This article is published in the book:

"Psych 101 -
What you didn't learn in nursing school."

by Kathi Stringer
Paperback: 320 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0615193137

Thoughts on Projective Identification

Written by Kathi Stringer

See illustration / chart

I think the most deadly of all projections is projective identification (PI). Usually due to the subject being invalidated to some degree, the subject will lash out at the invalidating/misunderstanding treater (or S/O, nurse, staff, friend..etc). This lashing out consists of, for example, the splitting-off of the bad-object, say anger in this case, and projecting that anger into the target/treater. Of course since every treater reacts different depending on their countertransference hook, the subject may have to keep projecting modified objects until the treater accepts the projection. Then wham! We have projective counter-identification (PCI), in which the treater has accepted the projected object and is now identifying with that object. The pay-off for the subject is some element of control.i.e.."now I can make you feel as bad as you made me feel." All the while the treater now feels as though some alien took over their essence and is miserable. Pay it seems. This unconscious goal for the subject was to race for the high ground and identify with the abuser and NOT the victim. As we all know, in the either/or domain of splitting, there is only an abuser or a victim, and no middle ground. The beat up subject that is flooded with emotions and not able to tolerate/hold the frustration will project the uncomfortable material via projective identification as a HOT POTATO. This all happens unconsciously, like, SNAP. The treater is now in the victim role, and the subject is at the controls, it feels like some sort of revenge in the transference.

Yet, what comes next separates the difference between a professional handing PI and an amateur treater, or some dip on the psych unit.

See illustration / chart