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Brody, M.W. Mahoney, V.P. (1964). Introjection, Identification and Incorporation. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 45:57-63.

(1964). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 45:57-63

Introjection, Identification and Incorporation

Morris W. Brody and Vincent P. Mahoney

Psycho-analytic literature lacks clarity in both the use and the description of the concepts introjection, identification, and incorporation. Not only are the terms used interchangeably, but often there is a lack of unanimity as to whether they refer to defence mechanisms or to instinctual processes. This presentation is an attempt to clarify the concepts and to suggest definitions which differentiate them, in order to provide a basis for a common usage for these terms.

The first reason for the lack of clarity regarding these terms may be ascribed to their description by way of metaphors and analogies. Although Freud stated very early that 'psychical processes should be treated in the language of psychology', the language he evolved frequently included 'the language of physics … grafted on to the data of physiology' (Jones, 1953). In his early writings he used biological concepts as his models for the mental processes. Thus, in 'Instincts and their Vicissitudes' (1915) Freud stated, 'The objects presenting themselves, insofar as they are sources of pleasure, are absorbed by the ego, into itself.' (Introjected, according to a term borrowed from Ferenczi.) In 1917 Freud spoke of the ego regressing in melancholia. 'The ego wants to incorporate this object into itself, and, in accordance with the oral or cannibalistic phase of libidinal development in which it is, it wants to do so by devouring it.' Although in 1917 Freud regarded identification as closely associated with and probably dependent upon oral drives, three years later, and in ensuing years (1920), (1921), he developed and expanded his views.

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