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Re: Attachment vs. transference pegasus

Posted by Daisym on October 15, 2010, at 0:19:55

In reply to Re: Attachment vs. transference, posted by pegasus on October 14, 2010, at 10:05:23

Having just finished my PhD in this very subject (Psychology, specializing in attachment theory), can I make a suggestion? Consider thinking about transference and attachment as verbs instead of nouns.

I think there is general agreement that transference describes the way human beings approach situations - not just relationships. We take our previous experiences and make judgements based on those about the current situation. It would take too long otherwise, to figure out who or what was dangerous or not. And for sure there is positive as well as negative transference. Generally speaking, the idea is to not mess with positive transferences and perhaps unpack the negative ones to find the patterns that interfere with your life. To do it overtly in therapy is actually a great way to look at how you approach situations and people. Most people don't typically do something different in therapy (with regards to approach or reactions) than they do in "real" life. Calling your patterns "transference" doesn't make what is happening any less real or important.

Attachment is a whole different ball game, IMO. You have an attachment system that can get activated in therapy - but isn't always. Lots of CBT practitioners take care not to get the attachment going. They don't work with the relationship piece so it isn't central to the therapy. But all the factors that make up therapy often can really activate a person's attachment system. As the awareness of the feelings grow, the struggle of having needs and feelings for your therapist can either feel great, feel threatening or alternate somewhat. Folks who had at least one consistent caregiver typically have the ability to develop a secure attachment without a lot of trouble. It isn't terrifying - even if it might be sort of embarrassing. These people don't worry that the relationship will hurt them or the therapist.In fact, they know that being close can provide the security and support they need to change. The therapist is the ultimate "safe base" from which to explore.

People who lacked close early relationships consistently may avoid becoming attached and will fight themselves when they feel those "needy" feelings. They don't want the relationship and sometimes quit therapy if one begins to form. But they get by fine most of the time by relying on themselves They do not need a safe base. But if you've had inconsistent care-giving, your attachment system maybe chaotic and disorganized and the relationships you have, have to be earned. And they are earned through lots of painful pushing and pulling. You want to be cared for, you want to care but it feels as threatening as death. And once in the relationship, you sort of wait all the time for it to end or go bad. So a safe base is slow to form and then it is returned to again and again.

So I think the attachment piece is important because it tells us whether the relationship with the therapist is the vehicle of change or if it needs to be the main focus of the therapy. One of the hard things the research tells us is that a person can have different types of attachment in relationships. So a child (or client) can have a secure attachment with mom and an insecure attachment with dad. And can transfer either of these experiences into the new relationship.

I'm glad you like your new therapist and hope you do develop a strong relationship with him. You've demonstrated that you can form secure attachments - which is a gift.

I hope this long-winded post helps in some way.




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