Mirror Transference

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Mirror transference is the remobilization of the grandiose self. Its expression is: "I am perfect and I need you in order to confirm it." When it is very archaic, mirror transference can easily result in feelings of boredom, tension, and impatience in the analyst, whose otherness is not recognized. Counter-transference is thus a sign of it.

The notion, which first appeared in Heinz Kohut's work in "The Psychoanalytic Treatment of Narcissistic Personality Disorders" (1968), was further elaborated in his Analysis of the Self (1971). Mirror transference can take three forms, depending on the degree of regression and the nature of the point of fixation. Fusion transference is the most archaic form and refers to a primary identity relationship in which the Other is completely part of the self. It shows itself when the analyst is taken to be omnipotent and tyrannical and is experienced as an extension of the self. In twinship or alter ego transference, the other is experienced as being like the self. Lastly, in mirror transference properly speaking, the analyst is experienced as a function in service of the patient's needs. If the patient feels recognized, he experiences a sense of well-being linked to the restoration of his narcissism.

Mirror transference can be primary, the reaction to a broken idealizing transference, or secondary to one of these. In The Restoration of the Self (1977), Kohut distinguished it from alter ego transference.

Some authors have refused to consider this transference as being a result of the evolution of narcissism; they have seen it as a defense.

AgnÈs Oppenheimer

See also: Alter ego; Grandiose self; Self, The .


Kohut, Heinz. (1978) The psychoanalytic treatment of narcissistic personality disorders. In The search for the self (Vol. 1, 477-509). New York: International Universities press. (Original work published 1968)

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

. (1977). The restoration of the self. New York: International Universities Press.

Further Reading

Shengold, Leonard. (1974). The metaphor of the mirror. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 22,97-115.