Jung’s concept of participation mystique involves a mystical connection, or identity, between subject and object in which the subject cannot clearly distinguish himself from the object but is bound to it by a direct relationship which amounts to a partial identity. It is a transference relationship in which there is an influence directed at the person or thing. As a result, there is an identification with it. Participation mystique involves a non-differentiation of subject and object and hence a primitive unconscious state. This is also a characteristic of the mental state of early infancy and of the unconscious adult mind. Jung’s concept is very similar if not identical to the Kleinian notion of projective identification, especially in terms of the blurred reality between self and other, the influence upon object, and the subsequent identification that takes place. Modern Kleinian treatment utilizes the concept of projective identification as central to understanding human functioning and the moment to moment clinical situation. Steiner states:
[Klein introduced] the concept of projective identification (Klein, 1946), in which splitting is followed by projection of the split-off fragments, which are consequently disowned and attributed to someone else. The motive for projective identification can be so varied (Rosenfeld, 1971) that it is always necessary to specify in detail what the particular aim is at any time. The result, however, although varying in extent, is always a denial of separateness between self and the object, and a consequent depletion of personal resources, as well as a distortion of the object, which is experienced as if it contained the disowned attributes.
One of the most important consequences of the theory of projective identification is that it enables us to formulate the aim of psychoanalysis in new terms. According to this model, the aim of psychoanalysis is to help the patient to achieve an integration and to regain parts of himself that have become unavailable because they have been split off and projected.
Projective identification is not always pathological and with a suitably receptive object can serve as an important form of primitive communication (Bion, 1962). It is a vital part of all human interaction but serious and chronic pathology results if projections become irreversibly bound to the objects they enter and cannot readily be restored to the self.
Betty has elaborated the term by focusing on moment to moment subtle interaction between patient and analyst in which the patient manages to manipulate and shape the analyst into feeling and thinking in certain ways that are congruent with the patient’s phantasies about self and object. These are interpersonal patterns, particular ways of talking, and certain styles of relating that push and pull the analyst to adopt certain feelings, attitudes, and approaches that are enactments of the transference. This understanding of projective identification is very similar to Jung’s idea of the “influence” upon the object that creates certain identifications in the participation mystique dynamic." (pp. 97-98)