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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


It is a continuing task of psychoanalytic thinking to attempt to generate concepts and consistent language that are helpful in understanding the interplay between phenomena in an intrapsychic sphere (e.g. thoughts and feelings) and phenomena in the sphere of external reality and interpersonal relations (e.g. the reality of the other person in an object relationship as opposed to the psychological representation of that person). Psychoanalytic theory suffers from a paucity of concepts and language that help to bridge these areas. Since projective identification can be understood as representing one such bridging formulation, it is to the detriment of psychoanalytic thinking that this concept remains one of the most loosely defined and incompletely understood of psychoanalytic conceptualizations.

This paper attempts to make some steps towards a wider understanding of projective identification, as well as towards an increased precision of definition in this area. The concept of projective identification will be located in relation to other related psychoanalytic concepts, such as projection, introjection, identification, internalization, and externalization. In addition, there is an effort to arrive at a more precise understanding of the nature and function of fantasy in projective identification, and the relation of that fantasy component to external reality and to real object relations, specifically how projective fantasies (intrapsychic phenomena) about with real, external objects.

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