(2002). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 12(1):101-139
Exploring Ferenczi's Concept of Identification with the Aggressor: Its Role in Trauma, Everyday Life, and the Therapeutic Relationship
When we feel overwhelmed by an inescapable threat, we “identify with the aggressor” . Hoping to survive, we sense and “become” precisely what the attacker expects of us—in our , perceptions, emotions, and thoughts. is closely coordinated with other responses to , including . Over the long run, it can become habitual and can lead to , chronic hypervigilance, and other distortions.
But habitual also frequently occurs in people who have not suffered severe , which raises the possibility that certain events not generally considered to constitute are often experienced as traumatic. Following Ferenczi, I suggest that emotional abandonment or , and to a greater power, are such events. In addition, is a tactic typical of people in a weak ; as such, it plays an important role in social interaction in general.
Jay Frankel, Ph.D. is an Associate Editor of Psychoanalytic Dialogues; Faculty and Supervisor, the Manhattan Institute for ; and Supervisor, New York University Postdoctoral Program in and , the Institute for Contemporary , and the and Adolescent Programs at the William Alanson White Institute and the National Institute for the Psychotherapies.
The author wishes to thank Neil Altman, Ellen Arfin, Lewis Aron, Anthony Bass, Jody Davies, Judith Dupont, Susan Fabrick, Beth Lawrence, Helene Nemiroff, Fredric Perlman, Shari Rosenblatt, Brenda Szulman, and Joyce Whitby for their thoughtful readings of earlier versions of this paper and for their very helpful comments. Thanks also to Beatrice Beebe, Leah Lipton, and Karlen Lyons-Ruth for their help in locating source . An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 23rd Annual Conference of the of , Tel Aviv, , May 7, 1999.
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And because in certain ways patient and analyst are inherent threats to each other, both partly see and identify with the other as an aggressor. The result is collusions: “tenuous agreements” to avoid areas of for both of them. The process of analysis can be understood as the working through of these inevitable collusions.