On one occasion during my work with Dr. Palombo I said that I thought that the ego defense of identification, that is incorporating an object or thought into oneself, was particularly important for me. His response suggested to me that he thought my observation was rooted in my grandiosity. He said: “Identification is a primitive ego defense. It develops very early.” That’s true as far as it goes.
Actually, there is an irony or paradox about identification as an ego defense. It is primitive. It does develop early. But it is essential to mature functioning. It is considered one of the mature ego defenses as it relates to the unconscious modeling of one’s self upon another person’s character and behavior.
There’s a curious parallel to the element hydrogen. Hydrogen might be considered primitive. It was the first element to develop in the universe. At the same time it is an essential constituent of life. Complex organic molecules, such as proteins, could not exist without hydrogen.
Dr. Palombo was a phi beta kappa biochemistry major from Harvard.