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Victims' Symptom : glossary:projective-identification
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Projective identification

The concept of ‘projective identification’ has grabbed the attention of many clinicians and theoreticians since its first description and various comments have been made about it. Projective identification is considered in three distinct ways within the “Object Relations” approach (Göka, Yüksel & Göral, 2006).

The first viewpoint regards projective identification as a defense mechanism observed in severe psychopathologies like “borderline personality disorder”. Other pathologies that are seen in “borderline” personality organizations, which were established by Kernberg, can be included in this group (Kernberg, 1987). The second viewpoint defines projective identification as a mechanism, which arises in the transference and counter-transference transactions between the therapist and the patient during the psychoanalytic process. The third view claims that projective identification can be anything in human relations that a person has in his/her relationship with any other (person, association, group, or nation) (Göka, Yüksel & Göral, 2006).

Cashdan inserted the term projective identification into the communication concept by taking Ogden’s model into account, and developing his own object relations therapy approach, which is based on the projective identification concept (Cashdan, 1998).

According to Cashdan the determinative factor which exist in projective identification is the induction of others to act in accordance with what is projected. A person inserts his/her own parts into “the other”, regarding the sensations and structures of his/her own psychological system, which are formed by experiences. The receiver of the projections is forced to accept and act in accordance with these parts (Cashdan, 1998). Cashdan described 4 basic types of projective identification, which come from pathological object relations in the early periods of life. These are dependence, power, sexuality, and ingratiation projective identificationsThe person who uses ingratiation projective identification continuously shows self-denial in order to gain the "other's" love ... (Göka, Demirergi & Özbay, 1993).

There can be malign and destructive forms of projective identification that underlie many psychopathologies as well as benign forms that arise as a communication that is a necessity in human relationships (Young,1992). The material, which is discarded during the projective identification process, may contain positive and negative aspects of the self. If the process of projective identification is followed by reality testing, this process can help the person to understand him/herself and the “other”. To evaluate or reverse projective identifications is difficult when they are strong and demanding (Göka, Yüksel & Göral, 2006).

Better understanding of the importance of projective identification in socialization, in being human, in the processes of ego development, and in forms of having relationships will contribute to the understanding of the nature of psychopathologies, the psychotherapeutic relationship, and psychotherapy, as well as the nature of many problems in normal human relations (Göka, Yüksel & Göral, 2006).



  • Göka E, Yüksel FV, Göral Fs. Projective Identification In Human Relations. Turkish Journal Of Psychiatry. 2006; 17(1):1-9.
  • Cashdan S. Object Relations Therapy. New York. WWNorton & Company, 1988:53-78.
  • Kernberg O. Projection And Projective Identification: Developmental And Clinical Aspects. J Am Psychoanal Assoc. 1987;35:795-819.
  • Göka E, Demirergi N, Özbay H. Sheldon Cashdan and Therapy of Object Relations. Turkish Journal of Psychiatry, 1993; 4(3): 224-228.

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