Whereas projection involves placing an unwanted impulse onto an external object, introjection is a defense mechanism whereby people incorporate positive qualities of another person into their own ego. For example, an adolescent may introject or adopt the mannerisms, values, or lifestyle of a movie star. Such an introjection gives the adolescent an inflated sense of self-worth and keeps feelings of inferiority to a minimum. People introject characteristics that they see as valuable and that will permit them to feel better about themselves.
Freud (1926/1959a) saw the resolution of the Oedipus complex as the prototype of introjection. During the Oedipal period, the young child introjects the authority and values of one or both parents—an introjection that sets into motion the beginning of the superego. When children introject what they perceive to be their parents' values, they are relieved from the work of evaluating and choosing their own beliefs and standards of conduct. As children advance through the latency period of development (approximately ages 6 to 12), their superego becomes more personalized;
that is, it moves away from a rigid identification with parents. Nevertheless, people of any age can reduce the anxiety associated with feelings of inadequacy by adopting or introjecting the values, beliefs, and mannerisms of other people.
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