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Gaddini, E. (1969). On Imitation. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 50:475-484.

(1969). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 50:475-484

On Imitation

Eugenio Gaddini


It is true that identification, according to the original definition of Freud, is to be distinguished from imitation, but it is also true that because of the lengthy and laborious elaboration of the concept of identification, the relationship of the latter with imitation and the concept itself of imitation have not yet been sufficiently clarified.

Imitation seems to be an essential element of the structure of identification, as is introjection, but it expresses a basic disposition towards the object, which should be distinguished from that of introjection. To imitate not only does not mean to introject, but may be a way of defending oneself from the anxiety provoked by introjective conflicts, even if this defence may in turn cause more serious pathological pictures. In the process of identification imitations and introjections are fused and integrated in the service of the aims of adaptation and of the reality principle.

On the theoretical, and clinical plane an adequate recognition of imitations helps to clarify the concept of identification and to detect better its pathological aspects. For instance, at least some of those which are usually indicated as different 'types' of identification may instead be better described as different pathological aspects of it, and the elementary mental processes which underly some somatic pathological aspects may be better understood.

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