Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Projective Identification

``Projective identification'' is a new concept for me that I am beginning to understand and appreciate. I can observe myself using it a lot, and I can use it, therefore, to explain some mysterious behaviors and emotions of mine :)

... Joseph (1988) includes the following among the aims of projective identification: ``Splitting off and getting rid of unwanted parts of the self that cause anxiety and pain, projecting the self or parts of the self into an object to take over its capacities and make them its own, invading in order to damage or destroy the object. Thus the infant, or adult who goes on using such mechanisms extensively, can avoid any awareness of separateness, dependence, admiration, or its concomitant sense of loss, anger, phobic panics and the like'' (p. 138). Ogden (1982) defines projective identification as a ``psychological process that is at once a type of defense, a mode of communication, a primitive form of object relations, and a pathway to psychological change'' (p. 21).
The experience of projective identification is an inevitable aspect of intimate relationships and can be both an intensely uncomfortable and anxiety-filled experience that thrusts the individual into a paranoid world of persecution and grandiosity, or it can be a creative experience of mutuality and playfulness, creating the symbolic experiences of the depressive position. [``Depressive position'' is a technical terminology from Kleinian school and is more related to mentallization than depression.] The critical issues in understanding projective identification ... is that the other (the therapist, parent, lover, friend) becomes deeply affected by the split-off parts of the individual as they become involved in the dialectical process of projective identification.
In focusing on the transformation of projective identification from concrete to symbolic organizations, interpretation becomes a complex process ... Joseph (1988) ... elaborates on the difficulty of the interpretive process:
Sometimes it [projective identification] is used so massively that we get the impression that the patient is, in fantasy, projecting his whole self into his object and may feel trapped or claustrophobic ... bearing in mind that projective identification is only one aspect of ... balance established by each individual in his own way, an interpretive attempt on the part of the analyst to locate and give back to the patient missing parts of the self must of necessity be resisted by the total personality, since it is felt to threaten the whole balance and lead to more disturbance. [p. 140]
Joseph is suggesting a critical idea that the patient's resistance and phobic dread of interpretation are a result of experiencing the analyst's words as concretely destructive attacks that are premature attempts to force a reinternalization of projected aspects of the self before the patient has developed the capacity to symbolize ... ---pp. 80, 82, 86-87

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