The Large Group: Dynamics and Therapy

By Lionel Kreeger | Go to book overview

2. Some psychodynamics of large groups 1

Tom Main


Projective processes in social settings

Although projective processes are primitive attempts to relieve internal pains by externalising them, assigning or requiring another to contain aspects of the self, the price can be high: for the self is left not only less aware of its whole but, in the case of projective identification, is deplenished by the projective loss of important aspects of itself. Massive projective identification of -- for instance -- feared aggressive parts of the self leaves the remaining self felt only to be weak and unaggressive. Thereafter, the weakened individual will remain in terror about being overwhelmed by frightening aggressive strength but this will now be felt only as belonging to the other. Depending on the range of this projective fantasy the results will vary from terrified flight, appeasement, wariness and specific anxieties about the other, eve psychotic delusions about his intentions.

The above instance concerns only the projector'side of the projective relationship: but projective processes often have a further significance. What about the person on the receiving end of the projection? In simple projection (a mental mechanism) the receiver may notice that he is not being treated as himself but as an aggressive other. In projective identification (an unconscious fantasy) this other may find himself forced by the projector actually to feel and own projected aggressive qualities and impulses which are otherwise alien to him. He will feel strange and uncomfortable and may resent what is happening, but in the face of the projector's weakness and cowardice it

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