Introjection: How This Defense Mechanism Affects Our Identity

Introjection is something most people learn to do from a fairly early age in order to be accepted and maintain relationships with the people around us. It’s a natural part of our development from children into adults and may also be used to protect us in times when we feel anxious or unsure of how to behave. Keep reading to learn more about injection and the positive as well negative aspects of this defense mechanism

What are Defense Mechanisms?

The concept of defense mechanisms was first developed by Anna Freud, Sigmund Freud’s daughter. She explained them as “unconscious resources used by the ego to decrease internal stress.”

She explained that when people experience conflict between their superego and id, they may use defense mechanisms to reduce this conflict. This process typically happens unconsciously and may result in either healthy or unhealthy consequences, depending on the defense mechanism. In the case of introjection, the consequences of this defense are usually healthy.

What is Introjection?

At its simplest, introjection is the process of misunderstanding the feelings that come from the outside as coming from the inside. Although introjection tends to be a more primitive defense, it can sometimes be used in a healthy way. For example, introjection is the internalization of authority that we all need. According to Freud, we all internalize the values and judgments of our parents and society at large, thus making it a part of our own psyche and self-identity.

Identifying With the Aggressor

More often, however, introjection is a destructive process. The most striking and classical of examples is “identifying with the aggressor”. Under conditions of fear and abuse, people will sometimes take on the qualities and feelings of their abuser in order to control fear, emotional pain, and anxiety. In other words, instead of feeling like a helpless victim, they become the powerful inflictor. This is often seen in characters that are prone to impulsivity, sadism, and explosiveness.

Complicated Grief-When Loved Ones Become Part of Us

Introjection can also be seen in the grieving process and its relation to depression. When we are deeply attached to those we love, we introject them- in other words; they become a part of ourselves. If we lose this person, we feel we are diminished, and a part of ourselves has died. A sense of emptiness can ensue, which can be part of the grieving process. If, however, we are overly focused on how to restore the lost object rather than how to have a life of meaning without them, then depressive guilt can ensue. We may become over-preoccupied with the irrational feeling that we did something to cause their death.

Couples Counseling in Orange County From Jennifer De Francisco

Although Freud characterized introjection as a positive and healthy defense mechanism, it can very quickly become negative if it leads to the loss of one’s sense of self. However, this is typically used as a defense mechanism when the person whose beliefs or actions you’re absorbing is emotionally unavailable or physically absent. This can lead to serious negative consequences. If this is becoming an issue in your relationship, couples counseling may be able to help.

Couples counseling is typically associated with couples in danger of breaking up or divorcing, but counseling is always helpful, even in stable relationships. It helps couples learn how to communicate effectively and how to better work together to solve problems, among many other benefits.

Jennifer De Francisco, MPA, MSW, LCSW, offers couples counseling in Orange County, CA for couples at any stage in their relationship. Her approach provides a safe environment to open and honestly share thoughts and emotions. Through developing a positive, therapeutic relationship, you and your partner can interpret what is going on, both in your life and in the session, creating a better awareness within your relationship. Contact Jennifer De Francisco by calling (949) 251-8787 or make an appointment online.

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