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Ogden, T.H. (1979). On Projective Identification. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 60:357-373.

(1979). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 60:357-373

On Projective Identification

Thomas H. Ogden


This paper presents a clarification of the concept of projective identification through a delineation of the relation of fantasy to object relations that is entailed in this psychological-interpersonal

process. Projective identification is viewed as a group of fantasies and accompanying object relations involving three phases which together make up a single psychological unit. In the initial phase, the projector fantasies ridding himself of an aspect of himself and putting that aspect into another person in a controlling way. Secondly, via the interpersonal interaction, the projector exerts pressure on the recipient of the projection to experience feelings that are congruent with the projection. Finally, the recipient psychologically processes the projection and makes a modified version of it available for re-internalization by the projector.

Projective identification, as formulated here, is a process that serves as: (1) A type of defence by which one can distance oneself from an unwanted or internally endangered part of the self, while in fantasy keeping that aspect of oneself 'alive' in another. (2) A mode of communication by which one makes oneself understood by exerting pressure on another person to experience a set of feelings similar to one's own. (3) A type of object relatedness in which the projector experiences the recipient of the projection as separate enough to serve as a receptacle for parts of the self, but sufficiently un-differentiated to maintain the illusion that one is literally sharing a given feeling with another person. (4) A pathway for psychological change by which feelings similar to those with which one is struggling are processed by another person, following which the projector may identify with the recipient's handling of the engendered feelings.

Projection and projective identification are viewed as representing two poles of a continuum of types of fantasies of expulsion of aspects of the self with the former being seen as predominantly a one-person phenomenon involving a shift in self- and object-representations; in contrast, the latter requires that one's projective fantasies impinge upon real external objects in a sequence of externalization and internalization.

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