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(1982). The Conceptual Distinction between Projective Identification (Klein) and Container-Contained (Bion): Donald Meltzer (Oxford) with Guiliana Milana (Rome) Susanna Maiello (Rome) and Diomire Petrelli (Naples). J. Child Psychother., 8(2):185-202.
    

(1982). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 8(2):185-202

The Conceptual Distinction between Projective Identification (Klein) and Container-Contained (Bion): Donald Meltzer (Oxford) with Guiliana Milana (Rome) Susanna Maiello (Rome) and Diomire Petrelli (Naples)

Introduction

During seminars in Rome in the Spring of 1982, students of the Rome Course in Child Psychotherapy (related to the Tavistock Clinic, London) presented several cases which Mrs. Harris and I had periodically monitored over the previous three years. Two of them, Mario (G.M.) and Francesco (D.P.) were clearly approaching the termination of therapy, while the third, Antonio (S.M.), a child who had had many autistic features, seemed to be in crisis regarding depressive anxieties and the capacity for thought. Not only were the three boys of similar age (nine years, plus or minus a few months) but also the form of the material was strikingly similar. Resentment of dependence upon a thinking object, hatred of being small and weak, envy of the mother's richness and fertility and jealousy of prospective siblings were all gloriously displayed in the sessions presented to the seminar. But the strategic significance of the material was quite different in the three children and offered a background for the investigation of this important conceptual problem, concerning which there has been much confusion: how do these two concepts, projective identification and container-contained, relate to one another? What are the clinical indicators and how may the distinction be utilised in the clinical situation?

Before describing the clinical material, a brief theoretical preamble may help to focus the problem. In her 1946 paper on schizoid mechanisms, Melanie Klein described the operation

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