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De La Vega, G. (1959). Revista De Psicoanàlisis. XIV, 1957: If I Were You. Leon Grinberg. Pp. 355-367.. Psychoanal Q., 28:135.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Revista De Psicoanàlisis. XIV, 1957: If I Were You. Leon Grinberg. Pp. 355-367.

(1959). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 28:135

Revista De Psicoanàlisis. XIV, 1957: If I Were You. Leon Grinberg. Pp. 355-367.

Gabriel De La Vega

The French novel, If I Were You, by Julien Green is used as the title for this article because it shows some of the meanings of this popular saying. Its origin perhaps lay in 'imitative magic', the notion that things that look alike are one, or in 'contaminating magic', that things once in contact remain one thing. Envy is at the root of 'if I were you'; impotent rage at the other person's success provokes the wish to imitate him. Other mechanisms involved may be sibling rivalry ('if I were … the baby') or penis envy ('if I were … a man'). Woman may be envied as a creator (artists 'deliver their work'), and some persons wish to live through assuming a woman's role (for example, in couvade), or to receive a man's affection, expressing the thought 'if I were … my mother'. Jealousy may transform the wish into 'if you were I' (as in Dorian Gray's portrait). Denial produces 'it is not I who love you', which is transformed into 'if I were you … I couldn't love myself'. Identification with the aggressor repeats actively what was passively experienced. Finally, some form of this mechanism is used when we go to the movies or theater, in group therapy, and under the impetus of positive feelings of sympathy, love, solidarity, or belonging.

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Article Citation

De La Vega, G. (1959). Revista De Psicoanàlisis. XIV, 1957. Psychoanal. Q., 28:135

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