This ego defensive mechanism is more subtle and difficult to understand. Whereas rationalizations were centered on the intellects reasoning capacity negative identification takes us into the mysteries of the imagination. The imagination is that level in which we create our own inner realities and the secret to this is found in the process of identification. The imagination is the creative power and it is the process of identification that traps or forms our consciousness into a fixed mold.
Identification is the deep process of becoming bonding with something. And it is through identification that we create our identity. When we identify with a feeling or a thought we feed those impressions, we make them more important; we own them as our own and incorporate them into our self-image. It is through the process of identification that we become one with experiences. The process of identification is the process of binding our consciousness into forms or images.
Identification can be a very positive process when it helps us grow our beings. We can identify with heroes and gurus or whatever if it brings about an expansion of the self. But when we solidify our consciousness into any image for long we begin to loose touch with that part of us that can not be trapped by any image. The Jews hit onto something very big 5000 years ago when their prophets discovered that you cannot have an image of god. God cannot be trapped by any image and since our real selves are part of this God all images have limitations.
Negative identification is the use of our imaginations and its capacity to identify in negative ways. In group or interpersonal situations it is a normal reaction to negatively identify which means we identify with a person who is being confronted or embarrassed or hurt. We feel a protectiveness toward another because we are identifying with them, we are putting ourselves in their shoes. Though this is very normal it in fact pulls us off our own center. It is not appropriate to get embarrassed for another for example. What purpose could that serve? The other persons situation is just triggering our own internal difficulties that we ourselves would have if put in a similar situation. People who get caught up in this process of constantly identifying with others keep swinging their inner worlds into other peoples points of view only to change that point of view when with different people. Such people seem fickle because fifteen minutes after a complete identification with a person they can be expressing the opposite identification or points of view on that very same situation. Our feelings vacillate back and forth in our attempt to be seen as friendly or amiable and people in the end will not trust us very much because they never really know what our truth is.
The worst examples are of course the type of negative identification that happens when people identify with a dictator like Hitler and begin to take on his quality. Anyone can at anytime take on the identity of another and begin to act out the other person’s role as part of his or her own self-image. In these cases the other persons personality becomes a role model and the payoff is increased sense of selfesteem and ego identity.