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Introjection is a psychoanalytical term with a variety of meanings.

Generally, it is regarded as the process where the subject replicates in itself behaviors, attributes or other fragments of the surrounding world, especially of other subjects. Cognate concepts are identification, incorporation, and internalization.

To use a simple example, a person who picks up traits from their friends (e.g., if someone exclaims "Ridiculous!" all the time and their friends start saying it too) is participating in introjection.

Projection has been described as an early phase of introjection.


However, this meaning has been challenged by Maria Torok as she favours using the term as it is employed by Sándor Ferenczi in his essay "The Meaning of Introjection" (1912). In this context introjection is an extension of autoerotic interests that broadens the ego by a lifting of repression so that it includes external objects in its make-up. Maria Torok defends this meaning in her 1968 essay The Illness of Mourning and the Fantasy of the Exquisite Corpse where she argues that Sigmund Freud and Melanie Klein confuse introjection with incorporation and that Ferenczi's definition remains crucial to analysis. She emphasized that in failed mourning 'the impotence of the process of introjection (gradual, slow, laborious, mediated, effective)' means that 'incorporation is the only choice: fantasmatic, unmediated, instantaneous, magical, sometimes hallucinatory...crypt effects (of incorporation)'.

According to Freud, the ego and the superego are constructed by introjecting external behavioral patterns into the subject's own person. Of course, Freud had a habit of looking at relational mechanisms in negative terms.

Relational mechanisms

In Freudian terms, introjection is the aspect of the ego's system of relational mechanisms which handles checks and balances from a perspective external to what one normally considers 'oneself', infolding these inputs into the internal world of the self-definitions, where they can be weighed and balanced against one's various senses of externality. For example:

"One example often used is when a child envelops representational images of his absent parents into himself, simultaneously fusing them with his own personality."

"Individuals with weak ego boundaries are more prone to use introjection as a defense mechanism. According to Donald Woods Winnicott "projection and introjection mechanisms... let the other person be the manager sometimes, and to hand over omnipotence.

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