1-3 Before any contribution by memory: A phenomenological critique of the concept of projection
Psychoanalysis has always been haunted by the specter of solipsism. Early analytic theorists like Sigmund Freud and Melanie Klein argued that the basic motivations defining human life are grounded in biologically-given instincts; these instincts, in turn, are redirected by the defensive procedures established by the ego – an isolated psychic agency responsible for mediating the relationship between the unconscious and the external world. There are numerous problems associated with this model of the mind, but the most damning is its tendency to underestimate and devalue concrete relationships with other people – particularly, relationships established in the early years of life. Melanie Klein, for instance, argues that children enter the world with a built-in quantum of aggression; she claims that the various defenses that the child employs in order to manage this aggression play a central role in the psychogenesis of the self. Because so much of this aggression-management is inwardly focused, the personalities of the parents play very little role in Klein’s theory; the parents are, at best, a kind of auxiliary force that the infant calls on occasionally when the tides of fury and anger overwhelm her primitive defenses. In recognition of the solipsism entailed by theories like this, a number of psychoanalytic thinkers have rejected the theory of the instincts and argued that the mind is constituted by interpersonal relationships; they believe that this revised model of psychic life escapes the solipsistic tendencies that were evident in earlier forms of psychoanalysis.
Although the relational analysts have taken a step in the right direction, it seems to me that they have not sufficiently differentiated solipsism from social atomism. To be sure, solipsism and social atomism both argue for the existence of an isolated, individual mind, but we must recognize that they approach this individual mind from very different angles: solipsism is an epistemological position that argues the only certain knowledge one can have concerns the contents of one’s own mind – knowledge of other minds and of the external world are both suspect; social atomism is an ethical position that argues that self-reliance is a fundamental human virtue. By demonstrating that psychological life is constituted by interpersonal relationships, relational analysts have shown that the individualistic virtue ethics endorsed by social atomism contradicts the basic facts of human existence; therefore, self-reliance represents a false ethical ideal. There is no way to extricate ourselves from the interpersonal world in order to attain some illusory form of absolute autonomy; the best we can do is to cultivate our capacities for receptivity and caring – capacities that will allow us to enter more fully into our relationships with others. It is important to note, however, that acknowledging the formative influence of relationships on psychological life does not, in itself, solve the issues associated with solipsism. After all, accepting the proposition that it is impossible to have certain knowledge of other minds does not imply anything about the value and importance of interpersonal relationships. Although it would be somewhat odd to adopt this sort of position, there is no conceptual contradiction involved if one argues that our relationships to others are central to our psychological well-being, even though those others are, in a fundamental sense, unknowable.
I do not intend to use this essay to discuss the relationship between solipsism and psychoanalytic theory; indeed, a complex topic like that could be the focus of an entire book. My purpose is much more limited: I want to critically examine one of the defense mechanisms proposed by psychoanalysis – projection. The DSM-IV-TR defines projection as the defense mechanism in which “the individual deals with emotional conflict or internal or external stressors by falsely attributing to another his or her own unacceptable feelings, impulses, or thoughts” (2005, p. 812). Our understanding of this definition turns on how we interpret the phrase “false attribution.” The DSM’s rather schematic and decontextualized definition of projection almost makes the defense mechanism sound like a cognitive error. We should remember, however, that projection is not just any false attribution; it is a motivated false attribution. When I project my anger onto my friend, I am not merely misreading his behavior as an indication of anger, I am misreading his behavior as an indication of anger because I myself feel angry and cannot, for whatever reason, accept this anger as my own. Concealed behind the notion of “false attribution” is what the philosopher Paul Ricouer (1970) calls a theory of energetics – a theory that reduces emotions to discrete quanta of psychic energy that can be freely transferred from one object to another. This theory of energetics is thoroughly solipsistic; it treats the mind as a kind of closed container in which different energies are bouncing around waiting to be directed at outside targets. Whether you accept or reject the theory of instincts, this solipsistic container metaphor lurks behind every use of the concept of projection. It is precisely the solipsistic underpinnings of projection that I am going to investigate in this essay. In particular, I would like to examine six different objections advanced against the theory of projection that take seriously the fact that the concept is rooted in a solipsistic container metaphor. Four of the objections come from van den Berg’s book A Different Existence, one comes from Robert Romanyshyn’s Mirror and Metaphor, and one is a novel objection proposed by me.
This paper adopts a human science approach to psychology, which means that it is not only concerned with investigating the character of particular experiences, but also with examining the nature of subjectivity more generally. In recognition of the dual concerns that underlie the human science approach, I want to organize the objections advanced against the theory of projection into two categories: philosophical and psychological. The philosophical objections attempt to show that the notion of projection is conceptually incoherent, and therefore cannot be part of a rigorous theory of psychological life. The psychological objects attempt to show that the theory of projection obscures certain features of our experience, and thereby impoverishes our understanding of psychological life. Although the two sets of objections are closely related, I believe that they are ultimately aiming at different goals and therefore need to be explicated separately. The first part of the paper will discuss the philosophical objections. The second part of the paper will discuss the psychological objections. The final part will attempt to revise the concept of projection, showing that it is not an intra-psychic operation but rather a rupture in the dialogue between therapist and client.
In his book A Different Existence, van den Berg advances a number of incisive criticisms of key psychoanalytic concepts, including transference, conversion, and the unconscious. None of these concepts, however, is subjected to as much consistent and unrelenting criticism as projection. Scattered throughout his text are a number of complex and subtle arguments that challenge the solipsistic picture of the mind that makes projection seem plausible in the first place. When these objections are gathered together and presented in a systematic and linear fashion, the true force of van den Berg’s critique is clearly brought into the open. The first objection that I want to discuss appears in an early portion of the book. I have chosen to call it the intentional impossibility objection:
…no one has ever been able to explain the way a projection takes place. One must realize that there is no acceptable theory to explain how an abnormal mood, a mental disturbance, that is, something within the patient, could leave him, move toward objects of the outside world, and attach themselves to these objects, merge into them, so that the patient perceives them as a reality simultaneously losing the memory of actual reality (2010, p. 19).
On a superficial reading, this appears to be a straight-forward criticism that calls into doubt the empirical merit of projection. It might sound as though van den Berg is critiquing projection on the grounds that no one has offered a plausible explanation of the psychological processes that make it possible and that once these processes are observed and documented, his objection will lose its force. Van den Berg’s broader point, however, is that these psychological processes can never be discovered because it is not actually possible for a thought or feeling to leave the mind and attach itself to an external object. That is why he writes “no one has ever been able to explain the way projection takes place” and not “no one has observed the underlying process that explain the way projection takes place.”
Why is it impossible for a thought to leave the mind? Van den Berg does not answer this question directly, but I believe that we can fill in the gap by examining his comments on intentionality. He writes: “Thinking, one thinks something, a matter ultimately always located there, yonder, outside; an object, or something concerned with objects” (2010, p. 40). In other words, thoughts are always about something; they are always directed toward an object. Intentionality, however, is a two-sided notion: not only are thoughts about something, thoughts must proceed from somewhere. In other words, we must be able to index or assign a thought to a thinker (Gallagher & Zahavi, 2008). This indexing is always conceptually possible, even though it might not occur in particular circumstances. For instance, imagine that someone were to leave a post-it note on your office door that said “I think you need to look over your numbers again” but they did not sign it. Although you cannot tell from the post-it note who had this thought, you know that the thought must proceed from somewhere, and therefore, with some investigation, you would most likely be able to trace this thought back to its thinker. If, however, there were no intentional relation between a thought and its thinker, as the theory of projection implies, then you could look at this post-it note and say to yourself “Someone thinks I need to look over my numbers again, but I am not sure who, and in fact, I will never be able to find out” – a statement that is plainly false. Van den Berg’s point is that if we are to make sense of the idea that a thought can leave someone’s mind, attach itself to an external object, and then erase all marks that would indicate who it originally belonged to, then we would have to admit that it is possible for there to be thoughts that cannot be indexed back to a thinker; a notion which is absurd1.
Van den Berg’s second objection appears much later in the book, surfacing in his discussion of communication. I have chosen to call this objection the free interval objection:
The objects are objects, immediately. He who sees does not see nothing at first and only then, after his projection, an object. There is no free interval between the seeing before and the seeing after the projection, which free interval could, according to the theory, be expected certainly when a projection changes nameless objects into things that can be used and savored (2010, p. 64).
Again, this appears to be an objection that can be answered in a straight-forward, empirical fashion: one could acknowledge that there is a free interval between “seeing before and seeing after the projection,” but claim that this free interval is so short that it cannot be noticed consciously. Van den Berg anticipates this response and notes that the existence of a “free interval” is just a speculative hypothesis. That does not mean that this hypothesis is wrong, but it does mean that more research needs to be done before it can be taken seriously. Van den Berg cautions us against accepting it in a provisional way because its acceptance comes at a high price; if projection is process that occurs in a rapid, unconscious fashion, then we have to deny the subject’s understanding of her own experience—the first-person descriptions of her psychological life that she presents to others cannot be trusted.
I think that van den Berg is short-changing his argument. The free interval objection can be re-interpreted in such a way that it is no longer presented as a critique of gaps in the existing psychological literature, but rather as a trenchant argument that strikes at the conceptual foundations of the theory of projection. In other words, it goes from an objection that says “the free interval has not yet been observed or documented” to one that says “the free interval cannot be observed because it makes no sense.” For this re-interpretation to succeed, one must recognize that for there to be a free interval between “seeing before and seeing after the projection” one would have to be able to independently identify two moments of perception. The first moment, the “seeing before,” would refer to objective perception – perception of the object as it is in reality. The second moment, the “seeing after,” would refer to confused perception – perception in which our subjective state is conflated with the real properties of the object. The problem is that our experience of the world is not, in the first place, characterized by objective perception. As Merleau-Ponty demonstrated in the Phenomenology of Perception, human beings see the world in terms of holistic perceptual gestalts. Although these perceptual gestalts often map onto objects, Merleau-Ponty repeatedly stresses that they do not necessarily do so. He offers an evocative description of a walk along the beach to demonstrate this idea:
If I walk along the shore towards a ship which has run aground, and the funnel or masts merge into the forest bordering on the sand dune, there will be a moment when these details suddenly become part of the ship, and indissolubly fused with it. As I approached, I did not perceive resemblances or proximities which finally came together to form a continuous picture of the upper part of the ship. I merely felt that the look of the object was on the point of altering, that something was imminent in this tension, as a storm is imminent in storm clouds (2006, p. 20).
He perceived the two collections of objects, the ship and the forest in the background, as part of a single perceptual image; it was only later, after a moment of reflection, that he realized they are two separate collections of objects. The moment of objective perception was derived from rather than the origin of his encounter with the visible spectacle of the ship and the trees.
The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein has complicated the idea of objective perception even further. In his writings on epistemology contained in On Certainty, Wittgenstein (1969) shows that the criteria that define objective perception are not contained in the relationship between a subject and the world, but rather in an interpersonal, communicative context. For instance, suppose you and I are having a conversation at the dinner table. You have prepared a pot of black tea and some toast with honey. Suppose also that I am an insensitive guest; you laid out all the tea and toast on the table, but I am standing there talking non-stop about psychoanalysis. You wonder to yourself, “Does he know that I have put all this food out for him?” On one level, this is a question about the quality of our friendship; on another level – the level that is important for the purposes of this discussion – it is a question about objective perception. You are advancing a straight-forward query about my senses: “Does he see the pot of tea and the toast on the table?” How could you answer this question? Certainly not by opening my head to see if a representation of the tea and toast is inside. You would ask me, “Do you see the tea I have made?” If I answer “yes”, then you know that I have perceived the world “objectively.”
What does all this mean in the context of van den Berg’s free interval objection? It means that objective perception, apart from its phenomenological implausibility, is not something that it exists in the mind – it is something that exists in a dialogical context. Wittgenstein shows us that objective perception does not describe a relationship between my mental representations and the external world; it represents a capacity to answer certain types of questions and to give certain types of explanations about the objects that are found in my environment. If this is the case, it is not possible to identify a split second event in my mind that defines a “seeing before” projection.
The final philosophical objection that I want to discuss comes from Romanyshyn’s book Mirror and Metaphor. I call this objection the bootstrapping objection:
Apart from the fact that the theory of projection never tells us how what is inside a person can leave her and become attached to another, the theory also ignores those very features of the world which make an explanation by projection initially plausible. The theory begs the question of its own possibility, because before there can be any projection the world and others must appear in such a way as to present a landscape in which one can behave in this or that particular fashion (2001, p. 79).
The point of this passage is that the world must be significant in order for us to project something onto it in the first place. Certain things must stand out from others as being suitable for my projections. This is obvious if we consult our ordinary, everyday experience. After all, we only talk about people projecting feelings of anger onto other people, not onto dinner plates and television sets. Why is that? Because we know for a fact that dinner plates and television sets cannot be angry – they do not stand out as significant objects because it makes no sense to say “My dinner plate looks awfully riled up tonight.” This objection does not undermine the theory of projection per se, but it does show that projection cannot be a primary or defining feature of the subject’s relationship to the world. This sounds reasonable enough, but many dynamically-inclined psychologists do not see it this way; they believe that the world is endowed with significance because the subject takes feelings that are inside and throws them on the objects that make up its environment. By pointing out that we selectively project specific emotions onto specific types of things, Romanyshyn has shown that projection cannot play this sort of role. If it did, then the subject would have to lift itself up by its own bootstraps – somehow finding a way to selectively project its feelings onto the world without having any other mechanism besides projection to explain how this selectivity comes into being.
It is worth noting that Romanyshyn’s bootstrapping objection is anticipated in Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception. In his critique of the empiricist’s notion of association, Merleau-Ponty writes:
… in order to fill out perception, memories need to have been made possible by the physiognomic character of the data. Before any contribution by memory, what is seen must at the present moment so organize itself as to present a picture to me in which I can recognize my former experiences. Thus the appeal to memory presupposes what it is supposed to explain; the patterning of data, the imposition of meaning on a chaos of sense-data (2006, pp. 22-3)
The argument presented in this passage is essentially the same as the argument presented by Romanyshyn. By pointing to the question of memory, Merleau-Ponty reminds us that projection is usually invoked as a way of explaining how the past comes to intrude on the present. The primacy granted to projection in psychoanalytic theory makes it appear as if memory intrudes in a kind of brute way, as though it were behaving in the same way as an unwelcomed guest who chooses to invite himself in when he notices that the door is not locked. Merleau-Ponty and Romanyshyn are much more subtle. Although both are perfectly willing to acknowledge that the memory plays a role in human experience, they draw our attention to the fact that the traces of our past take on psychic significance within the horizons of meaning that are open in the present.
In summary, the intentional impossibility objection shows that projection is impossible because if one were to project a thought, it could not be indexed back it its original thinker. The free interval objection shows that in order for projection to be an intelligible notion, one would need to be able to distinguish between a moment of objective perception and a moment of confused perception; the phenomenology of perception, however, has shown that our sensory experience cannot be analyzed in this fashion. Finally, the boot-strapping objection shows that projection presupposes the very thing that it needs in order to be intelligible – a meaningful perceptual world.
The psychological objections to the theory of projection are no less incisive than the philosophical objections but point to a different side of the issue. Rather than demonstrating that projection is conceptually incoherent, the psychological objections show that using projection to describe the operations of the mind distorts our understanding of human experience. In effect, they say that an unconscious mental mechanism that breaks off thoughts and feelings and then throws them onto the objects is not absurd in itself, but if we choose to embrace it, we lose the ability to describe the rich texture of our being-in-the-world. Each of the psychological objections is motivated by a simple question: “What do we lose by using the word projection to talk about psychological life?”
As before, most of the psychological objections are derived from van den Berg’s A Different Existence. The first comes from his phenomenological analysis of an evening spent alone; I call it the unrecognizability objection. Van den Berg introduces his discussion by describing a cold winter’s evening. He stands beside his window watching the snow slowly drifting from the heavy grey clouds in the sky and listens to the raspy sound of feet walking on the sidewalk. Van den Berg has invited a friend over for the evening and expects him to arrive shortly. He lays a bottle of red wine on his hearth so that it will be warm by the time his friend walks through the door. The hours pass, and he receives a call. His friend has telephoned him to say that he cannot make it this evening. Feeling disappointed, van den Berg throws another log on the fire and sits down at his study to read. Later in the evening, van den Berg looks up from his book after studying a difficult passage and notices that the bottle of wine is still sitting on the hearth. Suddenly, the room is colored by his friend’s absence – the space appears lonely, cold, and silent. Ordinarily we would explain this as an instance of projection: van den Berg sees the bottle of red wine, remembers that his friend is not coming, and projects his feelings of loneliness onto the furniture of his room. Van den Berg thinks that the situation is much more complex:
[Let’s say that I did contaminate]the observation with the projection of a condition, the condition of being disappointed and lonely. This raises a question: if I had been seeing my projection, and if I had asked how I felt toward myself instead of toward the bottle, would I not have observed my loneliness more distinctly, while less adulterated, with more reality, more directly? (2010, p. 35).
His point is that if one were to accept the theory of projection, then there are only two ways in which one would be able to recognize an emotion: either indirectly by falsely attributing it to objects or other people, or directly by examining the subjective state of one’s mind. The first form of recognition – the one in which my emotions surface indirectly – is supposed to be false. After all, if I project my feelings onto things outside of me, then I am attempting to defensively disown them. This means that there can only be one true way to recognize my emotions: I have to turn away from the world and look inside – I have to introspect. Introspection, however, is a problematic concept because once I sever my ties with the external world it is not clear how I am supposed to make sense of my emotions. Van den Berg writes “if I try, by introspection, that is, by leaving out everything that is outside myself to investigate my feelings, I don’t know what to do. I’m standing in front of a blind wall. Every effort, purely by myself, to summon my loneliness results in a realization of what is there: my room, the fire, the bottle and, within all this, my absent friend” (2010, p. 35). If I accept the theory of projection, then I am trapped in an impossible situation in which my emotions are absolutely obscured from my vision. On the one hand, I cannot recognize my emotions through their appearance in the objects around me or in my relationships with other people because, ex hypothesi, doing so disowns the true source of the emotion – my mind. On the other hand, I cannot recognize my emotions by looking inside because if I do so, I run into the “blind wall” of introspection. In short, if I accept the theory of projection, I lose the capacity to recognize my own experiences!
Van den Berg’s point is that the theory of projection forces us to posit a compensatory capacity within the subject – a capacity that is supposed to allow the subject to truly recognize its own emotions. This capacity, however, is specious, and therefore does not explain how an isolated subject can simply “look inside” in order to see what she is feeling. I would like to advance a closely related objection; I call it the speech legislation objection. The purpose of the speech legislation objection is to show that the theory of projection impoverishes interpersonal communication – in particular, communication between a therapist and a client. Once a therapist introduces the word ‘projection’ into a session, she is already legislating that the client should talk a certain way about emotions. The therapist is saying that the client cannot talk about her reactions to other people or about her perceptions of objects; the client has to be direct – the client has to say “I feel X.” Any other way of talking about emotions an evasive attempt to dodge what is happening inside by talking about external realities.
I do not want to argue that the sort of direct acknowledgement of emotion found in statements like “I feel X” is not valuable, but I do want us to question what this “direct acknowledgement” permits in the context of a therapy session. For some clients saying “I feel X” can be a valuable and liberating experience; for others, it can be extremely limiting. If the therapist writes off the client’s rich descriptions of the world as just so much projection, then the actual content of the client’s experience may be missed. By legislating in advance that the client speak a certain way about her experiences, the theory of projection severely restricts the possibilities for a developed understanding of the client’s emotional life.
The final psychological objection comes from van den Berg again. I call it the pervasiveness objection. Because projection is part of a larger, more encompassing picture of the mind, we have to say that it is not merely a pathological mechanism but the only explanation of the way that the world is invested with value. If the subject is indeed sealed off from the world, then it is the only psychic mechanism that can make sense of how that subject makes meaning (2010, p. 104). There are two issues here. First, if we have to use projection to describe the relationship between the mind and the world for everyone, then the difference between pathology and normal mental functioning is obscured. Second, given all the problems with projection that have been demonstrated by the other objections summarized in this paper, we have to admit that projection is an extremely constricted and contradictory way of describing the our being-in-the-world, not just a flawed concept for describing abnormal psychodynamics.
In summary, the unrecognizability objection shows that the theory of projection only allows for one method of describing one’s psychological life: introspection. The concept of introspection, however, is just as flawed and phenomenologically inadequate as projection; therefore, the theory cannot explain how the subject comes to recognize her own experience. The speech legislation objection demonstrated that the theory of projection severely restricts the way that clients can talk about their emotional life. They are only allowed to make direct statements of the form “I feel x”; they are not allowed to give rich descriptions of their sense of being-in-the-world. Finally, the pervasiveness objection shows that the solipsistic metaphysics underlying the theory of projection implies that projection is not just a pathological defense mechanism but a primordial psychological process that defines the relationship between the subject and the world. This, however, blurs the line between pathology and mental health and severely impairs our ability to describe the contours of psychological life more generally.
A Tentative Revision
Is the concept of projection a lost cause? I think not, but in order to retain it we have to revise our understanding of what projection means. The combined weight of the philosophical and psychological objections shows that the solipsistic metaphysic underlying the traditional understanding of projection is deeply flawed. But in an act of dialectical reversal, we find in these very objections a set of guidelines that help us to revise our understanding of the concept. If we look over the objections again, we will find that they disclose the dividing line within which our speaking is sensible and beyond which our words collapse into nonsense. I think that three of the objections advanced above are particularly important in this respect – the pervasiveness, bootstrapping, and unrecognizability objections. The pervasiveness objection shows that projection cannot refer to a universal psychological mechanism that establishes the mind’s relationship with the external world. It must refer to a specific event that takes place under specific circumstances. In particular, it must refer to an event that obscures psychological life. The bootstrapping objection shows that projection is not just any occasional event, but an event silhouetted against the horizon of experience. Because the world is disclosed as something significant before projection takes place, projection must refer to a particular rupture within this horizon. One might say that projection is a psychic aneurysm: a moment of weakness in which the significance of the world, struggling to be brought into words, presses itself against the artificial confines of a shut-down discourse, like blood furiously pressing against the arterial walls after encountering a clot. The unrecognizability objection shows that projection must be reversible, at least in principle. If projection is a defense mechanism that obscures, then there must be a corollary act of recognition that reveals. This revelation will not be total, of course. The depths of the unconscious are not plumbed by the undoing of projection, but if we are able to recognize the way that these depths are covered over by our defenses, then we will be able to welcome the unconcealed dimensions of life in the fullness of being.
These objections define the territory on which we stand, but now we face a vast open expanse. The line we may not cross is clear, but the soil underneath of our feet is not. We need a departure point, but where is that to be found? My sense is that we must retain Freud’s original insight: the subject utilizes defense mechanisms like projection because she has encountered an obstacle – an obstacle that takes the form of either a bodily threat or a moral prohibition. This allows us to retain the idea that the subject lives in a world that is always already meaningful while specifying the conditions under which those meanings can be distorted or obscured. Now projection, unlike repression, occurs not when a particular meaning disappears entirely, but rather when it appears in an alien context. The question now becomes, what are the conditions for the possibility of this appearance. Freud argued that all thoughts are situated in an associative network – a complex. We could say that projection takes place when a particular thought is displaced along the associative chains in this complex, but then we encounter the problem of solipsism once again. Freud, after all, situated the complex inside of the mind. Perhaps, though, Freud’s insight about associative complexes is not as alien to phenomenology as it might appear at first blush. In Being and Time, for instance, Heidegger tells us that embodied, purposeful action is situated in a complex arrangement of associated tools. He writes: “Taken strictly, there ‘is’ no such thing as an equipment. To the Being of any equipment there always belongs a totality of equipment, in which it can be this equipment that it is” (1962, p. 97). These pieces of equipment belong to a totality because of a certain concinnity of teleological assignments. Each tool, in other words, complements each other as the agent who uses them strives to achieve a particular end. As his thinking matured, Heidegger began to recognize that language gathers the world for us, apart from whatever practical projects we may be engaged in. This is the question that faces the phenomenologically-oriented psychoanalyst: Can we drop Freud’s solipsistic understanding of the complex and embrace a Heideggerian conception of language while, at the same time, retaining Freud’s insights into the formations of the unconscious (parapraxes, dreams, etc.) and the way that they obscure meaning? My sense is that we can, but in order to do so we need to explore each psychoanalytic concept separately. To return to the issue of projection, I think that it is best to say that projection refers to a specific occurrence in the speech of the subject. In particular, it refers to a situation in which that subject responds to an obstacle by using language to gather the world in such a way that the meaning that cannot receive expression in view of that obstacle is displaced and expressed in a new context. To put it in simpler terms, we can say that projection occurs when language is used to gather the world in such a way that a particular statement, a particular segment of meaning, is strategically expressed outside of its original context.
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