Therapist Your Father, Wife Your Mother: Transference as Flashback Light

Uploaded 1/26/22, approx. 11 minute read

Someone told me that I look much better in white. Personally, I think that I look like a corpse in the making, but what don't we do for ratings and views? This is the age of social media.

Okay, Shoshanim, my name is Sam Vaknin, and I'm the author of Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited, and I'm a professor of psychology in Southern Federal University in Rostov-on-Don, the Russian Federation. I'm also a professor of psychology and a professor of finance in the Outreach Program of the SIAS Consortium of Universities, CIAPS, Center for International Advanced Professional Studies.

Whew, that was long, wasn't it? Yes, it was.

And today we are going to discuss a short topic.

The introduction was long, the topic is short.

Reminds me of some men. And we are going to discuss today transference.

Transference in a New Light.

Now, general statement.

Many, many in academe disparage Sigmund Freud and Jung and Adler and all the psychoanalytic movement and later psychodynamic theories and even well into object relations in the 1960s in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. All these are considered to be hocus pocus in today's academic environment.

At most literary movements with no scientific merit. Why these collective schools of thought have no scientific merit? Because they don't use statistics.

And psychologists today want very much to be scientists when they grow up.

A psychologist's secret wet dream is to be considered a physicist of the mind. Of course, it's total nonsense. Psychology is not and can never be a science in any meaning of this loaded word. Psychology is a descriptive literary movement at best.

And when it's good, it's really good.

So, today, discoveries in neuroscience tend to revive and uphold many of Sigmund Freud's, Jung's, Adler's, Phewenci's, Anna Freud's and the Object Relations School. Many of their findings are upheld, buttressed, supported and proved via new discoveries in neuroscience.

So, there's a revival in the margins of attempts to rediscover these great thinkers, these giants of the human mind and spirit who had been relegated to the back burner because they don't conform to the current view of how a science should look like.

And I'm doing my little bit to contribute to this revival, very little bit, to contribute to this revival by revisiting concepts from psychoanalysis, even very old concepts.

In my previous video, I had dealt with the issue of resistances.

And today, I'm going to deal with transfers.

So, you could think of transfers as a form of flashback.

Now, flashback, like everything else, had been corrupted online.

Wannabe scholars, pseudo intellectuals and just, you know, plain corn artists, have taken the concept of flashback and had transformed it in ways which have no clinical validity and are not supported by any studies or any research.

One prime example is the hype nonsense of emotional flashback. I will not name names.

So, a flashback, or the clinical term is not flashback, the clinical term is revividness. And revividness tells you everything you need to know. A flashback is when a memory of a past event, usually a traumatic event, a memory takes over your mind, becomes 3D, fleshes itself out and eliminates your access to reality so that the memory becomes an immediate experience indistinguishable from reality so that you don't see reality anymore. You don't hear reality anymore. You don't feel and you don't touch and you have no contact or interaction with reality anymore.

But you mistake the memory for reality. You believe that the memory is actually real. And that's why, for example, Vietnam veterans go to a supermarket, there's a loud bang and they're back in Vietnam. And they're back in Vietnam. They really are there. They're helicopters flying overhead and all the shoppers in the supermarket, they're Viet Cong and so they shoot them. Flashbacks are the utter eradication and suspension of reality by an overwhelming memory. Not emotion, not cognition, memory.

So there's only one type of flashback. And that's a flashback we have in post-traumatic stress disorder.

But transference is what we could call flashback light.


First we have to understand what is transference.

Transference is when we displace onto a meaningful figure, emotions and ideas originally associated with objects in earlier life. So a meaningful figure could be a therapist, could be an intimate partner.

So when we come across this meaningful figure, we take emotions and ideas that we used to have in connection to another person. And we superimposed them, we superimposed these emotions and ideas on the new figure, the therapist or the new intimate partner.

When we do this, when we paint the new person with old colors associated originally with objects in earlier life, then this is transference.

So you used to have a certain pattern of interaction with your mother. It created, it generated certain emotions and certain cognitions and ideas. And you take these emotions and ideas and you superimpose them on your new wife, on your girlfriend. She is a female. And so she becomes a stand-in for your mother.

Now, this is not emotional flashback. This is mistaking, mistaking your wife for your mother, mistaking your therapist for your father, really mistaking, not pretending to mistake, not making any distinction between the therapist and your father, between your girlfriend and your mother.

Emotionally and cognitively, you would be reacting to the therapist or your girlfriend as if they were your father or mother.

And that's why I say the transference is a kind of flashback light.

Don't take me too seriously. It's not a flashback, but it has the hues and colors and elements and smells of a flashback.

When we transfer, when we have transfers, we relate to the new person in our lives. We relate to the new entrants. We relate to a new intimate partner, a new therapist, a new good friend, as if she or he were that previous figure in our lives.

We can't help but relate to the therapist as if he were a father figure or relate to a wife as if she were a mother figure.

And we bring all the baggage of the past with us, all the emotions, all the ideas, all the cognitions, all the patterns of interaction, the interactivity, the relatability. We bring everything we used to have with our mother, to the girlfriend, with the father, to the therapist, with a sibling, to a good friend, a new friend.

So we relate to the new people in our lives as if they were the previous figures in our lives. And we project onto them object representations acquired by earlier introjections.

Don't you just love these $10 words? I know you do. That's why I keep giving them to you, free of charge on the house.

So we bring into new interactions with new people, object representations acquired by earlier introjections.

Let me try to explain it to you in human speak.

When we are first exposed to mommy as an infant or a child, we create an introject of mommy. We create an inner representation of mommy, an internal object that stands in for mommy. We represent the object of mommy. Mommy is a primary object and we represent her in our mind via the process of internalization and introjection.

Internalization and introjection are a way to snapshot mommy, to create an image of mommy in our mind.

Gradually, it also acquires an independent voice.

So there's an introject, the introject speaks to us. Gradually, incrementally, as we grow older, we tend to forget that the introject had represented once someone else, mommy, father, a teacher, a role model, peer.

We tend to forget this. We tend to assimilate the introjects. They become part of us. We tend to regard the voices in our heads as our own voices.

In some cases, this leads to a pathology. In many cases, it leads to better functioning, especially better social functioning.

One of the processes that leads to introjection is socialization, rendering us more socially adaptable. So we interact with mommy as a child. We have an image of mommy in our mind through introjection. This image is called object representation. Then this image, this object inside our minds speaks to us with mommy's voice, but then gradually as we grow older, we believe that this object representation is who we are and that the voice is our voice.

And that's the end all and be all. That's it. That's the idea. The idea is to internalize via introjection, to internalize the voices of society.

Parents are socialization agents.

But when we meet a new person and this person becomes significant and meaningful and intimate, and we are invested in this person emotionally, we affect this person. We tend to browse our mind for a similar situation.

So if we have a therapist, we browse and we say, oh, he reminds me of my father. He's like a father figure.

And so then we pick up the object representation with the introject that used to refer to father and we superimpose them on the therapist. From that moment on, the therapist becomes effectively a father, flashback light.

And so in this way, we imbue new entrants, new people in our lives with disproportional significance and we interact with them using ingrained behavioral strategies and relational patterns and behavioral patterns.

So transference is not good for you. It's not good for you because it tends to perpetuate patterns of behavior that in most cases are actually dysfunctional and it tends to enhance the significance of the new people you're interacting with beyond their true meaningfulness in your life. They become too important. You develop a kind of addiction or dependence on them.

Now transference is more common among people with relational dysfunctions, people with certain attachment styles, co-dependence, people with dependent personality disorder, borderlines. They would tend to engage in disproportional transference, exaggerated transference. And so they would tend to bond or touch in a stockish or, you know, a creepy manner to important figures in their lives because they outsource many ego boundary functions and many internal processes to these new figures.

Now, the thing with transference is that it doesn't end with confusion. Transference is a confusion. You confuse a therapist with your father. You confuse your wife with your mother. You confuse your new best friend with your sister. So it's a confusion.

Transference is a state of confusion, but it doesn't end there and that's where the problem begins because we want the new figures in our lives desperately to fit into the matrix, to fit into the previous ways we had conducted business.

So if we used to interact with father in a certain way, we want the therapist to interact with us exactly this way and no other way. And if the therapist deviates from our wishes, unconscious wishes, we try to force him. We try to force the therapist to act as a father and not only to act as any father, we try to force the therapist to act as our father, the father.

So, and this is called, this is part of projective identification.

Following transference, we often use projective identification to force the newcomers into our lives to react in ways that uphold this comfort zone because what we had with mommy, what we had with daddy, what we had with siblings or maybe important peers, influencers or role models or teachers or authority figures, what we had with these people in childhood, usually up to adolescence, what we had with these people created a comfort zone because it's familiar, it's predictable. We know the rules, we know the ropes, we know what to expect. And so we want newcomers into our lives to conform to this comfort zone, to behave in ways which support the comfort zone. Don't challenge it, don't undermine it.

And when they don't, we become very pissed off, we become coercive. We emotionally blackmail, we become aggressive, numerous strategies to shoehorn the newcomer into the old box, the old relational box.

So we try to convert and transform to shapeshift new people in our lives so as to render them compatible with the old figures that we used to have in our lives, with old objects, primary objects, other objects, so on.

And this, we do this even if it means that the outcomes are unfavorable, self-defeating, self-destructive, bad for you. Still we do this because we value the comfort zone above anything and everything else.

The comfort zone, for example, could be being abused. You know, you know how to be a victim. That's your comfort zone.

So you would push the therapist, you push your wife, you push your girlfriend, you push your new friend, you push your colleague, you push your boss to abuse you. You want them to abuse you as your mother had done or your father had done because that's what you know, that's it. That's your zone of familiarity and you want them to conform and you want them to make you feel comfortable at ease because you know the other shoe is going to drop and you know the sound is going to make.

So this is projective identification

and so in a way transference is a repetition compulsion because you try to force people to behave in the same way that previous people in your life had behaved. You try to force them to repeat compulsively interactions and relationships you've had in the past.

Equinically, therefore, transference is a resistance. It serves to reenact early childhood experiences with a latent hope of redemptive resolution a hope that never materializes. ###

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