By Rasha Alshafie
| May 12, 2022
Understanding Transference

Transference is derived from the Latin verb “transferre” which means to carry over. Essentially, any intense emotional reaction you have about someone important to you may transfer to others in your life. While it might seem contrary to what you think, transference can be a beneficial (albeit predictable) part of our lives because it can help us heal wounds with people and let go once and for all of those people we used to cherish.

Transference in therapy

In therapy, transference occurs when a therapist becomes the object of a patient’s emotional focus. Patients experiencing transference may have positive or negative emotions toward the therapist, but what matters is that they derive these emotions from their past relationships. Transference can be helpful if it allows the patient to work through difficult emotions in a safe environment. However, it can also be harmful if it prevents the patient from developing a healthy relationship with the therapist. We recommend you ask your therapist to refer you to another therapist in the latter situation.

How does transference affect our lives every day?

Transference can occur in any relationship – between a parent and child, two friends, or even a therapist and patient. It is often an unconscious process, meaning that we may not be aware that we are doing it. However, understanding transference can help us be more aware of how our previous experiences impact our current relationships. 

Sometimes, transference can be positive. For example, if you’ve had a positive experience with a caring teacher, you may transfer those positive feelings to a new teacher that you meet. However, transference can also be negative. For example, if you experienced neglect or abuse from a parent in childhood, you may unconsciously transfer those negative feelings to your current partner.

Pitfalls, dangers, and promises of transference

Transference usually occurs when we project our thoughts, feelings, or emotions onto another person. This can happen because we’re trying to satisfy an unconscious need, or because we’re feeling overwhelmed and need to offload some of our emotional baggage. Whatever the reason, transference can often lead to misunderstandings, conflict, and even hurt feelings in day-to-day life.

One danger of transference is that it can distort our view of reality. If we’re projecting our issues onto someone else, we might see them in a negative light when they’re not. This can damage relationships and create unnecessary tensions.

Another danger is that transference can lead us to act in ways that are out of character. We might say or do things we wouldn’t normally do, all to satisfy our own needs. This can be especially harmful in professional settings, where acting out is unacceptable. 

Conclusion

The Transference phenomenon can have a polarizing impact on our lives. Awareness of its potential influence either leverages it for our benefit or leads us down a pit. Communicate any feelings of transference to your therapist. They will work with you on the unhealed wounds caused in previous relationships. 

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