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Abend, S.M. Porder, M.S. (1986). Identification in the Neuroses. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 67:201-208.

(1986). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 67:201-208

Identification in the Neuroses

S. M. Abend and M. S. Porder


Identification is a term with a complex history in the evolution of psychoanalytic thought. It is used in explanations of symptom formation and the development of psychic structure. The authors report the results of a study of identifications as they appear in clinical material from the analyses of neurotic patients.

Those identifications which come to the attention of analyst and analysand in the course of analysis are seen to be expressions of underlying fantasies of becoming, or becoming like another person. What is most significant and useful to determine is the unconscious motive or motives for these identificatory fantasies. As these fantasies are compromise formations, the analytic method can detect motives from all their component elements, that is to say (1) various instinctual gratifications, (2) defences against anxiety, depressive affect or both, and (3) superego contributions, whose motives may be said to be punishment, expiation or undoing.

Clinical material is presented which demonstrates typical forms of identification, and the interweaving of these motives is shown. Certain long-standing ideas about distinguishing identifications of different types from one another are questioned, and the common underlying structure of all identifications is stressed instead.

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