If we change the word identification with  imitation

First I wish to acknowledge my debt to my psycho-analytic colleagues. I have grown up as a member of this group, and after so many years of inter-relating it is now impossible for me to know what I have learned and what I have contributed. The writing of any one of us must be to some extent plagiaristic. (D.W. Winnicott).

In this essay I will try to go through the work of Freud on group and I will try to clarify the use of the words that he used and to make an important difference between imitation, introjection and identification as stated by Gaddini.
The relation of an individual to his parents, and to his brothers and sisters, to the object of his love, and  to his physician may claim to be considered as social phenomena; and in this respect they may be contrasted with certain other processes, described by as “narcissistic”, in which the satisfaction of the instincts is partially or totally withdrawn from the influence of other people.

Freud (1921) in Group Psychology and analysis of the Ego starts with Le Bon’s description of group mind, Psychologie des foules Le bon (1895), where he stated that the individual forming part of a group acquires a sentiment of invincible power. (irresponsible). There is also a contagion of every sentiment and act (sacrifice) and on top of that they acquire special characteristic (suggestibility).
These are the principal characteristics of the individual forming part of a group: disappearance of the conscious personality, the predominance of unconscious personality, the turning by means of suggestion of feelings and ideas in an identical direction, the tendency to immediately transform the suggested ideas into acts. We can notice the similarity with the mental life of primitive people, of children and  neurotics. But under the influence of suggestion groups are also capable of high achievements in the shape of abnegation, unselfishness, and devotion to an ideal. Freud (1921) analyzes also “The Group Mind McDougall (1920) and he distinguished an organitation as factor of distinction between Crowd and Group (with something in common) as result the exaltation or intensifications of emotion, and also five principal conditions for raising collective mental life to a higher level:
1. Degree of continuity of existence (material and/or formal).
2. Emotional relations to the group as a whole.
3. Interaction (rivalry) with other group.
4. Traditions, customs and habits determine the relations.
5. Specialization and differentiation of functions.
The mutual suggestion – imitation of individual and the prestige of leaders. (contagion) is another important aspect.
Libido is the energy of love instincts. Sexual love with sexual union as its aim, self-love, love for parents and children, friendship, and love for humanity in general, and also devotion to concrete objects and to abstract ideas.
In artificial (stable) and highly organized groups a head loves all the individuals in the group with an equal love. Each individual is bound by libidinal ties on the one and to the leader and on the other hand  to the other members of the group. The mutual ties between the members of the group disappear, as a rule, at the same time as the tie with their leader.
Two psychologically distinct ties: a straightforward sexual object-cathexis towards his mother and an identification with his father which takes him as his model. A distinction between TO BE and TO HAVE.
1. Identification is the original form of emotional tie with an object.
2. In a regressive way it becomes a substitute for a libidinal object-tie. (intojection of the object into the ego).
3. Share a common quality with other person who is not an object of the sexual instinct.
Freud makes a distinction between to be and to have the object (mother and father in this case) and we can found the same distinction in Winnicott (1971) between the pure male and female elements and in Gaddini (1992) in psycho-sensory and psycho-oral way of to be related with an object. Freud talks about identification and mixes up imitation and introjection processes. In the first instance the relation of the baby with the mother is an imitation, there is no difference between them and after a while started another way to be related with the object with a distinction between me and not-me and an introjection. The identification is a more complex way to be related with the reality and it is the sum of the two processes mention before.
For this reason as stated by Winnicott (1958) “In other words, the clue to social and group psychology is the psychology of the individual.”in that sense the group psychology derived from the individual one, but at the same time the mind of a person is not a mind but a group mind, Bion (1961). The goal for the child is to become an individual distinct and separate from his mother, but the roots of that are in a group mind, in a way to relate to the reality that is indifferentiate.

A new metapsychological model
As Freud (1937) said in a letter to Marie Buonaparte: “The turning inwards of the aggressive impulse is naturally the counterpart of turning outwards of the libido when it passes over from the ego to objects. One could imagine a pretty schematic idea of all libido being at the beginning of life directed inwards and all aggression outwards, and that this gradually changes in the course of life.”
With this statement Freud at the end of his life reconsider the role of the aggression at the beginning of the life and he imagined an hypothetical model where all the aggressions are direct outside and all the libido inside, when the baby starts to make contact with object he starts to cathex the libido to the objects and at the same time to remove the aggression. In this way the self is protected from the outside and the scattered parts are hold together by the libido.
Ferenczi (1929) in an article called “The unwelcome child and his death instinct” pointed out to people with cold disease and easily die compares to ones with  preponderant life instinct. This is another example in which way the child builds at the beginning of his life relations with external figures that allow him to extrovert the libido and introvert the aggression and build an internal world. This is the process of construction of the Self, but when he or she realizes that it is non omnipotent and experiences this is  catastrophic.
Winnicott (1974) in Fear of breakdown stated the establishment of the unit of the self in psychotic phenomena.
“The facilitating environment can be described as holding, developing into handling, to which is added object-presenting. In such a facilitating environment the individual undergoes development which can be classified as integrating, to which is added indwelling (or psychosomatic collusion) and then object-relating.”
“It is wrong to think of psychotic illness as a breakdown, it is a defence organization relative to a primitive agony, and it is usually successful (except when the facilitating environment has not been deficient but tantalizing, perhaps the worst thing that can happen to a human baby).”
“I contend that clinical fear of breakdown is the fear of breakdown that has already been experienced”.
It is clearly in the words of Winnicott what should be the role of the Community, holding and contain the psychotic part of clients and staff, handling them and move on in the object presentation and reality principle.
We can consider the therapeutic community a kind of special school of life for adult people that experienced breakdown in their past.
Bion (1963) considers the container/contained relationship between people the heritage of the relationship mother-infant at the beginning of the life where the mother contained and transform the projection of the infant.
A clinical example is one of my client, S. with experiences of twenty years of institutionalization and paranoid thoughts. With the help of an individual therapy he started to put in words and used me as a container to fill up with his unberable feelings
I contained these expulsion material, most of the time delusions, with a lot of difficulties. In time he started to make more contact with the reality, till the point that he can make use an entire session without any delusion.
He made a lot of progress in term of well being and personal care and at the same time to be more aware about medication and blood test and to  acquire skills of cooking and cleaning of his room. If we think that in twenty years no one offered to this person any kind of support and the despair that can be found in himself, these are proof of considerable achievement.
He participate also in the group and he is in the process of moving on, for these reasons I consider important to offer him a continuity in the care, but at the same time to experience a change and to survive at it.

I consider our job as therapist in a therapeutic community in a more generic way of handling and holding like the role played from the mother to her infant. These allow the mind of the clients to indwell in the soma as they dwell themselves in the house with the support of practical key working. At the beginning ot the therapy we are in this area of group mind and after a while we enter in a relation based in an individual mind. These processes are parallel all the course of our life, but one becomes more consistent during the night and dream time and the other one during the day. In people with psychosis the order is inverted and probably one of them is completely or in part missing. I think that Freud was confusing in this text in the use of the word IDENTIFICATION in chapter VII and if we change this word with imitation I think will be more clear.


Bion, W. R. (1963) Elements of Psycho-Analysis. London:Heineman

Ferenczi, S. (1929) The unwelcome child and his death instinct. Final contributions to Psycho-Analysis.

Freud, S. (1937) Appendix

E. Gaddini (1992) A psychoanalytic theory of infantile experience Conceptual and clinical reflections. Routledge.

Winnicott, D. W. (1974) Fear od breakdown. International review of Psycho-Analysis 1, 103

Winnicott, D. W. (1965) The maturational processes and the facilitating environment. Karnac