Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Troublesome Transference

When your Present is Possessed by your Past

Once upon a time, years ago, I crossed paths with a certain man whom I had never met before. I had no knowledge of him whatsoever. Not even having been introduced yet, I found myself becoming very angry at the mere sight of the man. I had no idea why but something inside of me just wanted to yell at him.

Stepping back a moment and discussing the situation with a trusted friend I suddenly realized that this man, that had undeservingly and unknowingly sparked my wrath, reminded me of another man whom, to say the least, had acted very dishonestly toward me. The dishonest man in my past and this complete stranger before me in the present looked so similar that they could've been brothers.

Transference is when we take a person from our past and overlay them on a person in our present - whether we know the person in our present or not. Another way to explain it is its much like having a movie projector filled with memories and people from your past. People in your present are like white movie screens that you sometimes will turn and point the projector onto them and watch the painful, wound ridden movies from your past across the these human screens. In the personal example I gave, I saw a man who reminded me of another man and turned my movie projector on and pointed it directly at him.

We are all guilty of transference. The trick is learning to become more self-aware so that you can catch yourself when you might be transferring. In my case I was able to set aside the man from the past and in doing so found the man before me to be very kind, honest, and have since become friends. How many potential friends have I possibly lost before ever getting to know them because I was transferring someone else onto them instead of seeing the gift of a person that stood before me?

If we can learn to notice when we are transferring then there is an opportunity to work through, grieve and close the door on past hurts and wounds. So don't be discouraged if you find yourself transferring. Be encouraged by the fact that this is an opportunity to close the door on the past and open a window to the future.

Posted by Thaddeus Heffner, LMFT – July 9, 2013


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