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Eigner, J.B. (1986). Squid and projective identification. Free Associations, 1(7):75-78.

(1986). Free Associations, 1(7):75-78

Squid and projective identification

Jan Benowitz Eigner

I had just finished Thomas Ogden's book, Projective Identification and Psychotherapeutic Technique (1982). In it, he defines projective identification as:

the way in which feeling-states corresponding to the unconscious fantasies of one person (the projector) are engendered in and processed by another person (the recipient), that is, the way in which one person makes use of another person to experience and contain an aspect of himself.1

I stood in front of the supermarket fish counter, feeling rattled. My client, anguished with suicidal thoughts for nine months, dynamited the therapy session with his avowal to really kill himself this time. Though he wouldn't discuss it, I knew he had a monstrous rage within. Propelled by his anger, he could have been crushing people under his feet as he stomped up the stairway to my office. He turned his warrior against himself every day, and only hours after he left our session. This time, I believed he might do himself in. Even so, I had to attend to the details of my life. My psychology reading group was meeting at my house in two hours. I needed to shop for their visit.

I found myself replaying the therapy session as I waited in line: could I have changed any detail of my response to help him feel like living? Probably, but here I was, number three in the short line at the fish counter. I reminded myself to concentrate on this order. My senses, ordinarily enthusiastic for fresh fish, hadn't caught up with my fast drive to the shop. Back at the office, two miles north, they lay dazed and gaffed on the beige carpet.


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