Defense mechanism of The Week: Introjection

What is It?

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 toward impulsivity, sadism, and explosivity.

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 have 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.

Jennifer De Francisco, MPA, MSW, LCSW is a Newport Beach marriage counselor who specializes in the improvement of relationships, including couples counseling, grief counseling, and individual psychotherapy.

Please feel free to call her at (949) 251-8797 for an appointment.

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