Projective Identification Examples in Movies

If you’re serious about learning about yourself and implementing what you discover into action, projective identification is a topic worth getting to know.

Since projection is an internal mental activity, the target of the projection usually is unaware that they are being made a target of negative conduct. The practice of “projective identification” builds upon this projection at hand. So that you may better grasp this idea, let’s look at a projective identification example.

Projective Identification Examples and Manifestations

  • Acquisitive projective identification while attributive projective identification occurs when one person convinces another to become their own projection, attributional identification occurs when one person takes on the characteristics of another.
  • Projective counter-identification – a situation in which the therapist unknowingly takes the sentiments and role of the sufferer to the level that he plays out this role inside the therapeutic context; this is a degree further than the therapist just accepting the patient’s projections without acting on them.
  • Dual projective identification – It happens most often when both people in a mutual relationship both transfer their problems onto the other person. All these parties refute the forecasts, while both parties associate with the projections.
  •  normal projective identification and pathological projective identification – In this case it happens before the actual projection takes place, in this specific scenario, the content that is going to be projected is broken up into very little fragments.

To influence another individual’s body and mind, or to rid oneself of undesirable aspects of oneself, projective identification may be employed as a protective mechanism, a method of communication, a kind of connection, or a pathway to developmental psychology.

Freuds Psychological Projection vs Projective Identification

Using Freud’s idea of psychological projection as a foundation, projective identification goes

“The one person does not use the other merely as a hook to hang projections on. He/she strives to find in the other, or to induce the other to become, the very embodiment of projection”

-RD Laing

Projective Identification Examples

Projection is a personal process that happens in one individual’s head; the person whose conduct is being projected has no awareness. Projective identification enhances this projection. So now Let’s take  look at some in depth  projective identification examples.

1) Therapist-Client: Example Goodwill Hunting

The events that occur beforehand reveal a lot. Sean is making an effort to bond with Will. Will’s primary lines of defense against Sean are reasoning and his outstanding intellect. Will is on the lookout for a way to get through to Sean and thinks he may have found one in one of his paintings.

Naturally Will seems to be harboring a lot of resentment. Thus Will’s compelled participation in treatment stems in part from his resentment of the legal system. Will isn’t cooperating and is instead trying to undermine the therapist-client dynamic in every way shape and form. We also have to take into account that Will also has a lot of pent-up rage from his harsh childhood. Therefore Will has a track record of erratic behavior.

The instance of projection

When Will tells Sean, “You are one step away from cutting your ear off,” he’s clearly projecting. Will is making a subconscious reference towards himself and his tendency toward subconscious self-destruction,  but he puts his sentiments and the fury that goes along with them onto Sean because he finds them so dangerous.

After this Will then speculates that maybe Sean is in the eye of a hurricane. He is experiencing a massive amount of psychic turmoil. A further inferred connection to anything happening on the inside of Will. In reality, Will is the one who often experiences sensations of being overwhelmed by his own emotions and ideas; Will is the one who is in the midst of the storm.

Projecting the internalized resentment for his wife

When Sean makes a physical move towards Will, it’s easy to see that he is trying to identify him. The memory of Sean’s late wife provides Will with the opening he’s searching for to attack Sean. When Will zeroes in on this, Sean’s wrath boils over and he threatens, “if you insult my wife again I will end you.” Sean’s internalization of his resentment at his wife serves as the identification for this phenomenon.

Anger as an example of

Either aggression or passion might well be projected, presenting the projector with a weakened sense of self and a lack of sexual satisfaction.

2)Lover Relationship: Gaslight Gaslighting

Projection is a typical trait of gaslighting. This is typical narcissist behavior. Whatever the gaslighter/narcissist does, he’ll attribute it to you.

Lets take the example of a Gaslighter who is cheating on you

Gaslighters accuse partners of infidelity. He’ll check your phone, question your tardiness, and even stalks you. Your gaslighting spouse accuses you of infidelity despite no evidence.   When you approach a gaslighter about infidelity, he claims you’re the cheater. The gaslighter uses projecting to avoid being detected.

Knowing about projective identification is crucial since it occurs regularly in interpersonal relationships, especially within close relationships. It is a fact that  we tend to blame our relationships for the qualities we dislike or fear in ourselves. Coincidentally its kind of ironic that  our partners often share same traits as well.  

3) Parent-Child: No Wire Hangers

Mommy Dearest scene

In order to survive as an infant, it is necessary for the mother (or primary care giver) to identify with their own projections.

Faye Dunaway portrays Joan Crawford in Frank Perry’s Mommie Dearest. Joan represents several psychiatric diseases, which influences her movie part. Joan Crawford definitely exhibited many narcissistic features and appeared deranged. One of the key attributes of the narcissism defense mechanism is projective identification.

Narcissistic projection includes gaslighting, lying, and emotional abuse. It’s complicated and also sometimes unexpected. Their fury is a narcissistic hurt.

For example, the mother must be blamed for the baby’s suffering and incapacity to feed herself in order to meet their requirements. The baby recruited the mother to assist them withstand uncomfortable intrapsychic situations. However the narcissist projects their own uncomfortably with this interpersonal parent-infant relationship onto the child.

Conclusion to the Projective Identification Examples

Because of the complexity of human nature and the many levels upon which it is built, it is impossible to fully understand another person’s motivations or mental processes by only seeing their outward expressions of pleasure or despair. What causes behavior to have so many tiers? The reason for this is that our mind consists of the conscious, the subconscious, and the unconscious, and that our conscious conduct is impacted not just by what we see, but also by how that observation has affected our subconscious. Our subconscious actively promotes the development of strategies that help us keep our minds healthy. The term “defense mechanism” refers to a set of coping strategies that may be used to decrease the impact of a negative experience.

David Ex Machina

David Ex Machina


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