Idealizing Transference

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An idealizing transferencein which an individual seems to say "you are perfect, and I am a part of you"is defined as the mobilization of an all-powerful object, either spontaneously or as a reaction to the loss of narcissistic equilibrium. It illustrates the need for maintaining a narcissistic fusion against feelings of emptiness and powerlessness. It emerges from a fixation pointa "prestructural imago," that is, one prior to the formation of agencies.

The term first appeared in 1968, in Heinz Kohut's "The Psychoanalytic Treatment of Narcissistic Personality Disorders," and he developed the concept starting in 1971, within the framework of narcissistic transferences, which are defined as the reactivation of narcissistic configurations in analyzable narcissistic personalities.

It is important to distinguish three different phenomena: the idealizing transference, the pseudo-idealizations, and idealization in the treatment of neurosis. The idealizing transference central to the treatment is stable even if it is present in different degrees, from the archaic fusion to a more evolved ideal. A break in this transference leads either to a more archaic idealizing transference, or a mirror transference when the libido is withdrawn from the archaic object.

The idealizing transference refers back to the imago of the idealized parent.

Kohut has been accused, particularly by the Kleinians, of letting patients develop an idealization that is not a factor of development, but rather a defense.

AgnÈs Oppenheimer

See also: Idealized parental imago; Self, the.


Kohut, Heinz. (1968). The psychoanalytic treatment of narcissistic personality disorders. In The search for the self (vol. I, pp. 477-509). New York: International Universities Press.

. (1971).The analysis of the self. New York: International Universities Press.

Further Reading

Gedo, John E. (1975). Forms of idealization in the analytic transference. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 23, 485-506.