Projective identification, an intrapsychic and interpersonal process, is among the key ideas in the thinking and theory of Melanie Klein and later developed by her follower, Wilifred Bion, and more recently by Thomas Ogden. For Klein (1946), the early infant, in phantasy, splits parts of the self, or the whole self, and projects or inserts them into an external object, which then identifies with the split and projected parts. The aim is to harm, possess or control the external object. Projected phantasies may also be accompanied by provoking behaviours causing the recipient of the projection to act or feel in congruence with the projections. It is in the power of the phantasy of inhabiting the recipient (i.e. with feeling, attitude, behaviour) that the projector asserts control over the recipient; if there is receptivity to projections, the recipient is described as in counter-identification with the projector. When Klein writes about identification, she is referring to the particular manner in which the subject’s self is projected. It is important to understand that Klein used this concept not only to understand fundamental developmental processes (i.e. primitive, pre-verbal modes of communicating and relating where the infant expresses feeling by relating to the mother through the experience of the feeling) but also how it served defensive purposes.
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