Some quotes


In its psychiatric meaning, transference refers to specific situations in psychotherapy in which a patient unconsciously invests the therapist with qualities and attributes pertaining to the patient’s mother, father, or some other person of childhood significance and then proceeds to act as if the therapist really were that person.

May p.103

Transference in the narrow sense is our unconscious tendency to take emotions and behaviour felt toward one person (e.g., a parent) and project them onto another (e.g., psychoanalyst). But if transference in the wider sense is distortion of encounter, as Rollo May defined it, then we all do it most of the time, which is what Freud concluded: It is a “universal phenomenon of the human mind” that “dominates the whole of each person’s relation to his human environment.”

Loy p.13


One of the most helpful ways of recognizing transference is to notice feelings of counter-transference. In psychotherapy it has long been understood that one of the early signs of a developing transference is the emergence of certain feelings within the therapist. These may take the form of confusion as to what is actually happening in the sessions; a strong need to make things go right; talking more in the sessions; dreaming about the patient; or excessive worries, attractions, repulsions, hostility, or sympathy in relation to the patient. Sometimes there may simply be an uneasy feeling, a low-grade anxiety in connection with the sessions. Such manifestations can be indicative of the therapist unconsciously responding to the patient’s transference, or they may mean that the therapist is transferring some of his or her own unconscious feelings to the patient. In either case, these signs should warrant a careful evaluation of the relationship.

May p.106


In projection, one invests something or someone else with one’s own unwanted traits and then proceeds to fight them.

May p.33

In [projection], [some]thing is denied within oneself but seen disparagingly as occurring in someone else.

May p.71

In The Ego and the IdFreud observed that the dynamically unconscious repressed is not capable of becoming conscious in the ordinary way. How does the unconscious become conscious? Freud suggests that “anything arising from within that seeks to become conscious must try to transform itself into external perceptions.”

Loy p.67

More Quotes

Imagine a scientific theory that could explain human slavishness by getting at its nexus; imagine that after ages of laments about human folly men would at last understand exactly why they were so fatally fascinated; imagine being able to detail the precise causes of personal thralldom as coldly and as objectively as a chemist separates elements. When you imagine all these things you will realize better than ever the world-historical importance of psychoanalysis, which alone revealed this mystery. Freud saw that a patient in analysis developed a peculiarly intense attachment to the person of the analyst. The analyst became literally the center of his world and his life; he devoured him with his eyes, his heart swelled with joy at the sight of him; the analyst filled his thoughts even in his dreams. The whole fascination has the elements of an intense love affair, but it is not limited to women. Men show the “same attachment to the physician, the same overestimation of his qualities, the same adoption of his interest, the same jealousy against all those connected with him Freud saw that this was an uncanny phenomenon, and in order to explain it he called it “transference.” The patient transfers the feelings he had towards his parents as a child to the person of the physician. He blows the physician up larger than life just as the child sees the parents. He becomes as dependent on him, draws protection and power from him just as the child merges his destiny with the parents, and so on. In the transference we see the grown person as a child at heart, a child who distorts the world to relieve his helplessness and fears, who sees things as he wishes them to be for his own safety, who acts automatically and uncritically, just as he did in the pre-Oedipal period.

Becker pp.129-30

“… transference is defined as the conscious and unconscious responses – both affective and cognitive – of the patient to the therapist.” In these terms, transference is not simply the supposed distorting projection of past issues onto the present, nor a supposed regression to archaic or infantile responses. Rather, transference is the expression of the many different layers of the client’s personality as they are surfaced by an intimate empathic relationship.

Firman & Gila p.237

… if something hurts me, the hurts I suffered back then come back to me, and when I feel guilty, the feelings of guilt return; if I yearn for something today, or feel homesick, I feel the yearnings and homesickness from back then. The geological layers of our lives rest so tightly one on top of the other that we always come up against earlier events in later ones, not as a matter that has been fully formed and pushed aside, but absolutely present and alive. I understand this. Nevertheless, I sometimes find it hard to bear.

Schlink pp.215-6

You may begin analysis assuming that what will happen is the learning of truths that already exist but are hidden (never yet brought to consciousness); and this learning is to be facilitated by a skilled professional who is able to give you an authoritative account of what you really mean, what is really going on. When ‘transference’ occurs, when the person being analysed makes a substantial emotional investment in the analyst, this is all about the analyst’s position as the person who has something I desire. But the critical importance of working through transference lies in the handling of the frustration, the sense of betrayal, experienced when the analyst refuses to tell me or give me what I want. My perspective, as the person undergoing analysis, is that ‘the truth is out there’ (to coin a phrase): there is an Other in whom is the secret that will heal me or satisfy me, that will answer to my desire in such a way that I no longer feel the pain of desiring. When the analyst refuses to gratify me, to reveal (or indeed to become) the answer to my desire, refuses to put an end to my pain, then and only then may I perhaps begin to understand what a self is and what it isn’t.

Williams p.150


  1. Becker, Ernest The Denial of Death
  2. Firman & Gila The Primal Wound
  3. Loy, David Lack and Transcendence: The Problem of Death and Life in Psychotherapy, Existentialism and Buddhism
  4. May, Gerald Care of Mind/Care of Spirit
  5. Schlink, Bernhard The Reader
  6. Williams, Rowan Lost Icons