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Ponder, J. (2019). Patients' Use of Dogs as Objects of Identification, Projection, and Displacement. Psychoanal. Psychol., 36(1):29-35.

(2019). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 36(1):29-35

On Objects of Identification

Patients' Use of Dogs as Objects of Identification, Projection, and Displacement

JoAnn Ponder, Ph.D.

This article illustrates how a patient's discussion of a dog can provide a rich entrée into that patient's psyche and inner object world. The author will review the psychoanalytic literature on the topic, present case material from 2 clients who displaced their issues onto dogs, and consider clinical techniques for addressing this. Given that human identifications with dogs occur in daily life, it is hardly surprising that dogs may serve as objects of identification, projection, and displacement in a client's psychoanalytic treatment. The most frequent means by which this occurs is through metaphor, as shown in a psychotherapy vignette from an adult male. His identification with a wounded dog led to revelations about his object relations, was enacted in his relationships and transference, and became an organizing metaphor in the treatment. In an analytic case, an adult anorexic woman's dog imagery evolved as she psychologically separated from her mother, “launched” her children, and claimed her own life and agency. She initially presented blurred boundaries and overidentification with her dog. The patient recognized her second dog as a separate object, but projected malevolent human intent onto it. Finally, she recognized that it was just acting like a dog, and she went on to develop expertise in training dogs. The author will explore both of the patients' defenses, displacements, transferences, and the interventions which helped in working through their issues.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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