Projective identification

3 Jan 2017 |  for counsellors | by Bill, writer at UK & Ireland Counsellor Directory

Projection is when I attribute to you some attitude or feeling which is not actually yours, but is mine. By doing this I am able to disavow part of myself. For example, I might see others as hostile and angry, where it was actually myself that had those feelings.

In projective identification I project some part of myself onto you in such a way that I induce feelings in you that correspond to the projection. You cannot feel my feelings, but have feelings that are somehow induced by my projection.

As a therapist it is important to be aware of this phenomenon, and being ready to consider the possibility that the feelings you are experiencing are a hint or clue as to what is going on for the client.

Of course there is always the possibility that the feelings in question are not related to projective identification and that they may say more about you than they do about the client. This is one of the reasons why it is so important for the therapist to develop self-awareness and insight into their own processes and issues, so that they are able to identify or consider the possibility of their own transference distorting their perceptions of what is happening in the here-and-now of the therapeutic relationship.

A therapist may fail to understand what is going on if the client’s material is close to some part of the therapist that he or she does not have insight into.

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