Hanna Segal

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Hanna Segal
Born(1918-08-20)20 August 1918
Died5 July 2011(2011-07-05) (aged 92)
Resting placeEngland
NationalityPolish, British
Known forTheoretical contributions to psychoanalysis, especially on Melanie Klein, Aesthetics and contemporary events
Scientific career
FieldsMedicine, Psychiatry, Psychoanalysis
InstitutionsBritish Psychoanalytical Society, University College London

Hanna Segal (born Hanna Poznańska; 20 August 1918 – 5 July 2011) was a British psychoanalyst of Polish descent and a follower of Melanie Klein. She was president of the British Psychoanalytical Society, vice-president of the International Psychoanalytical Association, and was appointed to the Freud Memorial Chair at University College, London (UCL) in 1987. The American psychoanalyst James Grotstein considered that "received wisdom suggests that she is the doyen of "classical" Kleinian thinking and technique."[1] The BBC broadcaster Sue Lawley introduced her as "one of the most distinguished psychological theorists of our time,"[2]


Hanna Segal was born into a middle class Jewish family in Łódź, Poland. She had begun her medical studies at Warsaw University where the family had moved. She was politically involved with the Polish Socialist Party. When Hitler invaded Poland on 1 September 1939, she was fortuitously on holiday in France from where she had to flee arriving in Great Britain (via Switzerland). She completed her medical studies in the wartime Polish medical department at Edinburgh University.[3] She next undertook psychoanalytic training in London, and an analysis first with David Matthews, a pupil of Melanie Klein, and later with Klein herself whose close follower she became and whose work she went on to expound with clarity.[4] It is said that without Segal's introductory works, Klein would not have become so famous, and would certainly have been far less accessible to the reader.

She married mathematician Paul Segal in 1946. He died in 1996. There were three sons of the marriage: Michael a civil servant, mathematician Dan, and philosopher Gabriel.

Segal also wrote on aesthetics, art, symbolism, war, and the September 11 attacks, producing several books and numerous articles, including

  • Introduction to the work of Melanie Klein (London 1964);
  • Klein (London: Fontana Modern Masters, 1979);
  • Melanie Klein (Glasgow 1979);
  • Clinical Psychoanalysis (Paris 2004);
  • Dream, Phantasy and Art (Paris 1993);
  • Delirium and Creativity (Paris 1986) (with Annik Comby).

Symbolism and art[edit]

Segal emphasised the difference between the symbol as representative and the earlier stage of symbol as equivalent, stating that "only when separation and separateness are accepted does the symbol become the representative of the object rather than being equated with the object."[5] The earlier stage of symbolic equation was by contrast typical of concrete psychotic thinking.[6]

Building on and extending her analysis of symbolism, Segal made further contributions to Kleinian aesthetics.[7] Segal stresses that "one of the most important tasks of the artist is to create a world of his own", something which requires "an acute reality sense in two ways: first, towards his own inner reality...and secondly...of the reality of his medium."[8] She also emphasised the role of the ugly in artistic creation, as a reflection of the fragmenting of good objects into persecutory ones,[9] seeing the roots of artistic creation in the desire to restore a fragmented inner world.[10]


Segal explored the relationship of war to the contrast between the paranoid and depressive positions in Kleinian thought, highlighting the usefulness of the role of an identified enemy in warding off the subjective pain of depression.[11] Segal continued her lengthy examination of the relationship between psychological factors and war in her work on the symbolic significance of the events of September 11.[12]


In the main Segal was content to work within the framework Klein had provided. In terms of the distinction sometimes drawn between "extenders", "modifiers", and "heretics" in psychoanalytic theory, Hanna Segal clearly fell into the first category with respect to Klein.[13] Her long-term explication of the richness of Klein's thought nevertheless meant that Segal's work stands close to the core of post-Kleinian research and development.[14] Segal has also been criticised for her belief that lesbian love is a denial of reality, a narcissistic phantasy that is dominated by projective identification and envy, and that lesbian parenthood is an attack on heterosexual parents.[15]

Partial bibliography[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ James Grotstein, But at the Same Time and on Another Level (London 2009) p. 45
  2. ^ "Dr Hanna Segal, Desert Island Discs - BBC Radio 4". BBC. Retrieved 28 June 2018.
  3. ^ Instytut Studiów Psychoanalitycznych im. Hanny Segal, The Hanna Segal Institute of Psychoanalytical Studies, Warsaw (in Polish)
  4. ^ Grotstein, Same Time p. 44
  5. ^ Hanna Segal, in Nicola Glover, "Psychoanalytic Aesthetics" Ch. 2
  6. ^ Grotstein, Same Time pp. 44–5
  7. ^ L. Stonebridge/J. Phillips, Reading Melanie Klein(1998) p. 2
  8. ^ Nicola Glover, "Psychoanalytic Aesthetics" Ch. 3
  9. ^ Sandra Gosso, Psychoanalysis and Art (2004) p. 27
  10. ^ Jean-Michel Quinodoz, Listening to Hanna Segal (2007) p. 21
  11. ^ Hanna Segal and John Steiner, Psychoanalysis, Literature and War (1997) p. 13
  12. ^ Hanna Segal and Nicola Abel-Hirsch, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow 20070 p. 1
  13. ^ Judy Ann Kaplan, "Freud's Legacy" in Joseph P. Merlino et al. eds., Freud at 150 (Plymouth 2008) p. 69
  14. ^ David Bell, Reason and Passion: a celebration of the work of Hanna Segal (London 1997) p. 2
  15. ^ JOANNA., O'CONNOR, NOREEN. RYAN (2019). WILD DESIRES AND MISTAKEN IDENTITIES : lesbianism and psychoanalysis. ROUTLEDGE. ISBN 978-0-367-32979-2. OCLC 1110672930.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)

Further reading[edit]

  • Elaine Baruch. (1991) Women Analyse Women: Chapter 12: "Hanna Segal"
  • Janet Sayers. (2000) Kleinians: Psychoanalysis Inside Out. London: Polity Press. ISBN 9780745621241

External links[edit]