Transference. A particular case of projection, used to describe the unconscious, emotional bond that arises in the analysand toward the analyst. (See also countertransference.)
Transference is a phenomenon characterized by unconscious redirection of feelings from one person to another. One definition of transference is “the inappropriate repetition in the present of a relationship that was important in a person’s childhood”.
As you may have seen from some of my recent blogs my therapy appears to have really taken off! Therapy feels entirely different from what it used to be, it is harder but at the same time, much more fruitful. The transference seems to have really kicked in.
I told T on Tuesday that I felt feelings for her that were similar to feelings I have had in the past when falling in love. I also admitted to her that I had become preoccupied with thoughts of her. This had freaked me out A LOT because I am a heterosexual female who is not, and has never been, attracted to other females – and also (and perhaps more confusingly) I see my T as the perfect fantasy mother and not as a love interest.
Talking to T about this was difficult and embarrassing as you can probably imagine but I am really glad I did because she has really helped to normalise this for me and in turn, I have stopped panicking.
You may have heard of erotic transference. I had, in fact my T had warned me that she thought my therapy may well be headed that way! I shrugged this off and didn’t believe her because it seemed utterly ridiculous and to be honest, petrifying! I didn’t want to have any kind of sexual attraction to my perfect fantasy mother. That would be weird, right?!
Well… it turns out it actually isn’t that weird and despite what us adults think, it isn’t actually a sexual attraction as we know it at all.
What I have learnt is that during the psychotherapy process at some stage once the trust has been gradually earned and you begin to feel attached to your therapist, you start to feel special. For me this has taken nearly 3 years but it felt as though it has all hit me at once.
All of a sudden, I felt very aware of and in touch with my inner child – the less logical part of me, the more childish, feeling-based part of me and I began to listen to what she was saying. This enabled me to write my blog “the fairytale ending” which I then subsequently took to T and read to her (through my tears). I had suddenly got in touch with some previously stored away pain, grief and sadness. It became abundantly clear what it was that I have been searching for all of my life (a mother) and that I had some very deep, unmet needs from childhood.
T was so wonderful about all of this and she made me feel truly heard. I feel that she understands me (sometimes better than I understand myself) – I feel seen and cared for. She does not humiliate me in my needs which I am used to. She stays strong and sits with me through my pain and because of all of this, the bond and attachment I feel has increased.
So I have now idealised my T. She has become the all-powerful, all-knowledgeable, can’t-do-anything-wrong, on a pedestal therapist whom clearly holds all of the power to my future happiness and I want more of that! Who wouldn’t? Seriously for me, this feeling is intoxicating and it feels like love.
Cue absolute terror!! agggghhh I’ve fallen in love with my therapist! (Please note that for me, this has not become sexualised [yet?] but for lots of people, it does).
Now that I have taken some time to talk to T about this and have read nearly everything online, what I have come to understand is that it is in fact about desire – the hope that all of your prayers have been answered by this wonder-woman and it’s about transference. Having T in my life means that I finally have the chance to win the “perfect” love of a mother substitute!
Erotic love is based on very infantile wishes and needs – going back to the beginning a baby needs its primary caregiver (in my case, my mother) for survival. Literally. The baby needs to feel loved, seen, understood. It needs to be held, fed, changed and if some of those basic needs were not met, you will have a metaphoric hole in your life and that is probably what has brought you into therapy in the first place. The need to “fill” that hole has probably not ended well. For me this played out in all of my relationships where I was extremely anxious, became almost obsessed with my love interest (secretly), never felt at ease and got extremely jealous and insecure. Needless to say, “love” wasn’t fun and it certainly wasn’t easy. I think the jealousy I usually feel in my relationships with men are going to play out in therapy as jealousy towards T’s children.. I can see that happening.
In therapy I will basically redo any of the developmental stages that were not sufficiently completed as a child, but with my therapist instead of my mother. The aim is that she will be a secure base – something I didn’t have growing up, that she will help me to redo these stages how they should have been done therefore enabling me to move on to the next stage and the stage after that and so on until I have “grown up”. I am probably in stage 1, right back to being a baby and the “love” and fixation that I am feeling towards my T is normal for the development stage (i.e. this is how a baby would feel towards its main caregiver). The mother fixation.
I have also learnt that the feelings I am having of wanting more of T, wanting her to myself and not only being able to see her in my set therapy hours, because I pay her, wanting to know more about her private life, wishing she didn’t have a husband or children (aghh) – is part of the learning curve that children go through when they go through that annoying “mine!” phase. I will learn to share my T – in due course. Lets not get ahead of ourselves ;o)
During this process I will be taught that it isn’t T that I “love” but the feeling of genuine acceptance and unconditional positive regard that has been missing all of my life. This will enable me to understand where I go wrong in relationships (for me, picking avoidantly attached men, due to repetition compulsion and mistaking an activated attachment system for passion) and why, it will enable me to identify my defence mechanisms and have healthier relationships in the future having resolved all of my unfinished business.
“it is my proposition that the emergence of the erotic transference signifies the patient’s deepest wish for growth. Like those in love, patients wish to be known and understood, to change what they do not like about themselves, to alter what makes them unlovable. Through the erotic, light is shone on the deepest recesses of the psyche” (Mann, 2008, p. 9)
So, if you find yourself caught up in an erotic transference, a wish your therapist was your parent, fixated on them, Googling them and becoming distraught at the findings (yep, I did this) then don’t worry, it is just evidence that your therapy is on course and you are exactly where you need to be.