Depth Psychology, Iran-US, Nuclear Weapons and "the shadow"

This is my first post. I am a third year student at Pacifica in the Depth Psychology department - and a nuclear engineer who has worked in the field of nonproliferation. I am looking to bring my work in the field into my nonproliferation into my dissertation. Any comments are most welcome.

One of the key arguments against Iran obtaining a NW capability is that they will use it against Israel – immediately if not sooner! Yet to-date countries that have obtained a nuclear weapon have not used it aggressively against another nation – other than the US against Japan during WWII. This was a pivotal decision in history and illuminated the unique characteristics of nuclear weapons and why they should not be used for “common” wars or conflicts. And yet what is missing in the discussion is the idea that nuclear weapons are primarily created to hold the boundary against “the other” – potentially larger more aggressive nations with technologically advanced militaries. Or simply nuclear weapons level the playing field.


According to Depth Psychology, a branch of psychology founded by Freud and Jung that embraces the concept of the unconscious, it is often the case that we cannot see our own shadow while we project it on to others. This is why it is not surprising to see a zealous religious personality or possibly a politician to teach of the evils of homosexuality or illicit sex only to be ousted on the 6 pm news. It is key to accept our own humanity shadow and all to accept the humanity and foibles of others. The irony, or also known as one of the painful realities, is that while the person, group, or nation believes they are doing a bang-up job keeping their shadow out of the limelight it is actually seen by others.


Therefore when I read about Santorum explaining that Iran getting a nuclear weapon represents a unique threat I had to wonder – has he looked in the mirror lately?


‘We can't let Iran get a nuclear weapon'? Because Iran is different than every other country in the history of the world that's got a nuclear weapon. I just talked about their end-of-times ideas. This is a theocracy that believes -- and they teach their people -- that life in this world is not what you live for. You live for the next world.” (


While there may be many end-of-timers in Iran seeking martyrdom from Allah I am pretty sure if you took a poll of the Iranian population you’d find it’s a pretty small number. Iran is a modern and progressive nation with 77% of the population being literate (ie age 15 and over can read and write). The median age is 26  years old in contrast to the median age in the US of 36 years old (CIA fact book on-line). Iran is a nation in the midst of a change. The old king needs to die to allow the new ideas to rise. As we know in mythology, fairy tales, and history – the old king doesn’t leave without a fight. I believe we are watching this play out.


If we could take a poll we might find that the US has as many Christians that believe that the end times are imminant as well. And just as Hal Lindsey disclosed in his book the Late Great Planet Earth the end is just around the corner (published in 1970). This was one of my favorite books growing up as I wrestled with the wonderful Book of Revelations, the last chapter in the Bible. And it is possible that the US has leaders in governmental positions that are Christians that believe the apocalypse is imminent. The US, a nation with 1000’s of nuclear weapons poised for use that could be used facilitate the rapture…so are “we” really different?


There are a number of scholars that argue that there are clear differences in Christian and Islamic fundamentalism yet the one question I would pose is – whether or not a person’s religious views impact their decisions and actions over input from other perspectives? Are they so contained within their religious believes that they cannot imagine another possibility?


There are similarities between the many religions and apocalyptic, end-of-time thinking. So we need to ask is it our shadow or is it their shadow? Are we projecting our own fears on to Iran? Is it real or not? And if there is an ounce of doubt about it – to ask why are we being fed this line of thought? Is it only to justify yet another war? Having the world’s largest military is the US a hammer seeking a nail?


A friend and colleague Bob Kelley wrote an interesting article asking the question as to whether or not the charges against Iran are a slam dunk or not ( He compares the current situation to that of the second Iraq war where it was apparent after the war began that they did not have a nuclear weapons program. This war has taken 10 years to end and it has created an imbalance of power in the Middle East. War – easy to get in and tough to get out!

Bob writes:

Given the high stakes, it’s valuable to take another look at the main source of the tension: Iran’s nuclear-weapons program. That this enterprise is active is widely considered a given in the U.S. In fact, the evidence, contained in a November report of the International Atomic Energy Agency, is sketchy. And the way the data have been presented produces a sickly sense of deja vu.

I am speaking up about this now because, as a member of the IAEA’s Iraq Action Team in 2003, I learned firsthand how withholding the facts can lead to bloodshed. Having known the details then, though I was not allowed to speak, I feel a certain shared responsibility for the war that killed more than 4,000 Americans and more than 100,000 Iraqis. A private citizen today, I hope to help ensure the facts are clear before the U.S. takes further steps that could lead, intentionally or otherwise, to a new conflagration, this time in Iran. (end)


I appreciate that Rick Santorum so clearly states his view on this issue. Would I appreciate it if Iran did not develop a nuclear weapon capability – yes. Not because I believe they will immediately use them on Israel and begin an end of time scenario but rather it will create a security imbalance that will cause other nations in the region to reconsider their military strategy and decide to include nuclear weapons as well.


We are at a pivotal time in history when the US and Russia are actively decreasing their nuclear weapon stockpiles with the stated goal of eliminating them all together. This is a slow methodical process and can be more difficult as the numbers get smaller. It requires that each nation shift the way they define their security and how the military stages the weapons. Verification becomes more difficult and it is pivotal to continue building trust which is not an easy task when the two nations view the world from such different historical perspectives.

In conclusion the primary question before we engage in a new war is – where is the shadow and where is the truth?


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Comment by Jorge A. Gomez on March 10, 2012 at 5:50pm

For the symbol minded people as Carlin put it. I could not help put this video about the other side of the shadow of the war. with a laugh!!!

Comment by Jorge A. Gomez on March 10, 2012 at 5:48pm
Comment by Susan Voss on March 2, 2012 at 6:44am


please add a link to your article or a snippet of your write up it would be wonderful to share. Susan

Comment by Traci O'Sullivan on March 1, 2012 at 7:08am

HI, thank you for your thought provoking post. Funny, I just wrote a short article on leadership and the emperror's new clothes and sited Santorum and his self image ....shadow issues...

It is interesting to read your perspective and I quite agree with the the concern of our projection and lack of awareness of our own perspectives and what fuels them. 

Thank you for sharing this! It is always interesting to see the many areas of research and inclusion of depth work!!



Comment by Susan Voss on February 19, 2012 at 10:20am

Jorge-I do believe Depth Psychology is so important for international affairs. Thank you for jumping in.I might add that my post was on whether or not Iran would use a nuclear weapon against Israel to create chaos and bring back the 12th Iman. Or could it be our own religious shadow?

But the point that you are bringing in is whether or not Iran is using their civilian nuclear power program as the basis of a nuclear weapons program or not. I appreciate your link to Scott Horton's YouTube discussion on Iran and agree every voice needs to be heard at the table. That said - I disagreed overall with his comments -Just as he makes the point that others are skewing their comments on Iran's program I believe he is skewing his (compensation perhaps? :-) )

Pause...based upon my research on Iran's program I believe they have a civilian program as the basis for a weapons program that they may - or may not - decide to move to a full weapon. Unlike Horton I believe the steps they are now taking are bringing them closer to a weapons capability if they choose to continue. But just as Horton points out - maybe they're not.

As members of the depth psychology tribe we are to help make what is unconscious-conscious. There are so many questions regarding this issue - what do you think? 



Comment by Jorge A. Gomez on February 18, 2012 at 11:07pm

I just want to share with you a video that I found and is very enlightning. You understand better all the percentages that this guy is talking about. Follow the link below.

Comment by Jorge A. Gomez on February 18, 2012 at 11:05pm
Comment by E. Carroll Straus on January 23, 2012 at 5:51pm

Great analysis. I agree no one has initiated Armagedon with nuclear capability and I doubt Iran would. I also have seen for some time that Iran needs to look and act tough--and is gratified when  we buy into it. But it is always a bluff, and we serve no one by abetting this, IMHO.How I WISH we in America would address our collective shadow!

Comment by Susan Voss on January 12, 2012 at 8:21am


thank you for your comments. In Depth Psychology we talk about ways to move DP into the world and yet there are a number of us "in the world" coming to DP to get a new vision, a new understanding - and therefore to help write a new myth. Depth Alliance offers a wonderful place for the community of DP to meet and share ideas and differing perspectives.

Also I am realizing that its important also to voice our concerns outside of the DP group. If it is possible that the US response to Iran's nuclear program and the justification for war is - our shadow - then it needs to be made conscious before war becomes the "only" choice. Thank you for making such a wonderful site and encouraging greater depth in the engagement of cultural issues as we participate in the transformation of nations individually and collectively (ie globally). cheers Susan

Comment by Bonnie Bright on January 11, 2012 at 7:41pm

Hi Susan. Thank you so much for this post in what is such a profound arena. I remember being terrified of a nuclear blast when I was growing up in the throes of the Cold War--and I lived in Idaho where there are practically more cows than people. I think your insight into how nuclear weopons are used as a boundary against the "other" is very prolific.

I'm grateful for your work in both fields--both as a nuclear scientist and a depth psychologist--and the combination of the two is remarkable. If anyone can help us all see through to the shadow, I would think it would be you. I, like many of us, wonder how this thing with Iran will progress. I'm afraid if the leaders in our country--and the world over--are unwilling or unable to see the key tenets you point out here, we will be in for a very trying time in the next few years on that front....

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