The child would have reacted like this or something similar if enormous anxiety hadn’t paralyzed her. These children feel physically and morally helpless. There isn’t sufficient consolidation of their personalities in order to be able to protest, even if only in thought. The overwhelming authority of the adult makes them dumb and can rob them of their senses.
“The same anxiety, however, if it reaches a certain maximum, compels them to subordinate themselves like automata to the will of the aggressor, to divine each one of his desires and to gratify these; completely oblivious of themselves, they identify with the aggressor” (Ferenczi, 1933). Through identification, he disappears as a part of external reality and becomes intra instead of extra psychic. The child succeeds in maintaining the previous situation of tenderness to the [abuser] but hates herself. She now treats herself with the same sadism previously expressed by the [abuser].
When she attacks herself for not having fought harder she is demonstrating a lack of connection with her own helpless rage and is enacting a sadistic attack on herself. They behave as if they are largely id and superego and there is little ego. Modern psychoanalytic work with trauma supports Ferenczi and finds there is “little ego” during traumatic over stimulation (Davies & Frawley, 1994). Diamond (1994) elaborates on this adaptive response to trauma.