Identification with the Aggressor

Identification with the Aggressor (German: Identifizierung mit dem Angreifer)[1] is one of the forms of identification conceptualized by psychoanalysis. Specifically, it is a defence mechanism that designates the assumption of the role of the aggressor and his functional attributes or the imitation of his aggressive and behavioral mode, when a psychological trauma poses the hopeless dilemma of being a victim or an abuser.[2] This theoretical construct is also defined as a process of coping with mental distress[3] or as a particular case of zero-sum game.[4]



The concept was first introduced by Sándor Ferenczi in his clinical diary in June 1932[5] and then developed in his paper "The Passions of Adults and their Influence on the Development of the Character and the Sexuality of the Child" (German: Die Leidenschaften der Erwachsenen und deren Einfluß auf Charakter und Sexualentwicklung des Kindes)[6] for the 12th International Psycho-Analytic Congress in Wiesbaden, Germany, in September 1932.[7][8]

He further elaborated this work until he published it in 1949 in The International Journal of Psychoanalysis with the new title "Confusion of the Tongues Between the Adults and the Child—(The Language of Tenderness and of Passion)".[9] In 1936, Anna Freud took up and developed the concept in her book The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defence (German: Das Ich und die Abwehrmechanismen).[1][10]

Further research


The experiment conducted in 1963 by Elliot Aronson and J. Merrill Carlsmith on the forbidden toy seems to endorse such a hypothesis and therefore this type of dynamic: one attributes oneself a mutilation of one's own desire in order to perceive oneself as autarkic, independent and not submissive.[11]

See also


In art



  1. ^ a b Laplanche, Jean; Pontalis, Jean-Bertrand (2018) [1973]. "Identification with the Aggressor". The Language of Psychoanalysis. Abingdon-on-Thames: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-429-92124-7.
  2. ^ Prior, Stephen (2004) [1996]. Object Relations in Severe Trauma. Psychotherapy of the Sexually Abused Child. Lanham, Maryland: Jason Aronson. p. 64. ISBN 978-0-765-70018-6. First edition.
  3. ^ Figley, Charles R.; Kiser, Laurel J. (2013). Helping Traumatized Families. Abingdon-on-Thames: Routledge. p. 12. ISBN 978-1-136-70057-6.
  4. ^ Renik, Owen (2006). Practical Psychoanalysis for Therapists and Patients. New York City: Other Press. p. 153. ISBN 978-1-590-51237-1.
  5. ^ Ferenczi, Sándor (1995) [1988]. Dupont, Judith (ed.). The Clinical Diary of Sándor Ferenczi. Translated by Michael Balint, Nicola Zarday Jackson (illustrated, reprint, revised ed.). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 144. ISBN 978-0-674-13527-7. First edition.
  6. ^ Massing, Almuth (2013) [1990]. Massing, Almuth (ed.). Psychoanalytische Wege der Familientherapie. System Familie, Supplement. Springer-Verlag. p. 48. ISBN 978-3-642-75598-9. First edition.
  7. ^ Sabourin, Pierre (17 December 2019). "Confusion of Tongues between Adults and the Child". Farmington Hills, Michigan: Gale. Retrieved 3 January 2020.
  8. ^ Rachman Wm., Arnold. "Ferenczi's "Confusion of Tongues" Paper: A Turning Point in the Understanding and Treatment of Trauma". Archived from the original on 20 November 2008. Retrieved 3 January 2020.
  9. ^ Ferenczi, Sándor (1949) [1932]. "Confusion of the Tongues Between the Adults and the Child—(The Language of Tenderness and of Passion)". International Journal of Psycho-Analysis. 30 (4): 225–230. First edition.
  10. ^ Freud, Anna (1994) [1936]. Das Ich und die Abwehrmechanismen (6th, reprint ed.). Frankfurt: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag. ISBN 978-3-596-42001-8. Die Identifizierung mit dem Angreifer. {{cite book}}: External link in |quote= (help)
  11. ^ Aronson, Elliot; Carlsmith, J. Merrill (1963). "Effect Of The Severity Of Threat On The Devaluation Of Forbidden Behavior" (PDF). Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology. 66 (6): 584–588. doi:10.1037/h0039901. S2CID 2632863. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2019.

Further reading