Phantoms of the Clinic

From Thought-Transference to Projective Identification

Phantoms of the Clinic: From Thought-Transference to Projective Identification  (Karnac Books, 2011) takes as its premise Freud’s observation that there has always been great anxiety about the place of psychoanalysis in contemporary life, particularly in relation to its ambiguous and complicated relationship to the realm of science. There is also a long history of widespread resistance, in both academia and medicine, to anything associated with the world of the supernatural; very few people, in their professional lives, at least, are willing to admit a serious interest in occult phenomena. As a result, paranormal traces have all but vanished from the psychoanalytic process—though not without leaving a residue. This residue remains, Brottman argues, in the acceptably “clinical” guise of projective identification, a concept first formulated by Melanie Klein, and widely used in contemporary psychoanalysis to suggest a different variety of transference and transference-like phenomena between patient and analyst that seem to occur outside the normal range of the sensory process.

In this book, Brottman considers the nature and implications of the connections between projective identification and thought-transference, as well as the slightly embarrassing associations between “ordinary” psychoanalysis and telepathy. Her project, then, is to adumbrate the implications of the psychoanalytic notion of projective identification, with particular reference to the ways in which this concept can be considered a “doorway” from the traditional realm of psychoanalysis into the realm of the occult and paranormal. In particular, she considers the connections between projective identification and mind-reading, clairvoyance, and other well-known paranormal phenomena.

Review by Salman Akhtar, International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies Int. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Studies 12(1): 70–74 (2015) Published online 27 February 2015  (pdf)

Interview with Erik Davis & Maja D’Aoust, Expanding Mind, Progressive Radio Network, Sept. 29, 2011