Alun Charles Jones (on linkedin) has written, last week, on the unconscious and reminding us that this is an inaccessible area of the mind that contains aspects of personalities.
I have a particular resistance to writings that ‘explore’ the unconscious; it must always be an inference. Further, I am bringing to mind volumes of works on my book shelf that explore and attempt to understand not the unconscious, but the conscious. It seems to me time is preferably spent when possible with that whi
ch has direct observation. Thus my position is phenomenological in approach.
However, I want to acknowledge the immersion in your own theoretical approach yields insights and a frame of reference that so often is beneficial. Leah Subar , a number of months back, wrote of the fruition of experience:
I discover my stuff from school. Papers I'd written, exams, including this one on Wilfred Bion. I look at my response (above) regarding this brilliant psychoanalyst's contributions to the understanding of transference-countertransference. It makes perfect sense. I read it, I get it -- and I know it from inside my gut. Something magical sizzled through me at that moment; remembering my not knowing -- and now knowing.
This is thrilling and exciting to hear.
With the unconscious being inaccessible, any struggles and conflicts need to be inferred, and this is the work of Freud. This is where transference comes into being: unconscious transferring of experiences from one interpersonal situation to another.
The major difficulty, for me, is the necessity for an interpretation to be made. To infer someone’s motivations or actions speaks to the position of the expert. (or perhaps I am transferring past experiences of an ‘expert’ deciding what my behaviour meant!!!! There is a truth here.) This ‘expertise’ was challenged by Carl Rogers and declined as the method of approach not so much for the theoretical construct of transference but more with regard to the deferring of expertise from the individual to the doctor. Thus a shift in terminology from patient to client. What is going on is a philosophical shift in the view of the person.
Now, I have stated my approach being phenomenological in design so how does this sit with a described phenomenologist explaining transference and countertransference? Anil Behal 4 moths, or so, past writes an article titled “Resurrecting the Muse: Managing Transference and Countertransference in Coaching”. An excellent piece with descriptions of the impact of ‘transference’.
Depending on how transference might be defined there is scope and a requirement to attend to a process, a phenomena, that is observed and experienced. My particular conflict – conscious conflict – is with any deification being attached to the terms. I am sure this is so much less these days with many competing and complementary theories regarding transference as a phenomena of daily experience; not confined to the domain of the psychoanalytic theories.
Transference comes from our word transfer, I will show this as trans_fer: the two base words in Latin – trans and fer, have the meaning across and to carry. The past tense of the latin fer is late. Thus we also get our word trans_late. Thus we could say that the experience is of translating past experience onto the present experience. Interestingly, shifting the language to Greek the etymology of trans_fer shows as meta (trans) and phor (fer) which gives us our word meta_phor. Our present experience is (perhaps) always a metaphor of our past experiences…(see this clip: https://youtu.be/QDd7iJxn370 )
AND the transference phenomena occurs all the time…of course it does; how else will we check out whether we might be safe, in danger, with someone we can trust, or be wary of? AND we all ‘wired’ to categorise and box our experiences in a way that allows to cope with the millions of stimuli we are subjected to each day.
Already you have categorised me, and my words. The real trick in life is after having decided who I am like (consciously or unconsciously) to let go of the comparison and allow yourself to see the me I am in front of you.
And THE REALLY BIG TRICK is to not compare me in the first place. Subject to your sense of safety, comfort and trust, of course. This is what transference is really about – putting onto this situation previous experiences to evaluate similarities and differences. This requires practice and insight that, for our clients, has not been available, or sufficiently sustained, or been ‘good enough’ in growing up.
Recognising another person’s ‘transference’ allows the possibility to support and nurture this other person’s growth. For me to recognise that the other person is transferring on to me a strong and confident persona does allow a situation where I can demonstrate this strength to help the person grow their own strength and confidence. Alternatively I might be annoyed that this person ‘expects’ me to be strong and confident. Such are the dynamics of everyday relationships!
That’s the blunt actuality of relationships; shifting from what we want from the other to what we have with the other; that the deficit of the other is your own deficit. From the position of Intersubjectivity (Kohut) the growth is through the initial transferential mirroring where the other meets the past need (parental mirroring of feelings); generally leading into idealisation where the other ‘knows’, has been there and has the answers (looking up to the parental figure). Within a good construct the other comes to ‘know’ and the relationship meets equality (becoming adult alongside the parent).
I feel to explore and appreciate the impact of your clients’ presentations in discussion in Supervision is vital and I also feel opportunities to do this with others therapists and professionals is essential for growth and development. The interpersonal dimension cannot be emphasised enough as a necessity of relationship so attend a workshop; meet with like minded professionals; attend your organisation’s meetings… oh, and watch for the transferences…