Transference neurosis is a phenomenon of the analytic process in certain patients with adequately integrated egos and superegos in which the analysand's perception of the analyst becomes more and more recognizably entwined with core, organizing unconscious fantasy/memory complexes from childhood. These bear the stamp of oedipal conflict, its precursors and latency and adolescent sequelae. Freud first elaborated the concept in "Remembering, Repeating and Working Through," in 1914. There he stressed the analyst's aggressive pursuit of disease.
Three years later, he emphasized the insidious disease process itself, then elaborated on the power that the positive transference afforded the analyst to "divest" the patient's symptoms of libido. In Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920a), he added that what was repeated in the transference neurosis was "some portion of infantile sexual life—of the Oedipus complex and its derivatives" (p. 18). That is, the transference neurosis was then seen to recapitulate an infantile neurosis. As he began to concern himself with impediments to cure, however, the concept dropped from his writings.
The concept appears in Freud in conjunction with the concepts of analysability and cure. Freud considered that only patients with transference neuroses were treatable by analysis. He designated the transference neurosis as an artificial symptomatic illness that expanded in the "playground" of the transference while the patient's other symptoms and external difficulties disappeared. The transference neurosis constituted an "intermediate region between illness and real life" (1914g, p. 154). Cure then involved the annihilation by interpretation of the artificial illness.
Freud did not use the term after 1926. This silence, the increasing interest in character pathology on the part of contemporary analysts, and the greater reliance in some quarters on the structural theory have led to confusion, equivocation, and controversy. Manifest criteria that have been mistakenly offered as definitions such as the patient's conscious focusing on his or her relationship to the analyst, or the cessation of all extra-transference difficulties, have either not been borne out by clinical data or raise other valid objections. Severed from its role as exclusive means to cure, however, in its modern definition, the transference neurosis continues to capture the essence of clinical psychoanalytic experience. The broader and more modern definition is the following: During the analytic process of certain patients with adequately integrated egos and superegos, a distillation occurs in which the analysand's perception of the analyst becomes more and more recognizably entwined with core, organizing unconscious fantasy/memory complexes from childhood. These bear the stamp of oedipal conflict, its precursors and latency and adolescent sequelae. The analytic work takes on an intimacy prepared by the working through of narcissistic versions of these core conflicts so that the patient is able to experience a greater degree of libidinal involvement with the analyst. The autonomous willingness of the patient to reveal, explore, and work with the analyst also increases. The discovery of this crystallizing organization occurs simultaneously with the gradual disengagement of the object representation of the analyst from these same core fantasies.
Gail S. Reed
See also: Change; Counter-transference; Framework of the psychoanalytic treatment; Infantile, the; Negative therapeutic reaction; Negative, work of the; Psychoanalytical nosography; Time; Transference.
Freud, Sigmund. (1914g) Remembering, repeating and working-through (Further recommendations on the technique of psycho-analysis II). SE, 12, 145-156.
——. (1916-17a [1915-17]) Introductory lectures on psycho-analysis. Parts I and II. SE, 15-16.
——. (1920g). Beyond the pleasure principle. SE, 18: 1-64.
——. (1926e) The question of lay analysis. SE, 20: 177-250.
Blum, Harold P. (1971). On the conception and development of the transference neurosis. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 19, 41-53.
Jacobs, Theodore J. (1987). Analytic secrets and the transference neurosis. Psychoanalytical Inquiry, 7, 485-510.
Loewald, Hans W. (1971). The transference neurosis: Comments on the concept, phenomenon. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 19, 54-66.
Renik, Owen. (1990). Concept of transference neurosis and psychoanalytic methodology. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 71, 197-204.