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Krupp, G.R. (1965). Identification as a Defence Against Anxiety in Coping with Loss. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 46:303-314.

(1965). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 46:303-314

Identification as a Defence Against Anxiety in Coping with Loss

George R. Krupp

SUMMARY

This paper concerns identification reactions to the loss of a loved one. It includes a brief discussion of the dynamics of identification and introjection mechanisms and a review of psychiatric literature on the subject, together with certain illustrative examples from the work of Eugene O'Neill. But the core of the paper consists

of a study of three cases which illuminate bereavement problems—chiefly the function of identification as a defence against anxiety. Identification, in this context, is more than one person's unconscious imitation of the personality trait of another. It serves a specific unconscious purpose and, dynamically, can be comprehended only in terms of its particular goal. I suggest that four types of internalization mechanisms can be differentiated: (i) Depression—depressive introjection is always present in mourning; its seeming absence indicates pathology. (ii) Symptomatic identifications which function simultaneously to bring back the loved one and inflict self punishment for having wanted the other's death—and for having survived it. (iii) Personality identifications, which occur frequently under stress, consist of the mourner's adoption of the loved one's mannerisms, traits, and characteristics. (iv) Constructive identifications in the mourner when, following the depressive period, he takes up the activities and interests of the loved one. It is as though the mourner becomes the 'stand-in' for the lost person, doing as he would have done were he alive—and thus, with this achievement, triumphing over death by continuing life as though the loved one himself were there.

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