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Oremland, J.D. (1973). The Jinx Game—A Ritualized Expression of Separation-Individuation. Psychoanal. St. Child, 28:419-431.

(1973). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 28:419-431

The Jinx Game—A Ritualized Expression of Separation-Individuation

Jerome D. Oremland, M.D.


The psychoanalytic study of the Jinx game is presented as an observational study of the development of object relations. The game is initiated by the coincidence of two children spontaneously saying the same word or phrase and is terminated by pronouncing

the name of the child who has been jinxed. Its rigidly adhered to rules, each reflecting, among other things, recently acquired ego and superego components, ritualize differentiation and subsequent redifferentiation. The game is viewed as a formalized latency and preadolescent recapitulation of aspects of the separation-individuation process, aiding the maintenance of self-object differentiation and the consolidation of the sense of autonomy.

Although participating in the expression of and control over aggressive impulses and sadomasochistic and omnipotent fantasies, the Jinx game specifically portrays merger issues rather than control of separate object issues, which are seen in pure form in such victim-victimizer games as "Slave" and "Mother, may I?"

I have suggested that pubertal children may lose interest in and depreciate the game because their sense of identity is again imperiled by regressive processes which make the threat of merger too real. However, with maturity, the game may again be enjoyed with a shift in emphasis to momentary, illusionary omnipotence and a feeling of potential wish fulfillment associated with unconscious primary merger processes.

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