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Mendelsohn, R. (2009). The Projective Identifications of Everyday Life. Psychoanal. Rev., 96(6):871-894.

(2009). Psychoanalytic Review, 96(6):871-894

The Projective Identifications of Everyday Life

Robert Mendelsohn, Ph.D., ABPP

In his classic paper, “The Psychopathology of Everyday Life,” Freud (1903) expanded his understanding of repression, which he had first seen only in neurosis and dreams, to the routine behavior of normal psychology. Thus, “The Psychopathology of Everyday Life” (1903) and The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) both represent for Freud his transition from abnormal psychology to normal psychology and to a theory of personality.

Following in that vein, this paper is an attempt to expand the concept of the defense of projective identification (PI) to include everyday occurrences. Currently, PI is understood in a limited way as a process seen primarily in severe character pathology; I suggest, however, that PI is actually a much more common process of communication between people in intimate contact, and that expanded notions of PI may help the analytic therapist working in any intimate dyad, particularly with the marital couple. Under this expanded notion of PI, the defense is not necessarily psychologically malignant; rather, it becomes so only if it is used in conjunction with other primitive defenses.

A Brief History of Projective Identification

Projective identification” is a term first introduced by Melanie Klein (1946). It refers to a psychological process in which a person strives for emotional balance by engaging in a particular kind of projection.

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