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Identification

 

Explanations > Behaviors > Coping > Identification

Description | Example | Discussion | So what?

  

Description

Identification occurs when a person changes apparent facets of their personality such that they appear to be more like other people. This process may be to be copy specific people or it may be to change to an idealized prototype.

This generally happens as a subconscious process, as opposed to being a more conscious mimicking, although these processes may occur together, as the person consciously as well as subconsciously wants to be like the other person.

Areas of identification may include external elements, such as clothing and hair styles (which may be chosen without consciously realizing the influences that are at play) as well as internal factors such as beliefs, values and attitudes.

Example

A girl dresses like her friends, as much because she likes the garb as any conscious desire to be like them.

A person in a meeting adopts similar body language to their manager, and tend to take the same viewpoint.

Two people in a party meet and each finds the other very attractive. Between them they both adjust their views and postures to be more similar to one another.

Discussion

Identification with another person has a number of benefits. By 'becoming another person', I am effectively escaping myself and my woes. If I believe that person to be superior to me, I both escape my inferiority and move more towards my ideal. Identification thus helps preserve the ego whilst concealing inadequacies.

It is said that 'Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery' and identifying with another person is likely to make that person find me more attractive, not only from the flattery viewpoint but also because we generally trust people who are like us.

The reverse is also true, and I will tend to avoid the beliefs, values, body language and dress of people that I dislike.

So what?

Notice how others are acting like you or seem to agree with your viewpoints. This may be that they actually agree with you. It may also be because they are identifying with you on one point and hence following you on others. This, of course, may be what you are trying to achieve.

They may also be falsely identifying with you, of course, in order to try to get you to identify with them...

In therapeutic situations, identification may be harmful where the person is either escaping serious personal problems or where the identification they take on is harmful to themselves or others. In such cases, you may need to bring the person back to themselves to discover and address the root causes of the problem.

See also

Using Body Language, Alignment principle, Idealization

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