Psycho-Babble Psychology | about psychological treatments | Framed
This thread | Show all | Post follow-up | Start new thread | List of forums | Search | FAQ

Re: Transference Crisis

Posted by raven on July 26, 2003, at 23:24:36

In reply to Transference Crisis, posted by Morgen on July 26, 2003, at 1:32:04

I ran into a site a while ago where various people were discussing what transference means to them. I thought it was's pretty long. Hope it doesn't get cut off.

What is at the root of this? Why are we seemingly so vulnerable in our relationship with our therapists, so obsessed with them? Why don't we just pack up and leave when the pain of it becomes intolerable or when it interferes with the rest of our lives to such an extent that we are no longer functioning properly?

The answer is transference, the powerful feelings which the client develops towards the therapist. According to Freud, transference is essential. Without it, he believed, the analysis could not succeed.

But transference is not restricted to psychoanalysis. It can occur - often to an emotionally incapacitating extent - in just about any one-to-one therapy situation: counselling, hypnoanalysis, neuro-linguistic programming or any of the other 'psy' activities. All therapists know about transference - it is covered in detail in their courses, which teaches that transference is both inevitable and essential. They could tell the client before the start of therapy what might happen, but they don’t. Transference can be extremely painful.

One of the things which makes this distress even more difficult to bear is that it is not talked about. It is one of the few remaining conversational taboos, not least because the phenomenon is so bizarre that it seems impossible to convey to someone who has not been through a similar experience. We feel that others would think we were foolish or totally mad if we tried to describe the emotional mayhem triggered off by the therapist.

Transference is one of the strangest things I have ever experienced, and I am still trying to understand it. It isn’t just an obsession with the therapist, but is also an experience of profound helplessness and hopelessness. For someone who is "in transference" , the mere thought of leaving therapy can be enough to bring on a panic attack.

Freud at first looked upon transference as an unwelcome side-effect of therapy and tried to minimise it. He thought that hypnosis caused transference, and therefore tried to avoid using it. Later he accepted transference as inevitable, and was able to incorporate it into his analytical therapy. When discussing transference, however, he talked mainly about the difficulties it introduced for the therapist and the therapy, and made hardly any reference to the suffering of the patient who was enduring the transference.

This is still true in therapy today. As the therapy continues, the patient becomes aware that their interest in the therapist is no longer an enjoyable sideline to their life. To stay in therapy feeds and maintains the obsession; to leave therapy – and to keep away from the therapist – is indescribably painful. Typically therapists will tell patients that the intensity of the transference is a sign of resistance, which means the therapy is close to finding the truth, and therefore the last thing the patient should do is to leave.

Confusion arises because it is used to refer to two different phenomena: the attribution to the therapist of characteristics of a significant person in the client's life and the state of attachment and dependency which can bind the client to the therapist. It may, I suppose, be argued that these two phenomena are one and the same but the manifestation of the second can be much more problematic and difficult to deal with. For me, the state of mind generated by therapy was, first of all, similar to infatuation but to the nth degree, so much so that I can say that it was on a different emotional plane.

The therapeutic relationship is the only occasion in which feelings for each other receive special names, "transference" and "countertransference", and that's the reason why sometimes I think it's the most neurotic relationship of all. The 'transference' hypothesis takes precisely what a patient experiences -- his feelings towards the analyst -- as the most authentic and valuable thing, and demotes them to the status of a mere fiction, to something inauthentic.

It is perfectly possible and normal to fall in love with somebody you feel understood by, cared for etc. I have seen many therapists but I have never fallen in love with any of them. If one day I do, why is that called "transference"? Such a generic name for a specific feeling. Nobody would doubt me if I said I had fallen in love with my neighbor, who is cute and talks to me for 15 minutes a day when we are opening our doors to enter our homes. But if I claim I have fallen in love with a therapist then it is transference.

...about the dynamics of client-therapist attraction, I’d like to suggest that considering it as just another instance of the standard man-woman relationship fudges the issue. The feelings generated in the client by the therapy situation are, it is true, very similar to romantic/sexual desire but often do not correspond with either the sex or the sexual orientation of the persons involved. Thus a fully heterosexual woman may find herself obsessed by another woman, and a male client may be similarly attached to a male therapist.

Unless we recognise the wholly particular nature of the client-therapist relationship we cannot begin to fathom it. Could it be, for example, that both sexual desire and the desire generated in therapy stimulate some pleasure centre in the brain? And once this stimulation starts, could it be that its cessation causes us to suffer withdrawal symptoms like those of an addict deprived of his drug?

One thing for sure: the presence of these feelings, and my candid expression of them to my analyst, has raised the stakes at risk in the process. Whatever happens, I expect to receive a serious blow to my self eventually.

They talk of having feelings about their therapists which they believe would have been generated (or were generated) in a normal social setting. However, if therapist-client relationships always followed this kind of pattern, the notion of transference would probably never have come into existence.

The point I want to emphasise is that, much more often, the therapist-client couple does not correspond to one in which this kind of attraction would normally arise. The fact that it does arise in the most unlikely circumstances is what makes me so curious about what exactly is going on. My first therapist, for example, was a dowdy, down-to-earth matronly figure in her early fifties, yet I was obsessed and besotted with her beyond all measure.

Another thing which distinguishes the therapy relationship from a romantic one is the regression which often manifests itself in the client’s behaviour - there is often a dreamlike quality to the therapy which can take over one’s whole life so that the client is living in what amounts to an altered state of consciousness.

In the therapy situation, the self-disclosure is unparalleled. Perhaps the very act of performing self-disclosure triggers the sex drive, since the way is being prepared for a relationship?

I do not share this view about the power associated with self disclosure, though I think it is unnatural to be expected to self disclose to someone who does not respond in kind.

I agree that self disclosure calls for intimacy. I think it is unnatural that I disclose myself to somebody that remains a "blank screen", or whatever one wants to call it. But I disagree some that self disclosure is necessarily tied to sexual desire. I often found it easier to disclose myself to a close friend than to a lover.

But of course self-disclosure gives some sort of pleasure. When it can be done properly, it can give a lot of pleasure.

I think it could signal a relationship of some kind, but the frustrating result is that there is no factual relationship. This frequently made me feel annoyed and confused. I think therapy is a great place to learn something about ourselves but I never could get real emotional support from it, since there is no real contact with the therapist…




Post a new follow-up

Your message only Include above post

Notify the administrators

They will then review this post with the posting guidelines in mind.

To contact them about something other than this post, please use this form instead.


Start a new thread

Google www
Search options and examples
[amazon] for

This thread | Show all | Post follow-up | Start new thread | FAQ
Psycho-Babble Psychology | Framed

poster:raven thread:245412