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Freudian Dictionary

First, identification is the original form of emotional tie with an object; secondly, in a regressive way it becomes a substitute for a libidinal object tie, as it were by means of the introjection of the object into the ego; and thirdly, it may arise with every new perception of a common quality shared with some other person who is not an object of the sexual instinct.[1]

One ego becomes like another, one which results in the first ego behaving itself in certain respects in the same way as the second; it imitates it, and as it were takes it into itself. This identification has been not inappropriately compared with the oral cannibalistic incorporation of another person.[2]

Identification in Hysteria

In hysteria identification is most frequently employed to express a sexual community. The hysterical woman identifies herself by her symptoms most readily-though not exclusively-with persons with whom she has had sexual relations, or who have had sexual intercourse with the same persons as herself. Language takes cognizance of this tendency: two lovers are said to be "one." In hysterical phantasy, as well as in dreams, identification may ensue if one simply thinks of sexual relations; they need not necessarily become actual.[3]

Identification and Object-Choice

Identification is a very important kind of relationship with another person, probably the most primitive, and is not to be confused with objectchoice. One can express the difference between them in this way: when a boy identifies himself with his father, he wants to be like his father; when he makes him the object of his choice, he wants to have him, to possess him; in the first case his ego is altered on the model of his father, in the second case that is not necessary. Identification and object-choice are broadly speaking independent of each other; but one can identify oneself with a person, and alter one's ego accordingly, and take the same person as one's sexual object. It is said that this influencing of the ego by the sexual object takes place very often with women, and is characteristic of femininity . . . . If one has lost a love-object or has had to give it up, one often compensates oneself by identifying oneself with it; one sets it up again inside one's ego, so that in this case objectchoice regresses, as it were, to identification.[4]


This is the process whereby one's ego seeks to emulate another. It is particularly important in overcoming the Oedipus complex: the young child deals with his primitive desires by identifying with his parents, imitating them to such an extent that, ultimately, he introjects the parental authority—and thus develops a super-ego. Identification is quite different from object-choice: "If a boy identifies himself with his father, he wants to be like his father; if he makes him the object of his choice, he wants to have him, to possess him" ("New Introductory Lectures" 22.63).


A term we use often in everyday conversations--we speak of ourselves or of children "identifying" with family members or with celebrities--identification is a complex psychological process over which the subject never has full control.

In Lacanian terms, identification can be described as an example of captation], a process in which an object in the external world (most frequently another person) so "captivates" the subject that it becomes a component in that subject's self-image.

In Lacan's model of the development of the human psyche, the mirror stage, as the primordial experience of identification in which the infant is captated by the image of his or her own body, lays the groundwork for all subsequent identifications.