What is “Transference” in Psychoanalysis?

Freud said that if you study transference and resistance, that is psychoanalysis. I know I have talked about countertransference in that past, but I neglected to talk about transference. Transference comes down to the first person you meet, your mother. We call that the object. The primary object is your mother. When you are born, you don’t differentiate between yourself and your mother. And over time you start to recognize what we call the other, the mother.

But what is transference? Transference is that relationship played out in other relationships. Freud first said that it was the relationship with the analyst that was transference. The way the patient related to their psychoanalyst, was the same as and based on their relationship with their mother. As psychoanalysis has grown and moved from that point of view, all relationships are transference. If we had ten people in this room and you and I were hanging out with them, I may decide I like six of them and four I don’t really care about. You may like seven and three you don’t care about. Why? What is that? What is causing that reaction? That is transference, feelings that you had for the first primary object in your life, and now played out with everybody else you meet.

At the beginning of therapy, we call it narcissistic transference, when a patient comes in initially to meet with their psychoanalyst. It is as if they are alone because when you are born and first in the world, you can’t differentiate between yourself and your mother. It is just you. In training they told us, when I was first in the clinic, understand that you are going to be alone in the room. I am thinking, “What do you mean alone in the room?” I am there. The patient is there. But in many ways, the patient is not aware that you are there. They see you as part of themselves, as at birth the baby and the mother are seen as one. So that is how it begins and from that you slowly move out of the narcissistic transference to an object transference where you start to recognize the other and start to have a relationship with the analyst. ~ Rafael H Sharón, Modern Psychoanalyst, Psychoanalyst in Princeton NJ

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