Projective Identification

Otto Kernberg explains what Projective Identification is:

Projective Identification is one of the primitive defensive operations that goes together with splitting and primitive idealization and omnipotent control.

It is a primitive form of projection of attributing to others what one cannot tolerate in oneself. It is characterized by combination of attributing to somebody else what the person is experiencing but cannot tolerate. While they are still capable of maintaining empathy of what they experience but cannot tolerate. There is also a tendency to induce behavior in the other in effort to control the other person to absolve themselves.

Basically it is an insidious method of inciting emotions, which one cannot come to terms with in oneself, in another person. This as a means to control the other person. 

A possible example of such an occurrence is someone who is insecure and envious of another. This person creates situations whereby he/she incites envy and/or competition in the other person.

It could also someone controlling a group. A manager may have a paranoid ideas of the team being disloyal to him, begins to behave in ways to incite feelings of mistrust between the members of the company.

 

Extra Notes (see Video attached) on Child abuse and projective identification:

Identification of the aggressor : being a ghost to chase the ghost away, stockholm syndrom (Anna Freud’s).  Ferenczi’s idea of identification with the aggressor: The abused child behaves in the way the abuser wants to protect himself from the abuser, by appeasing and complying.

The child introjects the abuser’s feelings: he feels both innocent and guilty. There is a clash of feelings. The abuser, to make himself feel less guilty induces the guilt on the child victim. The parent / abuser projects the impart feelings (also known as projective identification, a term Melanie Klein coined later on) on the child. He induces guilt on the child. The child introjects the shame and feels guilty.

The client should be allowed to express their criticism on the therapist, or they will turn on themselves. These negative feelings are not just negative transference. When the clients can voice their critic in therapy, it is a breakthrough. It is a break from the childhood pattern.

 

Moments of Uncertainty in Therapeutic Practice: Interpreting Within the Matrix of Projective Identification, Countertransference, and Enactment

Projective and Introjective Identification and the Use of the Therapist’s Self (The Library of Object Relations)

Projective Identification: The Fate of a Concept (The New Library of Psychoanalysis)

Projective Identification and Psychotherapeutic Technique

Leave a Reply