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PSYCHOLOGY AND PSYCHOTHERAPY GLOSSARY

The glossary/dictionary that you can find in this section of our site gathers all the technical terms that are currently used in psychology and psychotherapy. Each term presents a brief and clear description.


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Id: a term introduced in the theory of psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud to designate the primary drives, instincts, hereditary factors, the Unconscious, libido and the ‘aggressive’ energy that demands immediate satisfaction. See Ego and Super-ego.

Idealization: a defence mechanism by means of which a person constructs non-realistic, totally positive and omnipotent images of the Self and of external events and objects. The mechanism has the function of protecting the person from the external world, which is seen as dangerous, and nurtures a form of narcissistic security.

Imprinting: a basic form of learning, occurring during a ‘critical period’ of the life of an organism, during which the organism is biologically predisposed to that particular type of learning.

Individuation-separation: a concept introduced by Margaret Mahler to indicate the process through which a child becomes progressively differentiated with respect to the mother, and acquiring its own identity and individuality.

Infantile autism: the fixation at or regression to an archaic type of non-differentiation with respect to the mother (See ‘Primary Autism’).

Inferiority Complex: a feeling characterised by the sensation of not being worthy of or not as capable as other people and of not having the right to associate with them. A term introduced by Alfred Adler (1870 - 1937).

Inhibition: a defence mechanism by means of which a subject inhibits learning or social activities or capacities with the aim of avoiding anxiety linked to unacceptable drives or conflicts related to such activities. Unlike phobic behaviour, the behaviour caused by inhibition is not accompanied by an intense fear with respect to the avoided events.

Inner point of reference (Client-Centered Therapy): a vision or perception of the world and oneself, distinguishable from the point of view of an external observer, a psychotherapist or other persons.

Insight: the capacity to comprehend the origins and subconscious meanings of one’s symptoms and behaviour. A term used especially in psychoanalysis and psychodynamic theories.

Intellectual egocentrism: a term used by Piaget to indicate the mental structuring of a child between the ages of 2 and 6. Piaget suggested that during this period a child cannot conceive the points of view of others, ignoring the fact that others may have memories, knowledge or emotions that differ from its own.

Intellectualization: a defence mechanism that consists in flights of intellectual speculation for the purpose of regulating affects and instincts, thereby reducing anxiety and tension. A term used to refer to a removal of discourse and discussions of even quite materialistic and contingent subjects onto a purely intellectual plane.

Introjection: in psychoanalysis this term refers to a subconscious ‘incorporation’ (within the structure of the Ego) of the values, attitudes and qualities of another person.

Introversion: a tendency to retreat into oneself and be mainly interested in one’s own inner world and oneself, with an attitude that is more or less detached from the external world. The opposite of extraversion. See the article on introversion/extraversion.

IQ (intelligence quotient): a value providing a simple measurement of intellectual capacity and skills (the ratio mental age/chronological age x 100). Values within the range 85 – 115 are indicative of normal intelligence. Values below 85 indicate an intellectual deficit, while those over 115 are obtained by people with above-average and high levels of intelligence.

Isolation: a defence mechanism consisting in separating the memory of a traumatic event from the originally associated affect. When, for example, a person who has experienced a traumatic event remembers what happened without emotional participation, as if the fact did not concern him/her.

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