Transference is a phenomenon in psychoanalysis characterized by unconscious redirection of feelings for one person to another. One definition of transference is "the inappropriate repetition in the present of a relationship that was important in a person's childhood." [Leonard H. Kapelovitz, M.D., "To Love and To Work/A Demonstration and Discussion of Psychotherapy", p. 66 (1987).] Another definition is "the redirection of feelings and desires and especially of those unconsciously retained from childhood toward a new object." [Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary (8th ed. 1976).] Still another definition is "a reproduction of emotions relating to repressed experiences, esp [ecially] of childhood, and the substitution of another person ... for the original object of the repressed impulses." [Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language (2d College Ed. 1970).] Transference was first described by Sigmund Freud, who acknowledged its importance for psychoanalysis for better understanding of the patient's feelings.

According to "The Source" published in June 2001, "During transference, people turn into a "biological time machine". A nerve is struck when someone says or does something that reminds you of your past. This creates an "emotional time warp" that transfers your emotional past and your psychological needs into the present. In less poetic terms, a transference reaction means that you are reacting to someone in terms of what you need to see, you are afraid of or what you see when you know very little about the person. This all happens without you knowing why you feel and react the way you do."

It is common for people to transfer feelings from their parents to their partners (emotional incest) or to children (cross-generational entanglements). For instance, one could mistrust somebody who resembles an ex-spouse in manners, voice, or external appearance; or be overly compliant to someone who resembles a childhood friend.

Transference is a key concept of systemic coaching and an important modality in human relationships. Martyn Carruthers wrote that transference emerges, along with counter-transference and transference loops, in the context of interpersonal relationships. Carruthers provides ways to recognize and dissolve six types of transferences common between partners, family members and teams.

In "The Psychology of the Transference", Carl Jung states that within the transference dyad both participants typically experience a variety of opposites, that in love and in psychological growth, the key to success is the ability to endure the tension of the opposites without abandoning the process, and that this tension allows one to grow and to transform. [Jung, Carl C. "The Psychology of the Transference", Princeton University Press, ISBN 0-691-01752-2]

Transference is common. Only in a personally or socially harmful context can transference be described as a pathological issue.

A new theory of transference known as AMT (Abusive Multiple Transference) has been suggested by David W. Bernstein, in which abusers not only transfer negative feelings directed towards their former abusers to their own victims, but also transfer the power and dominance of the former abusers to themselves. This kind of transference is sometimes part of the psychological makeup of murderers -- for example the serial killer Carroll Cole. While his father was away in World War II, Cole's mother engaged in several extramarital affairs, forcing Cole to watch. She later beat him to ensure that he would not alert his father. Cole would later come to murder many women whom he considered "loose," and those in general who reminded him of his mother. AMT also ties in very closely with Power/Control Killers, as the feeling and view of control is passed from one abuser to those succeeding him or her.

Transference and counter-transference during psychotherapy

In a therapy context, transference refers to redirection of a client's feelings from a significant person to a therapist. Transference is often manifested as an erotic attraction towards a therapist, but can be seen in many other forms such as rage, hatred, mistrust, parentification, extreme dependence, or even placing the therapist in a god-like or guru status. When Freud initially encountered transference in his therapy with clients, he felt it was an obstacle to treatment success. But what he learned was that the analysis of the transference was actually the work that needed to be done. The focus in psychodynamic psychotherapy is, in large part, the therapist and client recognizing the transference relationship and exploring what the meaning of the relationship is. Because the transference between patient and therapist happens on an unconscious level, psychodynamic therapists who are largely concerned with a patient's unconscious material use the transference to reveal unresolved conflicts patients have with figures from their childhoods.

Counter-transference [Horacio Etchegoyen: The Fundamentals of Psychoanalytic Technique, Karnac Books ed., New Ed, 2005, ISBN 185575455X] is defined as redirection of a therapist's feelings toward a client, or more generally as a therapist's emotional entanglement with a client. A therapist's attunement to his own countertransference is nearly as critical as his understanding of the transference. Not only does this help the therapist regulate his/her own emotions in the therapeutic relationship, but it also gives the therapist valuable insight into what the client is attempting to elicit in them. For example, if a male therapist feels a very strong sexual attraction to a female patient, he must understand this as countertransference and look at how the client is attempting to elicit this reaction in him. Once it has been identified, the therapist can ask the client what her feelings are toward the therapist and examine the feelings the client has and how they relate to unconscious motivations, desires, or fears.

Another contrasting perspective on transference and counter-transference is offered in Classical Adlerian psychotherapy. Rather than using the client's transference strategically in therapy, the positive or negative transference is diplomatically pointed out and explained as an obstacle to cooperation and improvement. For the therapist, any signs of counter-transference would suggest that his own personal training analysis needed to be continued to overcome these tendencies.

ee also

* projection
* countertransference
* Parataxic distortion
* displacement


* Heinrich Racker : "Transference and Counter-Transference", Publisher: International Universities Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8236-8323-0
* Rosenfeld, Herbert A: "Impasse And Interpretation", 1987, Taylor & Francis Ltd, ISBN 0415010128
* Harold Searles: "Countertransference and related subjects; selected papers.", Publisher New York, International Universities Press, 1979, ISBN 0823610853

External links

* [ On Transference] Freudian quotes on transference.
* [ Transference and Transference Loops] Recognize and dissolve transference.

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