Do you react to some people as
if they were someone else?
Do some people react strangely to you?
What is Transference?
Imagine that someone owes you a lot of money ...
and that you meet a person who looks quite like your debtor. How
would you spontaneously feel? That's transference.
Do you remember feeling in love with someone, perhaps a person with whom you never went the next step?
Imagine that you meet a person now with a similar name and
general appearance. How would you spontaneously feel?
Transferences are emotional experiences that may trigger inappropriate behavior.
Although they are reactions to other relationships, people feeling
strong emotions may be unaware of their distortion and act out inappropriate intimacy or irritation ... often claiming
that they are following their
intuition or gut feelings.
Freud defined counter-transference in The Future Prospects of Psycho-Analytic Therapy (1910) as a therapist's
emotional entanglement with a client, and "a result of the patient's
influence on [the physician's] unconscious feelings". We expanded Freud's
work on counter-transference and developed some effective solutions.
Sigmund Freud noticed that some patients reacted to him as
though he were their father, and that some patients seemed to
fall in love with him. Freud concluded that his patients were
unconsciously transferring feelings from earlier relationships
onto him. His conclusions formed a basis for what he called
Was he acting fatherly by the prevailing
middle-class Central European standards?
Freud wrote that every boy has an Oedipus Complex
that affects his life - that every boy represses
a sexual desire for his mother and jealousy toward his father. Is this part of Freud's autobiography or a facet of Central
European culture at Freud's time? We mostly find such transferences in families
where mothers are confused between their sons and lovers. (See
Carl Jung indicated wrote in 1946 that people in transferences and counter-transferences
often experience conflicts, and that the ability to endure the
those conflicts allows people to grow and to transform.
Jung warned that 'counter-transference when an analyst cannot let go
of a patient ...
both fall into the same dark hole of unconsciousness'.
Freud wrote in his Introductory Lectures to
Psychoanalysis (1917) that he
asked Jung what he thought of transference.
Jung replied, 'it is the alpha
and omega of the analytic method'. Freud responded,
'Then you have grasped the main thing.'
You meet someone and you immediately feel that "this will be fun" ... or perhaps ... "be careful!".
Are your feelings accurate assessments of other people? The most
difficult people in your life may be those who somehow trigger your
The wife of a colleague was friendly until
I started talking, and then she withdrew.
I asked her what was happening and her voice became childish and angry. I asked
her if I reminded her of someone. She said, "My step-father! He had a British
accent like yours - I suddenly felt that you were him!" Martyn
If you react to a transference by being overly friendly
or unfriendly, your actions will likely affect the other person's behavior
towards you. If your transferred feelings about that person become
self-fulfilling, you may become convinced of the accuracy of
your intuition or gut feelings.
A female student was staring at me
with wide eyes. During a break, I asked her who I reminded her of. She
said, "Nobody ... wait ... you remind me of my last
Now I feel sad that you
are not him. There is so much I want to tell him".
Transference indicates a blurring of identities that can
lead to confusion, anger, affairs or codependence. Ask yourself if this person would behave in the same way with a lawyer or
a bank manager. Ask yourself how
different your behavior might be if this
person was of the other sex, younger, older or less attractive?
Common Signs of Transference
Transferences are a likely cause of people becoming resourceless or resourceful during meetings.
Such people may call
transferences positive or negative.
- A positive transference may refer to an
inappropriate pleasant reaction
- A negative transference may refer to an
inappropriate unpleasant reaction
Here are some signs of positive
and negative transferences, although the issue is the appropriateness of
not the pleasure of transferred feelings.
- attempts to touch you
- overly complimentary
- offers warm comments
- tells you intimate details
- tries to engage you
- asks personal questions
- asks for help with personal
- may say that you remind them of
someone they liked
- avoids you
- overly critical
- offers cold comments
- avoids intimate details
- avoids conversation
- avoids personal questions
- avoids personal problems
- may say that you remind them of
someone they disliked
Transference overlaps with
projection, where people project their emotions or biography onto either
specific individuals or onto the world generally, distorting how they perceive
people. But doesn't everyone do
that? ... Exactly!
Double Transference Loops
Where there are transferences, there will be reactions. If the reactions are also
transferences, we call the result transference loops, which are
very common in relationships.
Loops can trigger both massive pleasure and massive suffering.
You noticed that
whenever my husband rubbed his nose, I became irritated. I hadn't
realized that this reminded me of my angry father. Then we discovered
that my way of showing irritation reminded my husband of his grandmother,
who he liked very, very much.
No wonder our communication
was sometimes totally crazy. England
Transference loops can damage partnerships and teams. Transferences can
trigger unexpected romances, conflicts and hidden
agendas. Notice when you become unaccountably friendly, resourceless or
irritated with someone.
I married a man with my father's problems
and I tried to rescue him. My husband
realized that he often didn't see me as
... he saw me more as a daughter.
You helped us love each other for our
qualities instead of our baggage. Alberta
Transferences & Transference Loops Part 2
Online Coaching, Counseling & Soulwork Therapy
I thought you were just
another therapist - but you were not just. Not even. Not only.
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