We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Introjection?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Language & Humanities is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Language & Humanities, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Introjection is a term first used by Sigmund Freud to describe how the individual creates and separates aspects of his/her personality. In particular, when a person introjects or goes through the process of introjection, they generally create the superego, the ruling moral force or conscience that helps keep the id (the pleasure seeking aspect of the self) at bay. The ego is the conscious person who is sometimes torn by id or superego and must choose based on the desires of both. In other words, ego is the mediator between two aspects of selves that often pose diametrically opposite positions on what to think, what to do, and how to be.

This may be better understood in layman’s terms if you think of cartoons, or the movie Animal House, where a character has an angel and a devil sitting on each shoulder. The devil is id, the angel superego, and the ego, the character caught between opposing viewpoints. What Freud was getting at though, is that children and even adults use the process of introjection to create this divide, and especially to create the “angel on your shoulder” that helps mitigate its opposing devil.

According to Freud, children introject through the internalization of authority figures’, often parents’, ideas or concepts. Therefore the rules and moral boundaries set by the child are internalized from what the child learns from parents or caregivers. In the early years of school for instance, introjection is not complete and parents may be told a child hasn’t quite learned to “self-govern.” This is not at all unusual. It just means they haven’t completely absorbed the moral code and ways of behavior that are expressed by those around them. There are also conflicting messages in a school setting, since peer influence may cause internalization of very different value systems than those the parents or school would want.

Many psychologists also view introjection as a defense mechanism, especially when children must learn to deal with parents or caregivers not being available at all times. By unconsciously absorbing the parents into the mental process, it is as though the parents are there when they are not. The authority of the parents remains, and their presence is unconsciously felt through introjection. Children may also display a part of this when they learn object permanence, that something is there even when it’s hidden. In some ways, object permanence may help young children make the leap to introjection, so a sense that the parents continue to exist whether or not seen is always felt.

Introjection can be positive or negative, depending upon what aspects a child or even an adult absorbs from others. A child that is negatively parented may be an adult that feels guilty constantly, even when they are not doing anything wrong. It’s very hard to get to the source of this guilt, since it is unconsciously based, and much work must be done in therapy to arrive at unconscious core beliefs that drive the person to think they are doing everything wrong, or not behaving as they should. Self-critique can take over, creating a person who is superego driven.

Positive introjection helps a person deal with separations, even the loss of parents. Many people feel that lost loved ones are still “there” in some sense. To a degree this can be explained by introjecting or absorbing aspects of that person into one’s self. Adults may have the experience of saying something that sounds, “just like their mother” or like their father. This is because, according to Freud, the child has to a degree absorbed the personality of the mother or father, and it is like having a mom or dad drive your thoughts. Again, this may not be a bad thing, but it depends much on what was unconsciously internalized. Even good parents may occasionally make terrible mistakes, and it is sometimes these mistakes which have the most bearing in a child’s unconscious self, rather than the many times when a parent did a good job.

The benefit in considering negative introjection is that with therapy it is possible to rid yourself of negative internalizations that have created great unhappiness for you. Though Freud’s method was one where patients revealed childhood experiences and had them explained so they would understand their roots, a more common analytical method used today is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This aims in a similar direction: to reveal core beliefs that create depression and anxiety, analyze how they drive behavior, and to gradually replace these beliefs with more positive methods of thinking about the self. In a way, the goal of CBT creates a method of positive introjection, a new internalization of a more positive set of beliefs.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By Talentryto — On Jan 29, 2014

Freud's theories may have been tested and dismissed over time by some skeptics, but much of what he lectured on and wrote about has a lot of truth. Introjection is part of his psychoanalytical theory that I agree with. All people have different sides to their personalities they are either in conflict, or help to balance decisions and actions.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor,...
Learn more
Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.