Opening pandora's box: A depth psychological understanding of projective identification

by Brinton, Valerie Rose, Ph.D., PACIFICA GRADUATE INSTITUTE, 2010, 427 pages; 3361019


This dissertation is a heuristic, theoretical, practical, nature based, and poetic investigation of the phenomenon of projective identification from an embodied, imaginal, depth perspective. This study arose from a deep, compelling, and enduring personal engagement with the relatively intractable and destructive personal and interpersonal problems resulting from severe trauma. The initial focus of this inquiry was born of a desire to understand and resolve these persistent difficulties. The phenomenon of projective identification presented itself as the core element in these problems and gave rise to the research and findings recorded here.

The apparent transmission of direct embodied affective experience from one person to another is explored from a variety of viewpoints. This is shown to be a central factor in the etiology of recurrent destructive and disturbed states throughout the lifespan and in a wide variety of contexts. Furthermore, a method for resolving these conditions based in a new view of the origin and character of these transmitted experiences is described.

This new view of projective identification is situated within the contexts of clinical theory, history, and practice; homeopathy and energy medicine; quantum physics; ecopsychology; and shamanic traditional practices. It is also described as it occurs in the course of many common interpersonal and group dynamics. The findings presented here are also integrated into a new theory of the origin of conflict, pointing to a new understanding of evil and of the full range of human destructiveness, as well as suggesting an approach to resolution and treatment.

Preliminary success with this new method of resolution is reported. Suggestions are made for the integration of this method into the body of current clinical practice, and for its use in self-care and other non-clinical settings. Reflections are offered on the possible outcomes that might be expected from the application of this new theory and practice, and other reflections and poetry offer a glimpse into the personal process of the researcher throughout the course of this investigation.

AdviserLionel Corbett
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsClinical psychology
Publication Number3361019

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