The Paranoid Schizoid Position and Projective Identification

The Controversial Discussions were over and Klein was safely reestablished in the British Society when the next phase in her theoretical development began with her 1946 paper "Notes on Some Schizoid Mechanisms" (Klein 1946*, which wras published later in Developments in Psychoanalysis. In this she introduced the paranoid-schizoid position and her new concept of projective identification. By this time a new generation was grouped around her, and it was they who became known as the "Kleinians." Notable among them were three of her former analysands, Herbert Rosenfcld, Hanna Segal, and Wilfred Bion, who were all involved in the analysis of schizophrenic patients using the concepts and approach Klein had pioneered writh children.

Prior to this period |1946), a paranoid position was thought of mainly as a precursor of the depressive position, and using the old model of Abraham, it was thought to be the fixation point to which regression took place in schizophrenia. The word schizoid was added by Klein 111 acknowledgment of Fairbairn's description of the earliest phase as the schizoid position. Like Klein lie thought the ego began life related to objects and defended itself from bad experience by "splitting." What became apparent in the Kleinian work was that in psychoses the regression was not to a normal paranoid-schizoid position but to a pathological one. The greater degree of splitting in this pathology resulted in fragmentation that made integration impossible. Rosenfcld (1950) made the point that unless a primary split could be achieved based 011 actual good and bad ex perience, there was no indubitably good object and no manifestly bad one. The attempt at integration in the depressive position therefore resulted not in ambivalent feeling coupled with a greater sense of reality but in a frightening contusion and bottomless uncertainty.

The actual experience of the child was clearly crucial in this situation, but were there also factors in the child that might contribute to this? In her paper "On Envy and Gratitude/' Klein (1957) wrote that hostility toward a care taking object independent of the self meant that an unambiguously loved good object could not be experienced or internalized in the paranoid-schizoid position, Bion emphasized that the intolerance of frustration meant that potential good objects were rendered bad by any delay.

In addition to confusion between good and bad, confusion between self and object was another potential hazard that arose from projective identification. This concept has acquired a number of subsidiary meanings; for the sake of clarity I summarize them here. One is the projection of aspects of the self that are disowned and attributed to the other; another is the phantasy of entering the object and taking over its identity or attributes. An example of the first would be the person who, while denying his or her own anger, says, "You are very angry, aren't you?" A psychotic example of the second would be the claim by a patient that he or she is the return of Napoleon; a nonpsychotic example of the second would be the unconscious assumption by a patient of the analyst's ideas and mannerisms. Another variant of projective identification is between that which has an effect on the recipient and that which remains only a phantasy. The projective identification that evokes effects in the recipient is obviously of considerable significance for countertransference. It was developed further in particular by Bion in his concept of the container-contained, which nowr is described.

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