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Torras De Beà, E. (1989). Projective Identification and Differentiation. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 70:265-274.

(1989). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 70:265-274

Projective Identification and Differentiation

Eulàlia Torras De Beà


A piece of psychoanalytical treatment is used to present projection or projective identification as the activation of inner experience in the recipient and as the mechanism basic to all human interaction. The patient activates inner experience in his psychoanalyst and the result of the subsequent interaction will depend both on the ability of the psychoanalyst to reorganize his own internal experience, connect it with words and consciousness and convey this new knowledge and meaning to the patient, as well as the response of the patient.

This clinical material is also used to define differentiation (which involves linking) and dissociation as two opposing functions, the former being fundamental, in the author's view, to the communicative and empathetic function of projective identification and the latter to the defensive aspect of projective identification.

Direct experience and recent research about the capacities of newborn babies support the author's view that the capacity to differentiate is a primary function existing from birth in the quiet, alert state. This is the fundamental structuring function in healthy emotional and intellectual evolution. Dissociation, on the other hand, is used when anxiety becomes intolerable, but if the dissociation is not excessive or too sustained then normal evolution is not disturbed.

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