race. It examines some of the psychoanalytical ideas about wars in general—in particular, the importance of the regression from the depressive position and the mobilization of paranoid/schizoid mechanisms, splitting and projection—present in all wars. But it emphasizes that the very existence of nuclear weapons mobilizes those mechanisms to a far greater extent because of the threat of total annihilation.

In my view, the blurring of the border between reality and phantasy mobilizes infantile omnipotence and the death instinct and destructive psychotic defences against the threat of total annihilation. A vicious circle between the death instinct and the defences against recognizing it, produces a situation in which we are not facing the consequences of an unbridled arms race. Denial and apathy in the face of the threat are phenomena understandable to analysts who, according to me, should make their views known.

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