Recently a client realized in therapy that she stays in her bad marriage because she believes she has no right to be happy.
Her alcoholic mom taught him to believe that. Mom’s long dead, but her teaching survives.
This poisonous belief is what shrinks call an introject.
Most people know what projection is. It’s that defense mechanism where I confuse a thought in my head (I’m so fat) and with a thought in yours (Boy, is he fat).
Introjection reverses this process. When I introject I take a thought from your head (often with your assistance) and absorb it into mine.
This happens all the time to kids. Say you grow up with a parent who tells you every day that you’re stupid. Eventually you end up agreeing with them. Doesn’t matter how smart you are in reality. You’ll introject your parent’s belief and become convinced that you are, in fact, stupid.
I think of an introject as a kind of poison meatball, one you swallow but never fully digest. You can’t digest it because it’s not your belief, it’s someone else’s. So it just sits there inside you, never breaking down or going away, just sending out waves of confusion and emotional nausea.
In some cases, for a lifetime.