IPA Inter-Regional Encyclopedic Dictionary of Psychoanalysis

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TRANSFERENCE Tri-Regional Entry

Inter-Regional Consultants: Marie-France Dispaux (Europe), Richard Gottlieb and Eva Papiasvili (North America), Adriana Sorrentini (Latin America) Inter-regional Coordinating Co-Chair: Arne Jemstedt (Europe)


Today, Transference is a shibboleth concept for all the analysts all around the world. The German term Übertragung ( transfert in French) means conveyance (transfer, delegation) of experiences from one context into another. Not to be confused with various psychological uses of ‘transfer’ (e.g. in experimental learning theories), the word used in psychoanalysis is transference. In its widest sense, as a universal feature of mental life, transference is a widespread phenomenon involved in any human relation. But the specificity of psychoanalysis is that it strives to understand the latter, especially since, from the outset, it appears as “the worst obstacle that we can come across” in the psychoanalytic treatment (Freud, 1895, p. 301), and because it subsequently becomes one of the tools of the cure. Since its introduction in the Studies on Hysteria (particularly in connection with the idea of “a false connection”, i.e. with the transference of the affective charge of the pathogenic representations – unacceptable to consciousness – onto the person of the physician), the notion of transference has gradually broadened, referring to a constitutive process in the psychoanalytic treatment, a process in which unconscious wishes, infantile conflicts and traumatic wounds become re-actualised in the here-and-now of the relationship with the analyst – the locus of staunch resistance to remembering. Such a modality of psychic functioning, which implies the insertion, in the psychic life of a person, of another person operating as an object mobilising fantasies of desire and conflicts, can be sufficiently generalised so that the analyst’s transference onto the patient may also be envisioned, leading the notion of counter-transference to develop in its turn (See the separate entry COUNTERTRANSFERENCE). Variety of definitions of Transference appearing in contemporary dictionaries and writings from across North America (Auchincloss & Samberg 2012) Europe (Laplanche and Pontalis 1967/1988, Skelton, 2006) and Latin America (Borensztejn, 2014) concur on variously conceptualized and variously formulated baseline thesis: Transference is the patient’s mostly unconscious response to the analyst, as it is shaped by the patient’s early life experiences, which may include internalized self and object representations affected by adjacent traumas, passions, fantasies and conflicts; it may also be conceptualized as an expression of a wish to revivify or actualize intrapsychic, multidetermined object relations


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