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A Delusion of Identity

W. Clifford M. Scott


Scott was the first psychoanalyst to use the term and to describe the phenomenon of projective identification. He did so in this paper when he presented it to the British Psycho-Analytic Society, 21 November 1934, as an associate member, elected 1933.

Melanie Klein’s footnote in “Notes on Some Schizoid Mechanisms” (1946, p. 102) said that Scott had “described three interconnected features which he came upon in a schizophrenic patient: a strong disturbance of her sense of reality, her feeling that the world around her was a cemetery, and the mechanism of putting all good parts of herself into another person—Greta Garbo— who came to stand for the patient.” She seemed to give Scott the credit for
being the first person to name projective identification but then took it for herself instead when she wrote, “I suggest for these processes the term ‘projective identification’” (1946, p. 101) and “I suggested the term ‘projective identification’ for those processes that form part of the paranoid-schizoid position” (1957, p. 311).

It is even more perplexing to read in that same paragraph from 1957, “Phenomena well known in psychiatry, e.g., a person’s feeling that he actually is Christ, God, a king, a famous person are bound up with projection.” This is the reverse of what Scott said. Scott’s patient believed “Greta Garbo is me” (projective identification) not “I am Greta Garbo” (introjective identification). Klein is giving “I am Christ” as an example of projective identification
instead of the correct “Christ is me.” Phyllis Grosskurth interviewed Scott in 1981 (published in 1983) and asked him about those early days:

I recall one earlier discussion of an early paper that I wrote in 1934, before the words “projective identification” were ever used. I presented a paper following which both Klein and Schmideberg spoke as to how they would understand this phenomenon of “projective identification.” I talked about projecting the personality into somebody else. A patient had claimed that Greta Garbo was her, not that she was Greta Garbo. Klein mentioned this case in the footnotes of one of her papers. I wonder what discussion that came from.… Grosskurth asked him if he remembered what Klein had said about the paper, and he answered, “She was certainly interested in this business of projection. (p. 14)

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