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Greenson, R.R. (1954). The Struggle Against Identification. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 2:200-217.

(1954). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 2:200-217

The Struggle Against Identification

Ralph R. Greenson, M.D.


Ordinarily identification is considered to be a means of maintaining a close relationship to an object. In fact Freud (10) ventured the opinion that identification was perhaps the earliest expression of an emotional tie to another person. At a later date Freud (11) remarked that it may even be that this identification is the sole condition under which the id can give up its objects. This presentation is devoted to the psychoanalytic findings in a group of patients who struggled against identifying themselves with an important parental figure. This was not an incidental finding but was indeed the major factor in understanding the dynamic structure of the clinical picture.

Before going on to the case presentations and the theoretical hypotheses, it would be wise to attempt to clarify and define some of the concepts which are so frequently used interchangeably and inexactly in discussions on identification. The reader is referred to the writings of Freud (10), (11), Glover (13), Fenichel (6), (7), Hartmann, Kris and Loewenstein (18), Jacobson (22), and Hendrick (20), whose papers provide the source material for these formulations.

Incorporation is an oral instinctual activity which has as its aim the taking of an external part of the world into the mouth, swallowing it, and in this way making it part of he physical self. The aim of incorporation is satisfaction without regard to the object. In this sense it indicates neither hatred nor love (Fenichel, 7).

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