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Gordon, R. (1965). The Concept of Projective Identification: An Evaluation. J. Anal. Psychol., 10(2):127-149.

(1965). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 10(2):127-149

The Concept of Projective Identification: An Evaluation

Rosemary Gordon


IT IS the purpose of this paper to examine in some detail the concept of projective identification. This term was coined by Melanie Klein; it is regarded by many as an essentially Kleinian concept, and some analytical psychologists appear to react to it as if it had become an alien intruder into a Jungian psychology. It will be shown that this is not so.

The name is a composite one, made up of two terms, ‘projection’ and ‘identification’, both of which have been much discussed in the literature. It is therefore important to inquire whether this composite name really refers to mental events that have hitherto been more or less unknown or unexplored and whether these events are significantly different from those described as either projection or identification. Such a re-examination may possibly help to delineate the term more precisely and to refine it, and this in turn may help us to increase our clinical skill and acumen. If we should succeed in recognizing here a mental process with a distinct identity, then it is worth while to examine in greater detail its characteristics and some of the clinical problems that it poses for the analyst.

As analytical psychologists we must furthermore ask ourselves how we can integrate such a concept into our own theoretical frame of reference and also whether it might not in fact add to and amplify Jung's own researches and clinical descriptions and observations. There are a number of these that bear upon our topic.

In Two essays on analytical psychology, Jung writes of one of his patients: He had fallen in love with a girl and, as so often happens, had failed to ascertain whether his love was requited. His primitive participation mystique took it for granted that his agitations were plainly the agitations of the other, which on the lower levels of human psychology is naturally very often the case (Jung, 1928, p. 143).

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