Examples of identification defense mechanism

Defense Mechanisms - StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf

Continuing Education Activity

Anna Freud defined defense mechanisms as "unconscious resources used by the ego" to decrease internal stress ultimately. Patients often devise these unconscious mechanisms to decrease conflict within themselves, specifically between the superego and id. Psychodynamic therapy is used by clinicians to help orient patients to their own unconscious processes. By recognizing and identifying these processes, patients improve their self-awareness and gain a new understanding of their own behaviors. This activity defines major defense mechanisms to increase clinician's understanding of their patients during patient encounters and the role of the interprofessional team in the care of these patients.


  • Identify and define the common psychological defense mechanisms.

  • Describe the goal of psychodynamic therapy in relation to defense mechanisms.

  • Review the clinical significance of defense mechanisms in relation to psychodynamic therapy.

  • Outline interprofessional team strategies for improving coordination and communication in the care of patients with defense mechanisms.

Access free multiple choice questions on this topic.


Sigmund Freud, known as the father of psychoanalysis, began the discussion of defense mechanisms in the nineteenth century in relation to the subconscious defenses of the id, ego, and superego.[1] These initial defense mechanisms were more clearly defined and analyzed by his daughter, Anna Freud, in the twentieth century. She created 10 major defense mechanisms, but the number of mechanisms has since been increased by later psychoanalysts.


Anna Freud defined these defense mechanisms as "unconscious resources used by the ego" to decrease internal stress ultimately.[2] Patients often devise these unconscious mechanisms to decrease conflict within themselves, specifically between the superego and id. Psychodynamic therapy is used by clinicians to help orient patients to their own unconscious processes. By recognizing and identifying these processes, patients improve their self-awareness and gain a new understanding of their own behaviors. These insights can be helpful to patients with a variety of mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and personality disorders.[3] 

Issues of Concern

As we progress from childhood to adolescence and then progress from adolescence into adulthood, these psychological defense mechanisms can persist from one phase to the next, regress to earlier phases in response to stressors, or can evolve over time.[4] Defense mechanisms can be internalized or externalized, resulting in corresponding behavior problems, which can complicate psychiatric treatment.[5] Having a thorough understanding of defense mechanisms can help clinicians progress through treatment and avoid pitfalls. For example, recognizing the presence of defense mechanisms during a patient encounter can help maintain an appropriate therapeutic and professional relationship. [6]

Clinical Significance

If defense mechanisms are identified and adolescence, it can help predict further development of personality disorders.[7] Therefore, the early identification of defense mechanisms can have great clinical significance. Depending on the context and the severity, defense mechanisms can be either maladaptive or adaptive.[8]

Primitive Defense Mechanisms [1] [9]

Acting out: The development of detrimental behaviors that distract attention and energy away from other stressors. This defense mechanism may be present in conduct disorder, antisocial personality disorder, or oppositional defiant disorder. 

Avoidance: Dismissing thoughts or feelings that are uncomfortable or keeping away from people, places, or situations associated with uncomfortable thoughts or feelings. This defense mechanism may be present in post-traumatic stress disorder, where one avoids the location of a traumatic motor vehicle accident or avoids driving completely.  

Conversion: The development of physical symptoms that cannot be explained by pathophysiology or physical injury. This defense mechanism is recognized in conversion disorder, also known as functional neurologic symptom disorder. 

Denial: Dismissing external reality and instead focusing on internal explanations or fallacies and thereby avoiding the uncomfortable reality of a situation. This defense mechanism may be present in someone who continues to shop for expensive designer clothes despite being in serious financial debt. 

Identification: The internalization or reproduction of behaviors observed in others, such as a child developing the behavior of his or her parents without conscious realization of this process. Identification is also known as introjection. 

Projection: Attributing one’s own maladaptive inner impulses to someone else. For example, someone who commits an episode of infidelity in their marriage may then accuse their partner of infidelity or may become more suspicious of their partner.  

Regression: Adapting one’s behavior to earlier levels of psychosocial development. For example, a stressful event may cause an individual to regress to bed-wetting after they have already outgrown this behavior. 

Repression: Subconsciously blocking ideas or impulses that are undesirable. This defense mechanism may be present in someone who has no recollection of a traumatic event, even though they were conscious and aware during the event. 

Schizoid fantasy: Creating an internal retreat into one’s imagination to avoid uncomfortable situations. This defense mechanism may present commonly in children or later in development, may be present in schizoid personality disorder. 

Splitting: Failing to reconcile both positive and negative attributes into a whole understanding of a person or situation, resulting in all-or-none thinking. Splitting is commonly associated with borderline personality disorder. 

Higher-level Defense Mechanisms [10]

Anticipation: The devotion of one’s effort to solving problems before they arise. This defense mechanism may be present in someone who prepares for an important job interview by practicing their answers to the toughest questions. 

Compensation: Focusing on achievement in one area of life in order to distract attention away from the inadequacy or fear of inadequacy in another area of life. This defense mechanism may be present in a student who receives poor grades on their report card and then devotes more time and effort to extracurricular clubs and activities. 

Displacement: Transferring one’s emotional burden or emotional reaction from one entity to another. This defense mechanism may be present in someone who has a stressful day at work and then lashes out against their family at home. 

Humor: Decreasing or combating the negative emotions associated with a situation by using comedy. For example, telling a funny story about someone during a eulogy. 

Intellectualization: The development of patterns of excessive thinking or over-analyzing, which may increase the distance from one's emotions. For example, someone diagnosed with a terminal illness does not show emotion after the diagnosis is given but instead starts to research every source they can find about the illness. 

Isolation of Affect: Avoiding the experience of an emotion associated with a person, idea, or situation. This defense mechanism may be present in someone who describes the day their house burnt down in a factual way without displaying any emotion. 

Rationalization: The justification of one’s behavior through attempts at a rational explanation. This defense mechanism may be present in someone who steals money but feels justified in doing so because they needed the money more than the person from whom they stole. 

Reaction formation: Replacing one’s initial impulse toward a situation or idea with the opposite impulse. This defense mechanism may be present in someone who teases or insults a romantic interest whom they like. Conversely, reaction formation may be present in someone who is overly kind to someone whom they dislike.  

Sexualization: Associating sexual aspects to one’s experience of certain people, places, objects, or ideas. Sexualization can refer to the development of one’s sexual identity in general. Alternatively, sexualization can refer to the development of specific fetishes or sexual references to conventionally non-sexual entities. 

Sublimation: Transforming one’s anxiety or emotions into pursuits considered by societal or cultural norms to be more useful. This defense mechanism may be present in someone who channels their aggression and energy into playing sports. 

Suppression: Consciously choosing to block ideas or impulses that are undesirable, as opposed to repression, a subconscious process. This defense mechanism may be present in someone who has intrusive thoughts about a traumatic event but pushes these thoughts out of their mind.

Enhancing Healthcare Team Outcomes

Recognition and interpersonal communication about any defense mechanisms the patient is using amongst the psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, primary care provider, nurse, and family can help to orient the team and enhance patient-centered care. Psychodynamic therapy can involve the patient in their own care by achieving greater awareness of their own patterns of psychological defense mechanisms. Some meta-analysis studies have shown psychodynamic therapy to have equal efficacy compared to cognitive behavioral therapy and pharmacotherapy in the treatment of mild to moderate mood disorders. It is important to recognize that therapeutic treatments based on self-awareness and communication will avoid the possible complications of pharmacotherapy, such as side effects and drug-to-drug interactions, and some patients may be more willing to try these therapies compared to pharmacotherapy.[11]



Cramer P. Understanding Defense Mechanisms. Psychodyn Psychiatry. 2015 Dec;43(4):523-52. [PubMed: 26583439]


Parekh MA, Majeed H, Khan TR, Khan AB, Khalid S, Khwaja NM, Khalid R, Khan MA, Rizqui IM, Jehan I. Ego defense mechanisms in Pakistani medical students: a cross sectional analysis. BMC Psychiatry. 2010 Jan 29;10:12. [PMC free article: PMC2836996] [PubMed: 20109240]


Abbate-Daga G, Amianto F, Delsedime N, De-Bacco C, Fassino S. Resistance to treatment and change in anorexia nervosa [corrected]: a clinical overview. BMC Psychiatry. 2013 Nov 07;13:294. [PMC free article: PMC3879222] [PubMed: 24199620]


Cramer P. Change in children's externalizing and internalizing behavior problems: the role of defense mechanisms. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2015 Mar;203(3):215-21. [PubMed: 25668653]


Bruschweiler-Stern N, Lyons-Ruth K, Morgan AC, Nahum JP, Sander LW, Stern DN. The foundational level of psychodynamic meaning: implicit process in relation to conflict, defense and the dynamic unconscious. Int J Psychoanal. 2007 Aug;88(Pt 4):843-60. [PubMed: 17681896]


Boeker H, Richter A, Himmighoffen H, Ernst J, Bohleber L, Hofmann E, Vetter J, Northoff G. Essentials of psychoanalytic process and change: how can we investigate the neural effects of psychodynamic psychotherapy in individualized neuro-imaging? Front Hum Neurosci. 2013;7:355. [PMC free article: PMC3731532] [PubMed: 23935571]


Strandholm T, Kiviruusu O, Karlsson L, Miettunen J, Marttunen M. Defense Mechanisms in Adolescence as Predictors of Adult Personality Disorders. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2016 May;204(5):349-54. [PubMed: 26894315]


Perry JC, Metzger J. Introduction to "defense mechanisms in psychotherapy". J Clin Psychol. 2014 May;70(5):405. [PubMed: 24677084]


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Steinert C, Munder T, Rabung S, Hoyer J, Leichsenring F. Psychodynamic Therapy: As Efficacious as Other Empirically Supported Treatments? A Meta-Analysis Testing Equivalence of Outcomes. Am J Psychiatry. 2017 Oct 01;174(10):943-953. [PubMed: 28541091]

31 Psychological Defense Mechanisms Explained

In our last article, Defense Mechanisms: Psychological Techniques We Use to Cope With Anxieties, we looked at the way in which the psyche deals with unconscious anxieties. We identified a number of common defense mechanisms which we often use without even realising, in order to avoid the anxiety caused by unreasonable impulses originating in the id and the resulting guilt which the super ego’s moral conscience applies in reaction to these feelings.

Ego Defense Mechanisms
  • Defense Mechanisms: Psychological Techniques We Use to Cope With Anxieties
  • Defense Mechanisms Quiz

Whilst defense mechanisms such as repression, sublimation and identification with an aggressor can often be identified, there are also numerous other mechanisms that have been identified since Sigmund Freud first noted them more than a century ago.

  • Sigmund Freud

Let’s take a look at some common and less well known defense mechanisms that a person might deploy, along with some examples of how the mind might use them:


Acceptance of a situation that has been causing anxiety is one technique that we might use to live with an undesirable circumstances or feelings. For instance, someone may acknowledge that they have behaved unreasonably towards their father owing to an Oedipus Complex, or accept their new circumstances after separating from a partner.

Acting Out

When the id component of the human psyche signals the desire to act on an impulse, the ego and super ego will often counteract it if they feel that that behavior would be counterproductive or immoral. A person may want to curse after falling over in a busy street, but the ego, perceiving this as contradicting social etiquette, will often lead to them holding back on the expletives. On some occasions, however, we may not be able to balance the impulses of the id and will defend the ego by simply acting out the irrational desires.

For example a person might “act out” by theatrically storming out of a stressful meeting when they would otherwise stay calm and hide their unease.


The anticipation of a potentially stressful event is one way a person might mentally prepare for it. Anticipation might involve rehearsing possible outcomes in one’s mind or telling oneself that will not be as bad as they imagine. A person with a phobia of dentists might anticipate an appointment to have a tooth filling by telling themselves that the procedure will be over in just a few minutes, and reminding themselves that they have had one previously without any problems.


An act of goodwill towards another person, known as altruistic behavior, can be used as a way of diffusing a potentially anxious situation. Altruism may be used as a defence mechanism, for example, by being particularly helpful to a person who we feel might dislike us or neutralising an argument with kind words and positivity.


When a perceived situation creates anxiety, one convenient option is sometimes to avoid it. Although avoidance can provide an escape from a particular event, it neglects to deal with the cause of the anxiety. For example, a person might know that they are are due to give a stressful presentations to colleagues at work, and take a sick day in order to avoid giving it. Avoidance in this situation might be only a short term option, however, if the presentation is rescheduled to another day. Someone may also avoid thinking about something which causes anxiety, preferring to leave it unresolved instead of confronting it.


Conversion is a defence mechanism whereby the anxiety caused by repressed impulses and feelings are ‘converted’ into a physical complaint such as a cough or feelings of paralysis. Freud observed this physical manifestation of anxieties in clients such as Dora, who complained of a cough, losing her voice and feelings resembling appendicitis. Upon investigation, Freud attributed her cough to fixation during the oral stage of psychosexual development, and linked her appendicitis to a “childbirth fantasy”.


The self denial of one’s feelings or previous actions is one defence mechanism to avoid damage to the ego caused by the anxiety or guilt of accepting them. A married woman might deny to herself that she hold affections for her husband’s friend, rather than accepting her true feelings. A person might also deny to their physical behavior, such as theft, preferring to think that someone forced them into committing the crime, in order to avoid dealing with the guilt should they accept their actions. Denial is an undesirable defense mechanism as it contravenes the reality principle that the id adheres to, delving into an imaginary world that is separate from our actual environment.


Displacement occurs when a person represses affection, fear or impulses that they feel towards another person. Accepting that it is irrational or socially unacceptable to demonstrate such feelings, the psyche prevents them from being converted into actions. However, the feelings are instead displaced towards a person or animal whom it is acceptable to express such sentiments for.

A person who dislikes their teacher after being given low grades may feel that they would be punished if they express their hostility towards them. Therefore, they may unconsciously displace their antipathy onto their best friend, making excuses for treating them badly without justification.

In the case of Little Hans, Freud believed that the boy had displaced a fear of his father onto horses, whose blinkers and facial features reminded him of his parent. Instead of misbehaving towards his father, he felt anxious at being in the presence of horses and would avoid leaving the house when possible.


People who use dissociation as a defense mechanism tend to momentarily lose their connection to the world around them. They may feel separated from the outside world, as though they exist in another realm. Dissociation often helps people to cope with uncomfortable situations by ‘removing’ themselves from them. The may enter a state of daydreaming, staring into space and letting their mind wander until someone nudges them, prompting them to acknowledge reality once more.

A case which Freud analysed after reading an autobiographical account of an illness was that of Daniel Schreber, a German judge who described the dissociative feeling that he and the rest of the world were separated by a veil. Schreber felt as though he was not entirely a part of his environment and that he was in some way separate from it.


When life seems mundane or distressing, people often use fantasy as a way of escaping reality. They may fantasise about winning the lottery or idealised outcomes of their lives changing for the better in some way. Fantasies help us to explore alternatives to situations that we are unhappy with but unrealistic expectations of them being fulfilled can lead to us losing touch with reality and taking more viable actions to improve our lives.


George Vaillant described the use of humor as a “mature” defense mechanism - a primarily adaptive technique to help us to cope with tense or stressful situations. Looking for a funny aspect in an environment in which we lack control can help us to endure it, and can even be an altruistic act in helping others to better cope as well.


Showing humility involves lowering our expectations and view of our self importance, sacrificing our pride and often focussing on others. Humility can enable us to pacify those around us in tense conflicts and encourage cooperation with other people to take place. For example, someone who is known to boast about their abilities may show humility whilst trying to complete a difficult task. This might encourage others to empathise with, and help, them.     


Idealisation involves creating an ideal impression of a person, place or object by emphasising their positive qualities and neglecting the those that are negative. Idealisation adjusts the way in which we perceive the world around us and can lead us to make judgement that support our idealised concepts. People often idealise their recollections of being on holiday or memories from childhood, seeing them as ‘happier times’, but fail to recollect arguments or stresses during those periods. We often idealise the image we hold of people we admire - relatives, partners or celebrities, making excuses for their failures and emphasising their more admirable qualities.


According to Freud’s concept of the Oedipus Complex, a child may experience feelings of resentment towards their father as they compete for the affection of their mother and the resulting castration anxiety - an irrational fear directed towards the father - may lead them to feel the need to appease the father. In order to pacify a person whom we perceive to be a threat, we may emulate aspects of their behavior. By adopting their mannerisms, repeating phrases or language patterns that they tend to use and mirroring their character traits, a person may attempt to appease a person. This defense mechanism was described by Anna Freud as identification with an aggressor.

A person moving schools or countries, starting a new job or entering a new social circle might adopt the social norms or attitudes of classmates, neighbors, colleagues or other people whom they seek acceptance from, for example, in order to avoid being rejected by their new peers.


When a person is attached emotionally to an issue, they may be tempted to consider it in intellectual terms. This often involves standing back from the situation and attempting to take a cold, neutral view of it. For instance, a person who has been made redundant after twenty years of service to a company may intellectualise it, acknowledging the management’s view that redundancies needed to be made for the company to survive. However, this defense mechanism of intellectualisation would not necessarily prevent the person’s passionate feeling that they have been betrayed after committing to work for the company for so long.


Introjection occurs when a person takes stimuli in their environment and adopts them as their own ideas. This may involve internalising criticism from another person and believing the other person’s points to be valid. A person may introject religious ideas that they have heard at church, or political opinions that friends espouse. Behavior can also be introjected - the mannerisms of a father may be observed by his son and then replicated.


The defense mechanism of isolation can lead a person to separate ideas or feelings from the rest of their thoughts. In distinguishing an emotion or impulse from others in this way, a person attempts to protect the ego from anxieties caused by a specific situation. For example, a person with a particularly stressful job may use isolation to separate their work life from their family life, avoiding the stress affecting their relationships.

Passive Aggression

Displays of aggression are considered unsociable and undesirable in many societies, so when aggressive or violent impulses are experienced, people tend to avoid them as much as possible. However, the remaining energy driving such aggression may prove to be more difficult contain, and may manifest in other forms, known as passive aggression. A passive aggressive person may be uncooperative in carrying out their duties or other tasks, may deliberately ignore someone when spoken to and might adopt a negative view of their situation, such as their job, and of those around them (e.g. colleagues).


When we experience feelings or desires that cause anxiety, or that we are unable to act on owing to the negative impact that they would have on us or those around us, we may defend the ego from resulting anxieties by projecting those ideas onto another person. A person who is afraid of crossing a bridge with a friend might accuse them of having a fear of heights, for example, and in doing so, avoids accepting their own weaknesses. In the case of Daniel Schreber, who accused his therapist of attempting to harm him, projection may have occurred when he attributed his own feelings and desires onto his therapist, Professor Flechsig.


Rationalisation occurs when a person attempts to explain or create excuses for an event or action in rational terms. In doing so, they are able to avoid accepting the true cause or reason resulting in the present situation.

Examples of rationalisation include a shoplifter blaming the high price of sweets to justify their theft of a chocolate bar, when in reality they simply enjoyed the act of shoplifting. If a person fails an exam, they may excuse themselves from blame by rationalising that they were too busy to revise during the revision period.

Reaction Formation

When the insatiable desires of the id conflict with the ego and super ego, a person may formulate a reaction to those impulses. Often, this action is the direct opposite to the demans of the original desire, and helps to counteract impulses which may be unacceptable to act out or fulfill.

For example, a man may experience feelings of love towards a married woman. The super ego recognises that the fulfillment of his desires would contradict social norms regarding acceptable behavior, and so a reaction formation would occur - the man may experience feelings of dislike towards her - the opposite of the original feelings.


Repression is perhaps the most significant of defense mechanisms in that repressed feelings and impulses can lead to the use of many other mechanisms. According to Sigmund Freud’s psychodynamic theory, the impulsive desires of the psyche’s id are prevented by being fulfilled by the ego, which observes the Reality Principle - that our actions are restricted by our environment, including social etiquette. Moreover, the superego acts as our moral compass, inducing feelings of guilt at having experienced the irrational desires that the id creates.

Tensions inevitably arise between the id, ego and super ego and the guilt induced by the latter can lead to feelings of anxiety and shame. In order to live with such feelings, Freud believed that our minds repress the thoughts at the source of our anxieties: instead of contemplating them consciously, they are ‘bottled up’ in the unconscious mind, emerging in symbolic dreams and unexplained patterns of behavior.

Freud and his colleague, Josef Breuer, used techniques such as hypnosis, regression and free association to encourage clients to recall and accept repressed memories and impulses.


Regression occurs when a person reverts to the types of behavior that they exhibited at an earlier age. Stress of adult life and the associated anxiety may lead to a person seeking comfort in things which they associate with more secure, happier times. They might regress by eating meals that they were given as a child, watching old films or cartoons, acting without thought for the consequences of their actions.

Self Serving Bias

The self serving bias arises from our need to protect the ego from self criticism and to defend ourselves from the complaints of others. We show a self serving bias when we exaggerate the importance of our own achievements - after passing a test, we might over-estimate the significance of that particular exam, and take credit for completing it without acknowledging the role that tutors played in our success. Similarly, when faced with potential criticism we might deflect blame, apportioning responsibility for failure to anybody but ourselves. Whilst many of us show signs of this self serving bias, it can be an ineffective method of defence as it distort our view of reality and our ability to rationalise and interpret events effectively.

Social Comparison

When people feel that they have been victims of unjust actions, they may defend the ego by comparing themselves to those worse off. Similarly, we may see similarities between ourselves and others in a better position to improve our self image. These defense mechanisms are known as download or upward social comparisons. For example, a man who has broken a leg and confined to a wheelchair may make a downwards social comparison with a person who has been diagnosed with a more serious condition to make their own situation seem less troublesome. Alternatively, a person might seek to identify with a person of a perceived higher social position, such as when they learn that a celebrity is eating at the same restaurant as they are.


Splitting occurs when the ego attempts to reconcile multiple aspects or rationales, but resorts to understanding the world in “black and white” terms. A person who experiences splitting may take an “either-or” approach when making evaluations of the world around them, including objects, situations, and people. They tend to view ideas as either right or wrong, with no middle ground or compromise. Similarly, they may take a “good versus bad” approach in relationships, admiring one group of people whilst completely rejecting those who do not live upto their expectations.


Sublimation is considered to be a more adaptive defence mechanism in that it can transform negative anxiety into a more positive energy. Psychiatrist George Vaillant identified it as a mature defense mechanism, which we can use to adapt to arising anxieties.

When the energy of the libido surfaces in the form of impulses in the psyche’s id, these desires are disabled by the ego, and the super ego may produce guilt at having experienced unacceptable feelings. Whilst these impulses may be repressed, the energy behind them remains. Instead of converting this energy into socially unacceptable behavior, a person may use sublimation to redirect this motivation into more acceptable, even productive, endeavours.

Freud believed that artists’ creative energies were often a refocusing of carnal impulses or other anxieties, through sublimation, onto their work. Athletes may also use sublimation to concentrate their energy on productive activities such as training.


The somatization defence mechanism occurs when the internal conflicts between the drives of the id, ego and super ego take on physical characteristics.

Josef Breuer, a colleague of Sigmund Freud, observed this in the case of Anna O, who sought help from Breuer for hysteria. Breuer discovered that Anna’s anxieties had resulted from traumatic events that had been repressed, but later manifested themselves physically. For example, she experienced paralysis on one side, which Breuer linked to a dream in which she felt paralysed whilst trying to fend off a snake from her bed-bound father.

  • Anna O: Sigmund Freud's Case History

Unlike many other defense mechanisms, the suppression of thoughts and emotions is something which occurs consciously and we may be entirely aware that we are attempting to suppress anxieties. Suppression involves attempting not to think about a memory or feelings - a person may try to think of another subject when an uneasy thought enters their mind or they might preoccupy their minds by undertaking an unrelated task to distract themselves. A person may also suppress feelings of love or dislike towards a person, behaving normally towards them as though they felt dispassionate towards them.


When we act on an idea or impulse that we later regret, we may adopt a defense mechanism of attempting to “undo” that action in order to protect the ego from feelings of guilt or shame. A person may intentionally push past someone in a shop, but realising that the person was frail, feel guilty with regards to their behavior. They may try to undo their action by apologising or offering to help the person.

Wishful Thinking

We all engage in wishful thinking to some extent in an attempt to avoid facing undesirable realities. A football fan might deceive themselves that the ailing team that they support will miraculously turn themselves around and win all of the future matches of the season. Such wishful thinking enables the person to avoid disappointment and sadness for as long as possible.

Varieties of security identification


Security identification has a number of varieties, each of which should be the subject of a separate study. These varieties are:

  1. identification with a loved object: in this case, the person models himself according to the qualities of a loved one, which reduces separation anxiety and tension arising from hostility (if feelings are ambivalent).
  2. Identification with lost object. This variety actually coincides with introjection. The person takes on the characteristics of the lost object and weakens his sense of regret.
  3. Identification with the aggressor: after such a successful identification, it seems that the aggressiveness comes from the identifiable person himself.
  4. Identification due to guilt. This variety also has similarities with introjection. It is a self-punishing identification that arises out of hostility and ambivalence toward the beloved object. Examples that testify to the existence of such an identification are compulsive reactions, when the patient not only punishes himself, but also gloats on this occasion.

Identification with a lost object

In this paragraph, we will mainly deal with identification with deceased loved ones.

The death of parents and other close people is one of the most difficult existential frustrators in the lives of most people. In order to continue to live a more or less normal life after such a loss, it is necessary to have appropriate resources and mechanisms of psychological self-defense. One of these mechanisms is identification with the dead, with the objects of love that a person has lost.

We have seen that the essence of psychic identification lies in the conscious and/or subconscious striving of the subject to be like the object; think, feel and act like him, have his power, authority and influence. We know that this phenomenon is clearly observed in the relationship between children and parents. In addition, as psychoanalytic studies have shown, one of the most effective ways to free oneself from the Oedipus complex is identification with parents, appropriation (introjection) of their interests, attitudes, personality traits and characteristic forms of behavior. Such identification is involved in the formation of the I-concept of the child, his Super-I, the higher blocks of self-consciousness.

The identification of a child with a parent, according to psychoanalysis, is also a special case of the phenomenon of identification with an aggressor. By identifying with a stronger aggressor, the child, as it were, acquires its strength and begins to feel safe. The examples of identification with the aggressor given by Anna Freud are well known:

  • the child is afraid of his teacher and subconsciously imitates the expression of his face, imitates him;
  • a little girl is afraid of the dark, thinking that ghosts appear in a dark room, but finds a way out (protective agent): she advises her brother to imagine that you yourself are a sign. And then the fear really softens.

However, in parallel with the mechanism of identification with the aggressor (and in the process of overcoming the Oedipus complex), identification with the "lost object" takes place. In this case, this is the parent of the opposite sex. In the process of overcoming the Oedipus complex, the child abandons the parent of the opposite sex, but some degree of identification with him softens the frustration that arose from such a loss, since he retains some of his ideals. It is this mechanism of psychological identification with the parent of the opposite sex that is fixed in the psyche of the individual as a protective mechanism. It begins to act in the event of the loss of a parent. It is a defense against the existential frustration that comes with the loss of a loved one.

In discussing this question, we are already invading the field of psychological thanatology. One of the sections of this science should be the psychology of self-defense of the individual in the face of the death of other people, as well as in anticipation of his own inevitable death. As we can see, taking into account the theory of psychological identification is absolutely necessary for the development of this field of science.

Of particular interest is the case of the actual loss of a loved one as a result of his death. What are the features of identification with the dead, and what consequences does it lead to? In order to alleviate the grief of losing a loved one, people identify with them. This issue is usually discussed in the literature in connection with the psychoanalytic theory of mourning.

This idea allows us to distinguish three more varieties of identification, the existence of which we actually already spoke of when we gave a general psychoanalytic characterization of this phenomenon. We are talking about the following varieties:

  1. identification with such an object that a person actually possesses;
  2. identification with such an object that a person would like to possess;
  3. identification with such an object that a person has lost.

The last kind of identification comes into play during and after the experience of frustration. Moreover, various cases are possible here, for example, the following:0003

  • individual A had an identification with B even before losing it, when he possessed it;
  • individual A before the loss of B had no more or less noticeable identification with B; the process of identification really began for him after the loss of object B.

Another problem arises in connection with these differentiations, namely: how is the identification with the object one possesses transformed into the kind of identification that takes place after the loss of the object? What changes the loss of object B by individual A in his identification with this object?

We also note that since the death of a loved one, unsuccessful love and the expectation of one's own inevitable death are deep existential frustrators, one can defend against them only with the help of protective complexes. Therefore, identification in isolation is not sufficient. You should find out what protective complexes it usually includes. It should be borne in mind that many fail to organize a sufficiently effective mental defense against such frustrations, and they acquire neuroses or psychoses, that is, pathological adaptive complexes. Why does this happen, what is the power of the “I”, how is it connected with age, with prospects, claims, the ability to comprehend one’s life by other means, etc.? Before us is a complex of problems to be investigated by means of modern scientific psychology.0003

Key words: Identification, Protection

Source: Frustration, psychological self-defense and character. Volume 2. Defense mechanisms, self-awareness and character / A. A. Nalchadzhyan - 2013

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Freud's concept of identification

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Defense mechanisms

Conflictology / Ed. A. S. Karmina

Psychoanalytic understanding of repression

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Identification and other mental phenomena

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Psychological protection

Karpov A.V., General psychology

Mechanism identification examples. Identification is a defense mechanism against an internal aggressor. Use of identification in forensics

It is absolutely normal to identify with someone at 10 years old. But a person grows, personality is formed, his character is formed. And the need for identification with another individual disappears.

And if this does not happen? If the identification continues in the adult? Let's look at this topic. And let's start by clarifying what identification means in psychology.


Identification - oneself with another person, members of a group, character in a film or book. In other words, the concept of identification in psychology can be considered as likening oneself to someone.

Identification is divided into two types: primary and secondary. The formation of the child's personality, passing through the process of identification, can be attributed to the primary. First, the infant identifies with the parents.

Secondary identification is the identification of oneself with those people who are not parents.

Types of identification

In psychology, there are the following types of identification:

    Situational. Manifested since childhood. yourself with your parents, siblings. In general, with family members whom the child loves and strives to be like them.

    Group. Assimilation of a community in a group. Manifested in the fact that a person recognizes the foundations and values ​​of the group as his own. Understands himself and accepts as a member of this group.

    In this case, the person identifies himself as an agent of the social circle.

    Personal. This is a complex of characteristic features inherent in a particular person, which allow him to be distinctive from others and become like himself. Personal identification in psychology understands constancy and unity. We are talking about life attitudes, goals, motives of the individual. Thus, personal identification is not any character trait, but the whole essence of a person, his "self", manifested in actions and deeds, in reactions to these actions.

There is also a political identification, but it is included in the personal section. This is a specific life position of the individual and identification with this position.

Let's give a definition. Mechanisms

This is the definition: identification in psychology is a person's need to establish coincidences and similarities with the object of his veneration. Note that this is an internal unconscious need.

We are talking about identification. What is behind this? What is the mechanism of identification in psychology?

Freud also spoke about this. He was the first to develop this mechanism. According to Freud, a person who perceives the world as a system of riddles and mysterious things is unable to independently realize the true purpose of the surrounding world and the meaning of being. Such a person needs a system of reference points in order to be able to compare himself with a specific object.

Based on this, Freud considered the mechanism of identification as an attempt by a weak person to compare himself with those personalities who are authorities for him. A weak person is afraid of reality. And such a mechanism allows him to reduce the fear of her.


Is identity and identification the same thing in psychology? No, in the first case, these are the person's own foundations and values, his views on life. In the second - identification of oneself with other people or a group.

When a person knows what he wants to become and comes to this, he achieves both identity and identification.

Components of identification

When a person identifies himself with someone, he tries on the parameters of that personality. Focusing on them, he unconsciously tries to turn into an object of imitation, to look at the world through his eyes. Psychologists distinguish the following components of identification in psychology:

    Transferring the sensations of the object of imitation into your inner world, accepting his life attitudes and values.

    Projection of that personality onto oneself. A person begins to continue the object of imitation by himself, that is, to identify himself with him. This contributes to the transfer of one's own character, emotional component, desires, etc. to that person.

    An attempt to "live the life" of the object of identification. That is, the acceptance and assimilation of its behavioral nature.


There are two mechanisms by which a person develops in the psychology of communication: identification and isolation. It is human nature to feel the connection of times. Identification with one's family, with members of one's family contributes to this. With regard to isolation, the normal personality grows and develops. She cannot fail to understand her uniqueness. Be aware of your own, unique "I" and allows isolation.

Identification in psychology

This is a process in which a person completely rejects himself. He projects the object of identification onto his essence, tries to become what he never was. That is, leaving himself, such an individual tries on someone else's role and tries to play it - in simple terms.

For the development and formation of personality, this is a normal process, manifested even in childhood.

What example of identification in psychology can be given? Identification of the child with the father. The son or daughter is trying to learn the way the beloved parent thinks, his actions.

What is the difference between identification and imitation? Indeed, these concepts are often confused. Their main difference is that imitation is the conscious imitation of someone. And identification occurs at an unconscious level. As long as a person goes through his individual path, it acts. But sometimes the individual cannot find himself in any way. And then the identification turns into a barrier that hinders the development of a person, acquires the character of a pathology.

Identification of psychological functions

It leads to the creation of a secondary character. That is, the individual renders his true individuality unconscious by identifying himself very strongly with the most developed function.

In psychology, the problem of gender identification belongs to this type. What is she like? One aspect of gender. defined as the self-identification of a person with a particular gender. That is, this feeling of being a woman, a man, or an intermediate state. It exists, as strange as it may sound.

Gender identification usually corresponds to biological sex. But this does not always happen.

Gender identification. A person refers himself to one of the sexes, which means that his landmark is the requirements corresponding to this gender.

Identification in psychology can be a defense mechanism. It is the idea of ​​someone as being oneself. The most striking example of such a mechanism is the identification of parents with their own children. The parent projects his own desires and needs onto the child, and then prescribes his achievements to himself. For example, my mother dreamed of being a pianist all her life. But I became an accountant. She creates such antecedents in the environment for her daughter to follow this path. against the will of the child. And when she succeeds, mom is proud of herself so much if she succeeded as a pianist.

Adaptive process

Consider identification as an adaptive process. What does it consist of? In an attempt to become like a certain person, to adopt his features. Instead of an individual, there can be a group of people. It starts from childhood, so initially identification is quite primitive. Over time, there is a strong emotional attachment to the chosen object, or to a group of people, a Person feels one with them and "absorbs" not only character traits and features, but also the values, attitudes and patterns of behavior of the group or object of worship.

Adaptive identification may change over time. For example, if in school years the object was a local hooligan and this gave a certain social status, then it is unlikely that an adult would want to have the status of a criminal.

Interesting facts about identification according to Freud

Z. Freud deduced two key directions of identification in psychology: erotic and mimetic. The first refers to those people who are the object of desire. The second is those people on whom the individual is equal. In other words, those who want to be like.

It is mimetic identification that serves as a "thread". With its help, you can control not only one person, but also the crowd. A group of people abandon their own ideals and turn their attention to one common leader. Another thing is that you need to try hard to gain credibility among the crowd.


What to remember from the article?

    Identification in psychology is the identification of oneself with some person, group of people or image.

    There are primary and secondary. Primary is characteristic of a child, secondary - for an adult.

    The identification mechanism, according to Freud, is that a weak person cannot rely on himself. He needs an authority with which he will identify his essence.

    Identification can be seen as a defense mechanism and as an adaptive process.

    A protective mechanism is the transfer of one's desires to another object, while the achievements of this object are regarded as one's own. It is characteristic of parents in relation to children.

    Adaptive process - an attempt to become like an individual, or a group of people, to adopt his / their values.

    According to Freud, identification is divided into mimetic and erotic.

Information in conclusion

So, we have considered the concept of identification in psychology. It should not be confused with identity.

Identification is characteristic of an immature personality, its processes begin from childhood. As a rule, an adult who rejects his essence is a big child. Only weak people with an unstable psyche can turn their "I" into an unconscious state.

Based on all of the above, the following conclusion suggests itself: all our complexes come from childhood.

Identification mechanism

Provides the transfer of "personal" experience indirectly - through personal example, "infection", imitation.

A characteristic feature of the identification process is that it takes place, especially at the beginning, independently of the child's consciousness, and is also not fully controlled by the parents. At later age stages, the circle of persons is extremely expanded, from which the sample-object of identification is selected. Among those may be not only real people, acquaintances or strangers, but also literary heroes. But usually, sooner or later, there comes a time when the "sample" loses its attractiveness and subjective significance, and this is natural: the person has taken something important and necessary from the sample, but she has her own way. The deactualization of the model marks the completion of a certain stage in the development of the personality, its rise to a new stage: it turns out that new relationships have developed, new motives have appeared, and this makes us set new goals and look for new ideals.

Dictionary of practical psychologist. - M.: AST, Harvest . S. Yu. Golovin . 1998 .

See what "identification mechanism" is in other dictionaries:

    user identification mechanism based on the use of his voice - - [E.S. Alekseev, A.A. Myachev. English Russian explanatory dictionary of computer systems engineering. Moscow 1993] Topics information technology in general EN voice print ... Technical translator's guide

    - (the mechanism for accepting and mastering social roles) is in many respects similar to the mechanism of identification, but differs in much greater generalization, often in the absence of personalization of the mastered standard. Described using the concepts of social positions . .. ...

    GOST R ISO/IEC 19762-1-2011: Information technology. Technologies of automatic identification and data collection (AISD). Harmonized Dictionary. Part 1. General terms in the field of AISD - Terminology GOST R ISO/IEC 19762 1 2011: Information technology. Technologies of automatic identification and data collection (AISD). Harmonized Dictionary. Part 1. General terms in the field of AISD original document: Accredited Standards ... ... Dictionary-reference book of terms of regulatory and technical documentation

    1) Assimilation (as a rule, unconsciously) of oneself to a significant other (eg a parent) as a model based on an emotional connection with him. Through the mechanism of I., starting from early childhood, the child develops many personality traits and behavioral ... ... Great psychological encyclopedia

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    PSYCHOANALYSIS - (from the Greek psyche soul and analysis decision) a philosophical and psychological concept and part of psychotherapy, a medical research method proposed by Z. Freud for the diagnosis and treatment of hysteria. In P., a distinction is made between P.'s technique as a method ... ... Philosophical Encyclopedia

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    LAZARSFELD Paul Felix - (1901 1976) American sociologist. He developed the problems of the methodology of the social sciences, as well as the application of mathematical methods in social cognition. From the point of view of L., methodology is primarily an activity associated with critical ... ... Sociology: Encyclopedia


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What is identification? This is a word taken from the ancient Latin language. Translated into Russian, it means the establishment of identity, and if in a word, then identification.

Identification in the life of all life on Earth

Identification. A complex and abstruse word. But if you look at it from the other side, then the property called identification is familiar to everyone from early childhood.

All living beings have olfactory organs, they see, hear, perceive taste and touch, that is, they scan the surrounding world. The results of this process through the nerve endings enter the brain, where they are processed. And that is identification. Depending on its results, some conclusions are drawn and actions are taken. Identification or, in other words, comparison or identification is made even by a baby in the womb. He recognizes her voice, identifies calm classical music, subsides to it or “rages” from loud sounds.

In addition, everyone has their own name, surname, address of residence, and, in the end, their appearance. And all this can be combined into identification objects.

It can be argued that identification is a permanent process that takes place in the brain.

The concept of identification

In the modern world, both the term “identification” and the process of identification itself are widely used, moreover, in many and completely different spheres of life.

What is identification? This question has occupied the minds of scientists for a long time. The ancient philosophers Aristotle, Spinoza, G. Hegel, and scientists of later times, as well as our contemporaries, were engaged in the study of this topic.

The ancient Latin word identifico, which literally means "identification", has the root iden, the translation of which means something that does not change for a long time. With this in mind, we can formulate the concept of identification as a definition of the correspondence or similarity of something to an existing standard, taken as a basis and having certain parameters.

At the same time, the ambiguity of this word should be noted, which makes it possible to use the term in different areas, in each of which it has its own definitions, types and systems.

Interpretation of identification in certain areas of science

For the first time, mathematician L. Euler used identification as a concept back in the 18th century. So, when studying the actions of a mathematical system, he determined and compared its cores, and also compared the possibilities of transfer functions, that is, he identified them. Describing these processes, he used the word itself for the first time.

The first use of the term in psychology shortly after mathematicians is attributed to S. Freud, who in 1899 year conducted his research on this topic.

Identification in psychology means comparing and reconciling two or more objects. Their certain qualities and features are taken as a basis. And as a result, the installation of similarity and analogy or discrepancy and dissimilarity.

In chemistry, identification is a whole process. In order to identify an initially unknown compound, it is analyzed, its chemical and physical properties are studied, and then they are compared with known analogues.

The term "identification" is also used in philosophy and sociology, in economics and criminalistics.

Separation of identification into types

For a more complete understanding of what identification is, you need to understand its types. They depend on the area in which the event is held.

There are four main types of identification in forensic science:

  • by a display that has received a material fixation, for example, a tread print on the road;
  • to establish the ownership of a part of an object, for example, a piece of cloth, a piece of a knife;
  • recognition by an image stored in memory, for example, by some witness;
  • comparison of the previously described features with the features of the allegedly sought-for object found.

Separately, it is worth paying attention to the types of identification that are used in relation to a variety of goods. So, thanks to consumer identification, goods unsuitable for consumption do not enter the market. It is considered very difficult to identify the commodity-lot, which should determine the manufacturer of this batch of goods. Identification is also carried out according to the belonging of the goods to a certain assortment, it is called assortment. In addition, there is a quality, which determines the quality of the goods and varietal, with the help of which defects are detected and the grade of the product is determined. Special identification is carried out in order to identify products that are prohibited for sale, for example, genetically modified.

Mostly visual forms of identification are used to determine personality (although there are others). The most common of them is when they compare the appearance of the subject and his image in the photo in the identity document.

The use of identification in forensics

Forensic identification is the performance of actions to identify a specific object or subject by various features that it has or left, from a large number of similar objects or subjects. The purpose of such identification is the conduct of investigative actions or the prevention of offenses.

Very often, in criminal proceedings, the process of identifying a person or some object is carried out. Which is identification. In this case, the image preserved in the memory of the identifying person is identifying. And the person or object that is identified is identifiable.

The possibilities of modern identification in forensics have greatly expanded, thanks to scientific developments in this area. This not only increased the speed of solving crimes, but also greatly facilitated the work of forensic specialists.

Forensic identification today uses the latest methods. These include ordological identification, that is, identification with the help of smell. Phonoscopy is recognition by sound left on a telephone or other recording device.

Genoscopic identification is an identification by means of the study of DNA molecules. It helps to establish the identity in many criminal investigations, in the identification of those who died as a result of disasters, as well as terrorist attacks.

Identification applied to various goods

In the field of trade, the identification of goods is one of the most important actions necessary to determine their compliance with the submitted documentation, which reflects the basic information about the product, as well as with available samples. In the identification process, goods are marked and labeled.

Identification identifies and confirms the authenticity of goods. And marking and drawing up certain documentation prevents illegal products from entering the market.

Identification of goods is carried out at each stage of production.
There are microbiological, chemical-physical and organoleptic methods of identification of goods.

Using the microbiological method, the presence of harmful microorganisms and microparticles in the product is determined. The physico-chemical method allows you to set the properties of the product. For its implementation, special devices and equipment are used. Although organoleptic methods have some degree of subjectivity, they are very efficient and are also used for identification.

Identification as a mechanism for the accumulation and preservation of information about a person

Personal identification occurs by determining the identity of a person by a group of features when they are compared.

To identify a person, it is necessary to establish full passport data. This includes the surname, name and patronymic, date and place of his birth. An identification code and other data are also used, depending on the requirements of the identifying party.

There are various identification methods. This may be a number that is issued for life (TIN). A number that can be changed due to changes in surname or other data. Or there may be several numbers, their joint presence will contribute to identification.

Identification can be centralized when all data is stored at the highest level. Can be distributed when information is stored where the subject is registered. In this case, information exchange can take place. With a hierarchical type of identification, information is available in all instances from lower to higher.

Variety of methods used for identification

Various methods of identification are used to identify some objects.

The simplest method of unique names has been known since ancient times. It is thanks to him that cities, countries, planets, and so on have their special names.

Many objects that we encounter in everyday life have their own numbers. Their assignment is due to the method of identification using numbers that make up the number, which is one of the most widely used.

To identify products or documentation, conventional designation methods are commonly used, which are divided into mnemonic, classification and mnemonic classification.

To systematize various objects and simplify the collection of the necessary information about them, a classification method is used.

If the features of an object are identified according to certain standards described in regulatory or technical documents, then the reference identification method is used.

If a certain object is identified by describing its qualities, features, dimensions, then a descriptive method is used.

Use of various systems for identification

Many systems have been developed to speed up and simplify identification, as well as to eliminate dubious manipulations, the varieties of which depend on the scope of their application.

The principle of operation is the reading or scanning of an electronic code by the device.

Its own identification system was developed for chain supermarkets, when the cashier brings the code printed on the package to the scanner and the system reads the name of the product, its cost.

Thanks to the identification system, you can use electronic keys, passes and bank cards. Here, the information is printed on a magnetic line and is read by a special device.

Identification is such a diverse concept in the modern world that it is very difficult to give an unambiguous answer to the question of what identification is.

IDENTIFICATION MECHANISM – ensures the transfer of “personal” experience indirectly – through personal example, “infection”, imitation. A characteristic feature of the identification process is that it takes place, especially at first, regardless of the consciousness of the child, and is also not fully controlled by the parents. At later age stages, the circle of persons is extremely expanded, from which the sample-object of identification is selected. Among those may be not only real people, acquaintances or strangers, but also literary heroes. But usually, sooner or later, there comes a time when the “sample” loses its attractiveness and subjective significance, and this is natural: the person has taken something important and necessary from the sample, but she has her own way. The deactualization of the model marks the completion of a certain stage in the development of the personality, its rise to a new stage: it turns out that new relationships have developed, new motives have appeared, and this makes us set new goals and look for new ideals.

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