Transference, Explained

Transference can be a lesser-known ‘phenomenon’ to many people, but is actually a very interesting, serious, and sometimes harmful disorder. By definition, transference is an unconscious action of assigning feelings toward a person in present-day life that are significant in one’s earlier life. It may seem confusing, and that’s because it can be. The feelings transferred can either be positive or negative, and usually stem from the person’s childhood. They can actually be used by a therapist or coach to help understand the effects of that person’s childhood, and to help them get to the bottom of those very feelings.

Transference is typically broken up into types of ‘patterns’ to help us understand it; dependent, care-taking, rebel, passive-aggressive, victim, and distancing are often used to help describe the type of transference a person may be dealing with. We can, as a result, break those patterns up even further.

Dependent – The person may view you as a nurturer (parental figure) and can either depend on you for comfort, or have negative, angry feelings toward you.

Care-taking – Someone who is going through this pattern may try to take care of you, and make sure your every need is met. They’ll want to know about struggles in your life, and they’ll try to pick up on your insecurities.

Rebel – This person will view you as someone to fight against, and won’t likely cooperate with you.

Passive-Aggressive – When a passive-aggressive pattern is in place, someone might feel pressure around you to ‘perform’ well, or do the right things all the time, but somehow will feel as though they can never fully please you.

Victim – Someone who feels like a victim will have no problem sharing their struggles and problems with you, but will want you to take care of them, and fix those problems without them having to put forth any effort.

Distancing – This person will avoid a real relationship with you, or want to deny that you are close.

As you can see, pinning down transference can be a difficult task, but when it comes to therapy, a client who can transfer their feelings onto a therapist can actually be a good thing. This can help the therapist or coach really dive deeper into what the client is thinking/feeling, and in turn, can help them get to the deeper root of the problem. It brings buried memories to the surface and gets them out in the open, so they can be further explored and taken care of properly. Though transference can be complicated, and even scary at times, it can be a necessary method of dealing with the past, and looking toward a brighter future by letting go of negative associations with childhood.

To read more on Transference and other mental health topics visit, Kristy Hellum therapist Santa Rosa