Projective identification: A theoretical investigation of the concept starting from ’Notes on some schizoid mechanisms’1


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    Translated by Harriet Graham


This paper submits passages from four papers-‘Notes on some schizoid mechanisms’ (Klein); ‘On identification’ (Klein); ‘Analysis of a schizophrenic state with depersonalization’ (Rosenfeld); and ‘Remarks on the relation of male homosexuality to paranoia, paranoid anxiety and narcissism’ (Rosenfeld)-to a critical reading, enabling the theoretical premises which have produced the current, differing views on projective identification to be traced. These views revolve both around the role assigned to identification in the process and around the meaning of the expression‘to identify oneself with’ which in ‘On identification’ goes from ‘to feel similar to, or identical to the other’ to ‘to take another person as a model’. This legitimizes the inclusion of very different phenomena into the concept of projective identification. The author describes some uses of the term ‘projective identification’ and proposes the hypothesis that the process constitutes a way for managing otherness and the separateness of the object (be it external or internal, real or imaginary) that can compromise its reality to a greater or lesser degree. Covering a large set of phenomena, the author poses the question of whether it is useful to retain the term ‘projective identification’. She proposes an answer in the last part of the paper.