Introjection and Transference

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Sándor Ferenczi met Sigmund Freud in February 1908, and the following year he wrote this successful paper, a theoretical and clinical achievement that proved his creativity and maturity. Previously he had published numerous studies on topics as varied as "love in science," spiritualism, and the organization of a hospital ward, and had read all the psychoanalytic literature of the time before coming to Vienna. Ferenczi's practice of hypnosis, psychiatry, and psychoanalysis provided him with a body of material that he used in this original paper describing the distinction between the mechanism of projection characteristic of psychosis and the introjection characteristic of neurosis. "The neurotic is constantly seeking for objects with whom he can identify himself, to whom he can transfer feelings, whom he can thus draw into his circle of interest, i.e., introject" (p. 40-41), wrote Ferenczi. With regard to psychotics, he distinguished between the "dement," who "completely detaches his interest from the outer world" (p. 40), and the paranoiac, who "would like to do the same" (p. 40) but who rejects this interest outside of his "ego" and projects his desires into the world. The psychoneurotic suffers from a widening, the paranoiac from a shrinking of his ego" (p. 41).

Some of Ferenczi's formulations are striking. For example, "The transference born in the unconscious emerges into consciousness with an increased emotional charge, under a reversed sign," and, later in the article: "The loved objects are introjected, taken into the ego" (p. 65). Observing that transference operates based on minute but meaningful elements, he recalled that in "Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious" (1905), Freud had pointed out how in these spontaneous phenomena the representation by means of details acts as a triggering factor for pleasure. "The poetical figure "pars pro toto" is thus quite current in the language of the unconscious" (36).

Pierre Sabourin

See also: Introjection.

Source Citation

Ferenczi, Sándor. (1916). Introjection and transference. In his Contributions to psychoanalysis (Ernest Jones, Trans.; pp. 30-80.). Boston: Richard G. Badger. (Original work published 1909)


Freud, Sigmund. (1905c). Jokes and their relation to the unconscious. SE, 8: 1-236.

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Introjection and Transference

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