I. INTRODUCTION AND DEFINITIONS
Projective identification, a concept introduced by Melanie Klein in 1946, is both a primitive defense mechanism as well as a fundamental mode of unconscious communication with oneself and with the world. It allows the self to disavow unwanted experience while affording a modicum of control over the object of the projection.
Projective identification is a twofold unconscious movement that ignores the boundaries between the Self and the other and deals mainly with part-objects and parts of the Self. By projecting them into another person, first real, then also fantasized, the subject – first, the infant – evacuates – first, into the mother – painful body experiences, death anguish and other emotions and feelings that overwhelm his/her capacities to contain them within him/herself.
However, such a denial does not prevent the subject from keeping unconscious links with these expelled objects and parts of the Self; s/he also identifies him/herself with characteristics of the person into which s/he projected these elements.
Melanie Klein added projective identification to the first set of defenses – splitting, denial and idealization – that she had sorted out and specially dealt with in her 1946 paper, because she observed that it appeared simultaneously with these in the infant.
Projective identification is made of two main psychoanalytic concepts – projection and identification. However, apart from the fact that both are unconscious psychic movements, these two concepts do not have the same level of complexity:
-Projection-and-introjection are the basic mechanisms required for a psychic life to exist, in the same way as inspiration-and-expiration are the necessary mechanisms of breathing in biological life.
-Identification is a much more complex process, made of a mosaic of relational micromovements, and never achieved.
Projective identification is a hybrid and dynamic concept that applies to intrapsychic life as well as to interpersonal dynamics and economy (Guignard, 2017-2020). It enhances the importance of a first object fit for the newborn to have good enough relations: the helplessness and pre-maturity of the human baby make it necessary for him/her to get from the outside (from the mother) a fundamental means of communication, in order to have a grip on a ruthless reality. The newborn needs to meet the caring and thinking capacities in the mother in order to welcome and try to soothe those projected parts of him/her.
Projective identification cannot be understood separately from “introjective identification”, a concept rarely made explicit in clinical descriptions. Together, they constitute the feeling of identity of a person, a feeling always in motion and never achieved.
II. HISTORICAL EVOLUTION OF THE CONCEPT
Freud’s (1915 – “Instincts and their vicissitudes”) concept of projection – which he viewed as a means for the ego to rid itself of painful, threatening mental contents – and of his concept of identification. In his papers on metapsychology (eg 1917, 1923) Freud wrote that identification is the first form of object relation to appear at birth. It could be said that his 1914 essay on narcissism resulted in such an insight about a common psychic movement that installs simultaneously object relation and identification.Projective identification developed as a combination of
In 1938, shortly before his death, Freud clarified the primitive defense mechanisms of splitting, denial and idealization. In particular, he stressed the difference between the violence of the primal defenses compared to the secondary ones – linked to the secondary repression. By studying these defenses in relation to perversions, he focused on their pathology, not on their structure.
Melanie Klein’s concept of projective identification might be considered as having its roots in Freud’s considerations mentioned above. However, one should add to it Klein’s discoveries of the role of splitting in the world of objects – not only of the Ego, as Freud described it – that gave rise to the rich and complex universe of part-objects relations and identifications.
Projective identification addresses psychic objects projected – transferred – onto various people, the first of which is obviously the mother in the beginning of life, or her substitute, first as a part-object – “the breast” – then, as a total object – the person of the mother.
In 1946, Melanie Klein viewed projective identification as an intrapsychic means by which the infant relieves itself of unwanted affects, objects and parts of the self and a mechanism by which it takes control of the mother in [unconscious] phantasy. She also made clear that these projected aspects could be either good or bad. She introduced the notion that projective identification, fueled by unconscious envy, serves to destroy – once again in phantasy – the object of envy. As Klein viewed the infant’s project as keeping the bad out and the good in, she noted that projective and introjective identification go hand in hand.
She observed that a pathological use of projective identification keeps the subject in an illusory phantasy of being able to avoid the long and painful process of mourning described by Freud (1915) and thus – in the Kleinian framework – impede the move from the paranoid-schizoid position to the depressive position. Klein thought of projective identification as an unconscious phantasy – both the ‘projection’ and the ‘identification’ parts are unconscious. The object or part-object who is the recipient of the projection does not have to be present and does not have to know about the projection at all. Klein stressed the fact that this mode of functioning – splitting / denial / idealization / projective identification – erases the boundary between external reality and psychic reality and allows the subject to gain power – in phantasy – over the whole or part of an external person or of an internal object. The unconscious phantasy of projective identification is a powerful process. It will always have real effects on the mind of the person projecting (who will have lost part of himself and may for example feel very certain and righteous or may feel very empty after a massive projection). And it can under certain circumstances have real effects on the person who is the recipient.
抑郁心位的移动。克莱因认为投射性认同是一种无意识的幻觉——“投射”和“认同”的部分都是无意识。接受了投射的客体或部分客体不必在场，也根本不必知道这些投射。克莱因强调，这种功能模式——分裂/否认/理想化/投射性认同——抹去了外部现实（external reality）和精神现实（psychic reality）之间的边界，并允许主体获得力量—在幻觉中—驾驭(over)全部或部分的外在的人（external person）或内部客体（internal object）。投射性认同的无意识幻觉是一个强大的过程。它总会对被投射者的心智产生真正的影响（被投射者会失去部分自我，可能会感到非常确定和正直，或者在大量投射后可能会感到非常空虚）。在某些情况下，它会对接收者产生真实的影响。她观察到，病理性地使用投射性认同使得主体处于一种幻觉（phantasy）中，即，能够避免弗洛伊德（1915年）描述的漫长而痛苦的哀伤过程，从而——在克莱因框架中——阻碍了从偏执型精神分裂心位向
Wilfred Bion expanded Klein’s notion of “projective identification as a defensive phantasy” to include its function as a normal, pre-verbal form of communication that actually occurs between mother and infant. He felt that these early communicative experiences were extremely consequential and saw the development of the capacity to think as dependent on how mother and infant are able to adjust to one another. From 1962 on (Bion 1962a, 1962b) he describes how the child’s development of the capacity to think (i.e. alpha function) is dependent on primitive sensorial experience (beta elements) being managed and thus transformed in the mother-child relationship. Bion’s development of the theory of mind was revolutionary in considering that the infant’s capacity to think about and thus manage experience is dependent on the relationship with the alpha function of another human being, i.e., the mother’s.
儿童思维能力（即阿尔法功能）的发展如何依赖于原始感官经验（贝塔元素）的管理，从而在母婴关系中转化。比昂考虑到婴儿思考和管理经验的能力取决于他/她和另一个人的阿尔法功能的关系，即母亲的阿尔法功能，这对心智理论的发展而言，是革命性的。比昂（Wilfred Bion）扩展了Klein的“投射性认同是一种防御性幻觉”的概念，将其作为一种正常的、前言语的，的确发生在母婴之间的沟通形式。他认为这些早期沟通经验非常重要，他认为思考能力的发展取决于母亲和婴儿如何适应彼此。从1962年开始（Bion 1962a、1962b），比昂描述了
Along the lines of Kantian philosophy, Bion considered that thinking is called into existence to cope with thoughts, that thinking is a development forced upon the psyche by the pressure of experience and not the other way around.
Bion believed that, based on the need to survive, the baby has an inbuilt expectation (a preconception) of the existence of a satisfying breast and when she/he experiences this satisfaction, both physically and emotionally (a realization) she/he begins to build an as yet unnamed concept (a conception) which becomes the basis for healthy development. As the baby will inevitably experience distress, the capacity to tolerate frustration will facilitate the development of the capacity to ‘think’, which in turn helps the baby to manage the frustration. This process is dependent on the mother’s ability to “contain” the baby’s projections of “pain and anguish” into her. (see entry CONTAINMENT: CONTAINER-CONTAINED)
Under the best of circumstances, the personalities of both mother and infant are able to adapt to one another so that the infant, with its rudimentary reality sense, is able to produce behaviors reasonably calculated to arouse in the mother feelings that the infant wishes to get rid of. The mother can then process those feelings, during what Bion calls their sojourn in her, returning them to the infant in digestable form by means of the mother’s ministrations. Her ability to “contain” the toxic material projected onto her relies on her capacity for reverie, i.e. her ability to “think” or “dream” about the projecting subject. Reverie is a factor of the mother’s alpha-function (Bion, 1962b) and the child’s repeated experience of this process enables him/her to develop thougths and a thinking mind capable of managing emotional distress.
In contrast to this situation, when the infant’s pre-conception of a satisfying breast is repeatedly disappointed with a negative realization (i.e. deprivation), a bad object (no breast) is formed. If the mother is unable to receive and contain the baby’s defensive negative projections, or if the infant has a low tolerance for frustration, the bad object, fit only for evacuation (Klein’s projective identifcation) will remain in place. For Bion, the ways in which mother and infant manage these projective identifications will determine the developing child’s capacity to regulate affect and maintain effective ego functioning. Bion’s conceptual model has had vast implications for the psychoanalytic process and for our understanding and use of the countertransference in the clincal setting.
Returning to Melanie Klein, she described – as mentioned above – projective identification as closely linked to the primal set of defenses. She thus opened up the exploration of the vast field of part-object relationships and, in addition to her own contributions to the study of the pathology of these defenses, she was then able to give a more realistic and complete picture of the psychic world, both of the infant and of the unconscious functioning all lifelong.