Projective Identification and Extractive Introjection

Seeking to re-familiarize myself with the concept of extractive introjection I found this chapter link by Christopher Bollas.  (see The Shadow of the Object: Psychoanalysis of the Unthought Known)

Beginning with a description of projective identification, Bollas then proposes what he identifies as ‘almost exactly it’s reverse’, extractive introjection. For my purposes, I want to try visualizing the pair through the lenses of experiential state imagery and complexes. First, the Bollas quotes:

”Kleinian psychoanalysts, in particular, have focused on one way in which a person may rid himself of a particular element of psychic life. He does so by putting it into someone else. If a father feels guilty over impulse buying or the pressure created internally by the urge to be impulsive, he may break psychological contact with this impulse and its inspired guilt by criticizing his child’s ordinary impulsiveness. As the parent unconsciously rids himself of this unwanted part of himself, his overly censorious relation to the child’s impulsiveness creates the ‘desired’ effect. Unable to bear the father’s censorious approach, the child becomes even more impulsive. In studying human relations, whenever we note that one person compels another to ‘carry’ an unwanted portion of himself, then we speak of ‘projective identification’.

I believe there is a process that can be as destructive as projective identification in its violation of the spirit of mutual relating. Indeed, I am thinking of an intersubjective procedure that is almost exactly it’s reverse, a process that I propose to call extractive introjection. Extractive introjection occurs when one person steals for a certain period time (from a few seconds or minutes, to a lifetime) an element of another individual’s psychic life. Such an intersubjective violence takes place when the violator (henceforth A) automatically assumes that the violated (henceforth B) has no internal experience of the psychic element that A represents. At the moment of this assumption, an act of theft takes place, and B may be temporarily anesthetized and unable to ‘gain back’ the stolen part of the self. If such extraction is conducted by parent upon a child it may take many years of an analysis before B will ever recover the stolen part of the self.” (pp 157-158)

Bollas goes on to provide a number of vivid clinical examples illuminating the not so subtle but exceedingly challenging difficulties associated with this mechanism.



Explore posts in the same categories: Transference and Countertransference

One Comment on “Projective Identification and Extractive Introjection”

  1. […] the Bollas quote posted below, we are invited to picture an interaction between a father and child complicated by the […]

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