The concept of Transference: beginning with Freud

The phenomenon of transference is inherent to every therapeutic relationship as it is considered an intra-psychic condition of the subjectivity. Indeed, it is regarded as part of the way we have been establishing interrelations.

Freud was the one who brought out this aspect of our psychic functioning to the forefront and pointed out how it is present, active and providing solution for the analytical therapeutic process.

Although not every theoretical approach takes it as an essential part of the work, it could be affirmed that the idea of the good results of psychotherapy itself is mainly related to the overcoming of the transference, as defined by Sigmund Freud.

The concept of transference was first mentioned in Freud's text “Studies on Hysteria” (1895) followed by the text "Analysis of the case of Dora." In these two writings, the word transference is still used in an incipient way: at times meaning resistance and at other times meaning psychical mechanisms for shifting, like those identified in the studies on dreams, deemed as shifts.

The complications caused by transference were reported before the concept was properly named.

In “Studies on Hysteria”, Freud points out the difficulties that can arise when the analyst is working toward trying to make the patient remember something. At the time, he was using what he called pressure. And here he explained that when the pressure stops producing an effect that leads to memories it is related to some possible causes, namely: it could be that there is nothing else left to be remembered, or it has reached a new layer of resistance that takes time to be penetrated, or it is connected to a disturbance in the doctor-patient relationship. In “The case of Dora”, it is stated that the delay for the cure, or for some improvement in the case, are provoked only by the very figure of the doctor.

Even though he was certain that during psychoanalytical treatment there is an interruption in the formation of new symptoms, it is also true that the creative powers of neurosis are not destroyed. Furthermore, during the analysis these creative powers of neurosis are engaged in the creation of a special class of mental structures, for the most part unconscious ones, which he then called transference. As in his words: “they are the new publications, or fac-similes, of impulses and fantasies that are created and become conscious during the undertaking of analysis.”

In these new versions of impulses, we can say in the impulse updating, the original figure is substituted by the figure of the doctor.

In his book “Five Lectures on Psychoanalysis” he said in the fifth conference by introducing the theme of transference that we as human beings get sick when the satisfaction of our erotic needs is frustrated by reality – from external obstacles or from the absence of internal adaptation. He also says that we take refuge in the neurotic symptom in order to find a substitute satisfaction, in order to make it take the place of that which was a frustrated one. He further explains that pathological symptoms constitute a portion of the person's sexual activity or even the totality of one's sexual life. Thus, the withdrawal from reality can be considered the main objective of the disease, and at the same time the main harm caused by it.

Nowadays the concept of transference inside the extended field of psychoanalytical approaches is used in several and varying ways that come from just generically meaning the relation the patient has with the therapist till a use that specifies only one aspect of this relation. I also use it as a concept to refer to another concept: the updating of the impulses on the therapist figure, and keeping the focus on the importance that understanding it and bringing it to awareness is an essential aspect for therapeutic processes.

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