Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Transferring Feelings: The Nature of Transference

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on October 15, 2013


“If someone’s need for love is not entirely satisfied by reality, he is bound to approach every new person whom he meets with libidinal anticipatory ideas.” S. Freud, “The Dynamics of Transference” 1912


Teri, twenty-nine, like Ernestine in a previous post, has had a series of inappropriate relationships. Every internet date, every random encounter with a single man, is filled with the hope that she has found “the one”. Teri is having transference outside of our sessions, as she unconsciously makes every guy into her soul mate, wishing that she can satisfy her need for love. The goal of the treatment is to help her see how her need for love is coloring her judgment, by showing that her assumptions about people, and ultimately, her assumptions about me, are based on wishes and fantasies, and not on her relationship capacity to slowly get to know the other person.  Teri’s deprivation creates a desperation, which then creates a life in which she lives in wishes, or transference, which means unconscious assumptions about the other. Learning the difference between a wish and the real person in front of Teri, is her challenge, because consciously she says “I just have not found the right person,” but unconsciously she is assuming that each boy is going to be her husband and then she is extraordinarily disappointed when there is no second date. Working in this space of wishes, of the transference, is tricky, because Teri wants to believe that her disappointments are a result of “all those horrible guys out there” and not her own unrealistic expectations of them.

4 Responses to “Transferring Feelings: The Nature of Transference”

  1. Shelly said

    I am slightly confused by your diagram. Is transference a good thing or bad? Is transference the goal or the result of the patient/therapist interaction? Is this desired? Does countertransference always occur or only sometimes? Would you say that someone’s desire to please one’s boss is also called transference (leftover unfulfilled hopes of pleasing one’s parents??). If so, then aren’t basically all relationships transference?

    • Transference is neither good or bad, rather it is a phenomena where we make assumptions about people in authority and these assumptions are based on our previous authority figures. The idea is that this transference happens in a therapeutic situation, allowing the patient and the clinician to examine the kind of assumptions which are made, and how, at times, these assumptions get in the way of forming a more intimate relationship. Yes, sometimes one’s desire to please one’s boss is a repetition of the desire to please one’s parents. Yes, indeed, all relationships involve transference, but only in very intimate relationships, can these assumptions be challenged. Thanks.

  2. Ashana M said

    If your need for love isn’t satisfied, you are also unlikely to know from personal experience what leads to feeling loved and consequently end up relying primarily on received information–from family or other cultural sources–about how to find it. And these may be wrong. They are certainly no substitute for one’s own experience. Finding care in smaller doses can help: getting involved in causes that require teamwork or investing in friendships, for example.

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