Identification With The Aggressor
A Freudian concept by which the male child attempts to deal with the castration anxiety that they experience as a result of their Oedipus complex , by identifying with the father. As the father is seen as a rival for the mother’s affections, the child believes that the father will punish him by castrating him. The child can deflect this potentially disastrous event by integrating his own self with that of the father. The father would not punish the child, as it would be like punishing himself. The term has also developed a more general usage in the psychological literature and applies to any sort of defensive identification with a potential source of punishment. Bruno Bettelheim describes graphically how, in the concentration camps of the Second World War, prisoners would sometimes identify with their captors in a desperate attempt to avoid the terrible consequences that would otherwise befall them.