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Keywords:

  • affect;
  • aggression;
  • emotion;
  • instinct;
  • sadism;
  • violence

Abstract This paper considers some of the clinical and theoretical problems contingent upon the imprecision and lack of clarity with which the word and concept ‘violence’ is used. A definition of violence is proposed, which separates the concept of violence from the related concept of aggression and sees the former as a particular form of the latter. This definition also proposes that violence must always have a psychological component aspect. It is contended that clarity is important clinically so that analysts can distinguish psychologically destructive from psychologically creative elements in their patients, in their own psychological functioning and in the countertransference. The phenomenon of violence is considered in the light of Fordham's model of development, in particular that violence may be viewed as a consequence of a failure to integrate normal, aggressive aspects of the personality. Violence is seen as uncontained, split-off aggression, subjected to psychological projection. It is proposed that a particular quality of the experience that is being projected is an uncontained sense of violation. The notion of ‘mindless violence’ is considered.