Introjection

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In psychoanalysis, introjection (German: Introjektion) refers to an unconscious process wherein one takes components of another person's identity, such as feelings, experiences and cognitive functioning,[1] and transfers them inside themselves, making such experiences part of their new psychic structure.[2] These components are obliterated from consciousness (splitting), perceived in someone else (projection),[3] and then experienced and performed (i.e., introjected) by that other person.[4] Cognate concepts are identification, incorporation[5] and internalization.

It is considered a self-stabilizing defense mechanism used when there is a lack of full psychological contact between a child and the adults providing that child's psychological needs.[6] Here, it provides the illusion of maintaining relationship but at the expense of a loss of self.[6] To use a simple example, a person who picks up traits from their friends is introjecting.

Projection has been described as an early phase of introjection.[7] Introjection is involved in gaslighting.[8][9]

Torok and Ferenczi[edit]

However, the aforementioned description of introjection has been challenged by Maria Torok as she favours using the term as it is employed by Sándor Ferenczi in his essay "The Meaning of Introjection" (1912). In this context, introjection is an extension of autoerotic interests that broadens the ego by a lifting of repression so that it includes external objects in its make-up. Torok defends this meaning in her 1968 essay "The Illness of Mourning and the Fantasy of the Exquisite Corpse", where she argues that Sigmund Freud and Melanie Klein confuse introjection with incorporation and that Ferenczi's definition remains crucial to analysis. She emphasized that in failed mourning 'the impotence of the process of introjection (gradual, slow, laborious, mediated, effective)' means that 'incorporation is the only choice: fantasmatic, unmediated, instantaneous, magical, sometimes hallucinatory...crypt effects (of incorporation)'.[10]

According to Freud, the ego and the superego are constructed by introjecting external behavioral patterns into the subject's own person. Specifically, he maintained that the critical agency or the super ego could be accounted for in terms of introjection and that the superego derives from the parents or other figures of authority.[11] The derived behavioral patterns are not necessarily reproductions as they actually are but incorporated or introjected versions of them.[11]

Relational mechanisms[edit]

In Freudian terms, introjection is the aspect of the ego's system of relational mechanisms which handles checks and balances from a perspective external to what one normally considers 'oneself', infolding these inputs into the internal world of the self-definitions, where they can be weighed and balanced against one's various senses of externality. For example:

  • "When a child envelops representational images of his absent parents into himself, simultaneously fusing them with his own personality."
  • "Individuals with weak ego boundaries are more prone to use introjection as a defense mechanism."

According to D. W. Winnicott, "projection and introjection mechanisms... let the other person be the manager sometimes, and to hand over omnipotence."[12]

Gaslighting[edit]

In a 1981 article, psychoanalysts Victor Calef and Edward Weinshel argued that gaslighting involves the projection and introjection (the "transfer") of psychic contents from the victimizer to the victim.[13] The psychic contents include affects, perceptions, impulses, resistances, fantasies, delusions, conflicts. The authors explored a variety of reasons why the victims may have "a tendency to incorporate and assimilate what others externalize and project onto them", and concluded that gaslighting may be "a very complex highly structured configuration which encompasses contributions from many elements of the psychic apparatus".[13]

Later, psychiatrist Theodore Dorpat described this "transfer" of the victimizer's unconscious psychic contents as an example of projective identification.[14][15]:5–6, 40 For projective identification to be most effective, the victim would be unaware of being gaslighted. It becomes destructive when the victim as well identifies with the contents of the "transfer" (what has been projected). These effects however are cancelled when the victim becomes capable of disbelieving and disidentifying with the negative introjects which results from projective identification.

Gestalt therapy[edit]

In Gestalt therapy, the concept of "introjection" is not identical with the psychoanalytical concept. Central to Fritz and Laura Perls' modifications was the concept of "dental or oral aggression", when the infant develops teeth and is able to chew. They set "introjection" against "assimilation". In Ego, Hunger and Aggression,[16] Fritz and Laura Perls suggested that when the infant develops teeth, he or she has the capacity to chew, to break apart food, and assimilate it, in contrast to swallowing before; and by analogy to experience, to taste, accept, reject or assimilate. Laura Perls explains: "I think Freud said that development takes place through introjection, but if it remains introjection and goes no further, then it becomes a block; it becomes identification. Introjection is to a great extent unawares."[17]

Thus Fritz and Laura Perls made "assimilation", as opposed to "introjection", a focal theme in Gestalt therapy and in their work, and the prime means by which growth occurs in therapy. In contrast to the psychoanalytic stance, in which the "patient" introjects the (presumably more healthy) interpretations of the analyst, in Gestalt therapy the client must "taste" with awareness their experience, and either accept or reject it, but not introject or "swallow whole". Hence, the emphasis is on avoiding interpretation, and instead encouraging discovery. This is the key point in the divergence of Gestalt therapy from traditional psychoanalysis: growth occurs through gradual assimilation of experience in a natural way, rather than by accepting the interpretations of the analyst.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hinshelwood, R. D. (1995). "The Social Relocation of Personal Identity as Shown by Psychoanalytic Observations of Splitting, Projection, and Introjection". Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology. 2 (3): 185–204. ISSN 1086-3303.
  2. ^ Jaffe, Charles M. (2018). "Introjection in Psychoanalytic Couple and Family Therapy". Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy: 1–2. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-15877-8_12-1.
  3. ^ Malancharuvil, Joseph M. (2004-12-01). "Projection, Introjection, and Projective Identification: A Reformulation". The American Journal of Psychoanalysis. 64 (4): 375–382. doi:10.1007/s11231-004-4325-y. ISSN 1573-6741.
  4. ^ Hinshelwood, R. D. (1995). "The Social Relocation of Personal Identity as Shown by Psychoanalytic Observations of Splitting, Projection, and Introjection". Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology. 2 (3): 185–204. ISSN 1086-3303.
  5. ^ A form of taking the outside world into the inner world, being focused on bodily sensation.
  6. ^ a b Erskine, Richard G. (2018-04-17). Relational Patterns, Therapeutic Presence: Concepts and Practice of Integrative Psychotherapy. Routledge. ISBN 9780429918513.
  7. ^ Malancharuvil JM (December 2004). "Projection, introjection, and projective identification: a reformulation" (PDF). Am J Psychoanal. 64 (4): 375–82. doi:10.1007/s11231-004-4325-y. PMID 15577283. S2CID 19730486.
  8. ^ Calef, Victor; Weinshel, Edward M. (January 1981). "Some Clinical Consequences of Introjection: Gaslighting". The Psychoanalytic Quarterly. 50 (1): 44–66. doi:10.1080/21674086.1981.11926942. ISSN 0033-2828. PMID 7465707.
  9. ^ Dorpat, Theo. L. (1994). "On the double whammy and gaslighting". Psychoanalysis & Psychotherapy. 11 (1): 91–96. INIST:4017777.
  10. ^ Jacques Derrida, "Foreword", Nicolas Abraham/Maria Torok, The Wolf Man's Secret Word (1986) p. xvii and p. 119n
  11. ^ a b Wollheim, Richard (1981). Sigmund Freud. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 223. ISBN 052128385X.
  12. ^ "Winnicott, D.W. Home is Where We Start From: Essays by a Psychoanalyst. New York, London: W.W. Norton & Company, 1986. 50.
  13. ^ a b Calef, Victor; Weinshel, Edward M. (January 1981). "Some Clinical Consequences of Introjection: Gaslighting". The Psychoanalytic Quarterly. 50 (1): 44–66. doi:10.1080/21674086.1981.11926942. ISSN 0033-2828. PMID 7465707.
  14. ^ Dorpat, Theo. L. (1994). "On the double whammy and gaslighting". Psychoanalysis & Psychotherapy. 11 (1): 91–96. INIST:4017777.
  15. ^ Dorpat, Theodore L. (1996). Gaslighting, the Double Whammy, Interrogation, and Other Methods of Covert Control in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson. ISBN 978-1-56821-828-1. OCLC 34548677. Retrieved 2021-04-24.
  16. ^ Perls, F., Ego, Hunger and Aggression (1942, 1947) ISBN 0-939266-18-0
  17. ^ Wysong, J./Rosenfeld, E.(eds.): An oral history of Gestalt therapy. Interviews with Laura Perls, Isadore From, Erving Polster, Miriam Polster, Highland, N.Y. 1982, p. 6.