Transference in therapy

My therapy appointment went okay. Not great. Not horrible.  We touched on a lot of issues that circle around in my head. One subject was the idea of “transference” in a therapeutic relationship. The subject came to me through a used book I bought, The Relationship between Therapist and Client. I’ve heard the word (of course, with all my experience with therapists and self-help books) but I really didn’t know what it meant. Transference. I am interested in this concept because I haven’t developed real trust in Lynn and I question what is wrong with me. It’s been the same with every therapist I’ve ever seen.

“Transference occurs when we project significant people (often parents) onto others, and then expect them to behave in that way.” ( Another definition of transference is “the inappropriate repetition in the present of a relationship that was important in a person’s childhood.” ( In psychoanalysis, the therapist gets to experience the patient’s relationship to their parents and use that to point out where a patient’s thoughts are hurting themselves and ultimately try to help them change their patterns.

I tell Lynn I’ve been thinking about transference. She tells me she doesn’t focus solely on one theory. “A person must live in the present and looking back at the past all the time isn’t always helpful in learning to deal with the present.” I agreed and told her I think I have difficulty opening up in therapy because the relationship with my parents was/is intellectual and pragmatic. We do not talk about feelings. Lynn briefly paused and then responded, “To tell you the truth, I’m not sure what to do when you start talking about a subject that is important and then you stop yourself.”

I didn’t have a reply to her but she’s right, I do that. When I hear myself going on and on about what I perceive as a trivial matter, I will stop and say, “But I don’t want to just ramble on about that.” Basically I feel what I’m talking about is not interesting, not useful to therapy and so I stop. I do this all the time. Now I see it is a problem I have in many relationships. In therapy, I probably stop and change subjects every 3-5 minutes because I’m off track of my main point. I think what I’m saying doesn’t sound smart enough. But maybe therapy should be a place to go off-track and just see where I end up. Life should be that way. Conversation is a two-way street but I tend to be a dead-end. I will listen to others but not share much about myself. I feel I’m not interesting. What I have to say is not worth you standing before me and listening.

The manner which Lynn replied is a therapeutic approach. She pointed out the relationship we have as therapist/client (how I behave with her is a transference of my previous relations) to show me how others may perceive how I interact. She is showing me my distorted ways. The book I’m reading lays this out in chapter one. I guess the technique is a classic approach. (Question to self – what good does it serve for me to analyze therapy?)

Lynn asked if I have been drinking and I admitted that indeed, I have. (Not before therapy, I drink in the evenings only).  She pointed out that I will not feel better about my life until I get a hold of that piece. I have to want to feel good and so far, she says, I have not told her I want to quit drinking.

I spoke about feeling unsettled. I’m down about my marriage, my life and my inability to make changes. I understand it’s up to me to change, to stop drinking, and I have not done it. I’ve failed.

I mentioned to Lynn that I am scheduled to see my doctor for an annual visit on Tuesday and I didn’t lose 30 lbs and lower my blood pressure, which was the promise I’d made with my doctor. I did lose 20 lbs but it was supposed to be 30 lbs and a return to the doctor in 3 months. I’ve let it go for a year and now the time has come to face my failure.

My annual doctor’s visit, one year ago, caused me to seek out a therapist to help me with my emotional need to drink, which in turn I hoped would help with my blood pressure. I didn’t do what I was supposed to on that end of things either. My therapy sessions haven’t got me anywhere. I started my blog at the beginning of this time and I really thought I would have found the answers by now.

Lynn asked why I self-sabotage my progress by drinking on the weekends. My honest reply was, “What exactly will I be feeling good about if I stay sober?” There is no incentive. I don’t see the benefits except I will feel better but for what? It’s still the same life – wife, mother, daughter, sister – where none of the relationships feel satisfying enough to want to be in them feeling great. I honestly feel like I would prefer to enjoy a few hours of reprieve from it all with a bottle of cold white wine.

Not a great way to come to the end of therapy. I observed Lynn to look older and more distraught than I’ve ever seen her before. (I read into it that I’m totally screwed up – there’s that transference  — I was really remembering how my parents would have viewed me with disdain if I divulged all that I did to Lynn).

Lynn encouraged me to go to my doctor feeling positive that I did lose weight. She tried to tell me not to beat myself up but I can’t help it. I’m the only one to blame for my failures. ♥Daylily

8 responses to “Transference in therapy

  1. Thanks for the book reference.I’ve been thinking about the direction of my own therapy lately. And I totally get the feeling bad going to the doctor, I always want to be perfect there and feel like I let them down if my numbers aren’t just right. My therapist always redirects and has me focus on the progress, not the end goal, because there is no end, always another day to keep working on us.

  2. (hugs) Hi Daylily. What you said about relationships not being fulfilling enough to want and be in them, it really struck a chord with me. I hope that your doctor’s visit goes well. I also hope that you can learn to be more vulnerable in your relationships (I know, hard) but it really helps when you want to feel something. The relationship I get the most out of is the one with my therapist because I am so vulnerable with her – nothing compares. Take good care – Sparrow

    • Oh, thanks, Sparrow for commenting on my post. Even though things feel tough for me I think it is the path I must take to make positive changes. Isn’t there some phrase like the going gets harder before it gets easier? Actually I think it’s the going gets tough before the tough get going. Anyway, I’m in the hard/tough part. Thanks for the hug!

  3. I don’t think it’s necessarily bad to analyze the therapy process as long as you separate analysis from experience. Does that make sense?

    Congrats on the weight loss – that is a wonderful achievement!

    • I do know what you mean. I think the cliche “knowledge is power” is true but if I intellectualize everything, I bypass my feelings and sensations which isn’t helpful because I tend to hide from them. I’m currently trying to merge all parts of my self. It’s a looooooong, sloooooooooow process. : = )

  4. You know how when a car gets stuck in the mud, we pull it out by rocking it back and forth? That is kind of what our lives are like, I think. It is a struggle but eventually, you can pull yourself out of it. And,it might get stuck again, so you push it by gently nudging it back and forth. It is never static. Our lives are not static. Sometimes you hit a rut and you just have to believe that you can pull yourself out of it by nudging your thoughts gently back and forth in an attempt to carry on with life..

    • Yes, I know what you mean. I think I’ve been in this rut for most of my life but I’ve spent years throwing the rocks out and maybe the time is near where I can get out of the rut. It is a matter of making changes for me. So much of what you comment on is true. You are very perceptive. Thank you for caring and taking the time to comment.

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