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.


3 responses to “Meatballs

  • PD

    With all the posts over the years this hits home most. Being a kid who spent his first 16 years of his life with a physically and verbally abusive alcoholic – to put it mildly. I certainly swallowed many poison meatballs till this day they are still lodged in my throat – some 30 plus years later. Most of my life settling for far less than I am worth. Usually always day to day struggles. However with all the improvements that have took place. I am still captive to these words, From the one who should love us most Dad However when he finnally did leave. I owe a debt of gratitude to my mother. The hardest working and caring person I know.

  • Ann

    I can relate to this. In addition to feeling I don’t deserve to be happy, on those times when I do, I quickly turn it into worry (waiting for the bubble to break)

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