The Identification: definition and clinic in Istinto di morte e conoscenza


The aim of this work is to put in evidence the innovative study concerning the concept of Identification, that we can find in Massimo Fagioli’s Theory of Human Birth. Introjection and projection are considered too. In his book Istinto di morte e conoscenza (Death Instinct and knowledge) published for the first time in 1972, Massimo Fagioli clearly distinguishes between Identificarsi con and Identificarsi da (identifying with someone and identifying from someone), distinguishing between illness and health. He alsos tudies the implied non-conscious dynamics.In Italian these two expressions refer to two different conditions: identifying from means to distinguish oneself from another person; (among other meanings,to identify is to recognize the identity of someone); identifying with means to feelor to be like another person (Zingarelli, 1996). In the first case it is related to a sufficiently aware and autonomous identity, in the second it seems to be a non-conscious psychic dynamic.

In the psychoanalytic theories still used in clinic practice and in professional training identifying with (identification with) is considered a normal and desirable human development, that leads to a healthy integration into society. Several Authors state that it is a fundamental factor in the therapeutic or analytic relationship. Fagioli clearly focuses on the identification and takes sides against the confusion in psychoanalytic literature, particularly with the Kleinian concept of projectiveidentification (that normally happens in the newborn who is originally anguished because of his-her primal and fragmented internal objects, before therelationship with the maternal breast). On the other hand F. describes theprojective identification as the result of a previous introjective dynamic (that isthe fantasized dynamic of putting the physical object-breast inside oneself) followed by the projection of the altered bad object onto the other human being (mother). The following step is the annulment of the so altered human reality. The annulment pulsion against one’s own projective identification put onto others is the core of the psychosis. Fagioli describes and considers the introjective and the projective identificationas two intrapsychic dynamics unfolding on different levels of pathological interhuman relationships and distinguishes them from introjection andprojection. The former described dynamics happen after the birth, when therelationship with the maternal breast takes place, not before. They represent theresult of repeated disappointments experienced during and after the feeding, and they are not primary. In any case they are curable.

2In A case history (Fagioli, 2017, pp.30-44), Fagioli talks about his psychotherapeutic praxis in a case of psychosis. The fact that the previous identification of the patient with his father got lost, because of the patient’sannulment pulsion against his father’s human reality during his absence, turnedout to be a basic starting point to recreate the birth and the original Io, givin ghim a chance to heal. During the patient’s childhood this identification had beena basic structuring condition, which prevented the complete loss of his human internal reality and affectivity. The recovery of that basic platform allowed a first step to healing, through theelaboration of the fundamental separations in his life. Besides the physiological separation at birth, following partings can lead to the construction and development of a healthy human identity, if the person livesthem with the memory-fantasy of the relationship he or she had experienced.While, separations made through the annulment of one’s own projective identification leads to illness. According to Fagioli’s thought, the identification (identifying with) is not aphysiological outcome of the psychic development. Unlike Freud, who uses the myth of Oedipus to say that the identification with the parents is necessary and unlike the prevailing culture which considers it normal in order to perpetuate the social models over time, Fagioli theorizes and demonstrates another reality. He proves that an individual can develop his personal and healthy identity, starting from his own physiological birth and his interhuman relationships and, if necessary, from the therapeutic relationship. This person will be able to manage himself with autonomy and to have an active role in society and relatewith others without any kind of violence. The identification with a violent fatherand the related psychic blindness, are conditions which lead to violence. Indeed,the aim of the therapy is to solve the pathologic dynamics arising from disappointing inter-human relationships and to get a healthy personal identity. The therapist in charge must therefore have solved his or her own pathological dynamics. We can see it in the Collective Analisys, where there was no identification withthe therapist, because he has never been disappointing or absent in thetherapeutic and inter-human relationship with us. The only way for us was to make disappear our violent internal reality and to risk our own human identity.




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