Transference is perceiving and reacting to another person as if they are the mother or father of our childhood. Usually we are not aware that we are doing it. We believe we are seeing the other person in the present moment. When we are in transference with another person, we often feel certain that we know what they are feeling and thinking, what their intentions are, and what we can and can't expect from them. As a result, transference distorts relationships.
When we are in positive transference with another person, we often idealize their positive qualities and we might even believe that they are capable of giving us all the attention and love we always wanted. We experience this when we fall in love, and often we can cite the moment it happens. That other person seems to have and be everything we want tand need. We feel certain tat we know or understand that we see the real person, who they are, what they are feeling and thinking, what their intentions are, and what we can and can't expect from them.
Often, we experience feeling seen and known by them, and we are honored and delighted to be in their presence. We cannot listen to comments of others about this person unless they echo our own perspective. We may event distance ourselves from friends who mention any flaws. In positive transference, we experience the other person as powerful, not as good or important.
When we are in negative transference (a very common occurrence), we feel certain about the other person's "wrongness." At times, the transference is triggered in us by an actual behavior of the other person. They don't look us in the eye, or they do-they criticize our work, they try to help us-they are sarcastic or late or forget to do something. Many times the transference is triggered in us only by the perception that they did or said something, and our interpretation of what that means. We feel the other person has done a wrong to us. The initial trigger sets our patterns in motion. We think we know all about them, what they did, what they will do, think and feel. We experience them as powerful-we have given them the power to affect our lives-and we feel powerless. In negative transference, we often feel small, like a child in the face of a negative parent. That's where we went internally, even if we do not recognize if consciously.
We have all experienced going into transference with lovers, spouses, friends, family members, therapists or bosses. It happens all the time. We even transfer the parents of our childhood onto the parents of our adulthood, and we think we know what's going on. As quickly as we pop into transference, we can also pop right out of transference. We fall in love, the other person is perfect and up on a pedestal and we are so lucky; times goes on, and suddenly they are completely off the pedestal and lying beneath it. We ask how we could have been so deceived. Or we go into negative transference with our lover or spouse and travel the vicious cycle until an exit point-they bring us flowers cook our favorite meal, apologize and ask for forgiveness-and things are all right again. we can easily forget about it.
Transference can be a profound learning opportunity in relationship. In transference, we are triggered into our own patterns. The other person may or may not have done something. Our perceptions and reactions-our patterns-are what draw us into a vicious cycle and keep us there. Actually, we do have the power-if we choose to use it-to disconnect from the patterns and change the dynamic. The actions of others trigger us because we have the patterns in us. Identifying our patterns and disconnecting from them enables us to take back our power regardless of what they other person is or isn't doing. By doing this we can transform relationships. (Hoffman Institute 2019)