Transference and Countertransference

In psychoanalysis, transference names an unconscious process of transferring ideas and feelings from their original sources (directed at the self, the mother, the father, etc.) toward another person. Everyone unconsciously transfers or projects onto everyone all of the time, but Freud identified three types of transference that were important clinically: the unobjectionable positive transference, which is benign; and the two "transference-resistances" or "transference neuroses," which are the erotic transference and the negative (chiefly aggressive) transference. Kohut added the selfobject transference and the idealizing transference of narcissists. Other transferences are repeating patterns of thought, feeling, and behaviour that have no name but are specific to individual patients, as well as patients’ fears of (and flight from) therapists. Countertransference names the therapists’ transference onto patients. Freud thought that all departures from the genuine benevolence of a caregiver were neurotic and required self-analysis (or further analysis); but beginning in the 1950s, analysts began to use some countertransferences diagnostically. Racker recognized three types of non-neurotic countertransference: the unobjectionable positive countertransference (affection and caring for the patient); concordant countertransferences, in which therapists share patients’ feelings; and complementary countertransferences, in which therapists experience feelings that complement patients’ feelings (as parent to child, or child to parent). Bion revised Melanie Klein’s concept of projective identification to describe the therapist’s emotional experience of unconscious feelings that the patient projects. In the 1990s, the older terms "acting out" and "acting in" (the session) gave way to the term "enactment," in reference to clinical errors in conduct that the patient and the therapist share; the therapist’s self-analysis of the enactment (typically, as a complementary countertransference) may again be used diagnostically, to make new discoveries about the patients’ unconscious feelings and motives. Dan Merkur