Negative Transference

Some analysts as part of the analysis suggest, that you do not discuss all your thoughts and feelings with your friends. I don’t do that. The problem occurs, not so much as you say things to your friends, but when your friends start giving you advice. That’s where you can run into problems. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I say too much to too many people, but not to my patients.

As an analyst, I’m trained to accept all the thoughts and feelings, the good ones and the bad ones. Initially when a patient comes into therapy they tend to be loving and kind and have great thoughts about their therapist. That’s helpful, but it’s more helpful when they realize that they can have unkind thoughts and feelings and put those words into the air and realize that the analyst is still going to be there for them and help them. This may not have been true with their parents. They could not voice those negative thoughts and feelings without repercussion. We call it the negative transference, which is the ability to put the negative thoughts and feelings into words.

I’ll never forget the first patient I was working with when this occurred. This patient said they were tired of everything. They were leaving town. They were done. Done with everybody. I asked would we still work together. This patient said, “I’ll think about it”. I thought, all the work I’ve done for you and all the help I’ve given you, and that’s the response? Then after this patient left I thought, good for you. Who the hell am I? You learn to deal with negative transference.

Dr. Spotnitz, in one of his books, talks about a patient whom he was loving and kind to and no progress occurred in the therapy until the patient became hateful towards him. He accepted it and then noticed the patient started to mature. The negative transference is a good thing and it takes time to be trained as a psychoanalyst to tolerate all feelings that are going to be generated to you and around you and for you.~ Rafael Sharón, NCPsyA, SCPsyA, Psychoanalyst in Princeton NJ