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Transference/Counter-Transference (Analytical Psychology)


Transference is the projection of unconscious contents. Jung's Studies in Word Association (1906) provided evidence for and referred to Freud's concept of transference, published the previous year. In 1912 Jung noted that the analysand's perception of the analyst's more mature personality forms an empathic bridge between his infantile relationship to reality and adult adaptation. He insisted that an analyst undergo analysis himself, and also saw the importance of analyzing the transference, which both hinders and facilitates psychological growth. By 1913 Jung had extended Freud's definition, saying transference was also the basis for normal human relatedness. After breaking with Freud, he analyzed his own projections, resolved them to achieve emotional, intellectual, and spiritual/moral autonomy, and concurrently set forth the elements of his opus. A survey of early work shows recognition of counter-transference, the reciprocal arousal of unconscious content in the analyst in response to patient projections. In 1929 he stated his view that the personality of the analyst contributes to analytic process, and that transformation is mutual. He also observed instances of unconscious identity between doctor and patient, giving it the anthropological term participation mystique ; later it was recognized by psychoanalysts and called projective identification. So convinced was Jung that this unconscious reciprocal influence distorted all analytic discourse that he drew upon another projective system, alchemy, in Psychology of the Transference (1946) to demonstrate the ubiquity of transference and to identify stages in its evolution and resolution.

For some students this represents an incomprehensible departure from rational scientific method. To appreciate its logic one must first accept the role of metaphor in psychological theory building and, second, understand Jung's theory of archetypes and his model of the psyche, which includes a personal and a collective unconscious. Although the concept of archetype has not been accepted by psychoanalysts, the idea has arisen independently in the fields of anthropology, linguistics, behavioral biology, and evolutional psychiatry. Briefly, the capacity to perceive certain forms and processes is inherent, and these ancient, typical potentials are released, to acquire specific psychological content when, in the course of development, the individual encounters external reality. The collective unconscious contains all realizable human potential.

The analytic process itself is unconsciously directed by the archetype of individuation, the impulse to grow in psychological depth and complexity, and is an inherent property of the self, the archetype that embraces and comprises all other archetypes. Transference thereby acquires a teleological dimension, the symbolic intent and meaning of which is revealed and experienced as analysis unfolds; this is its prospective aspect, in contrast to the regressive projection of unconscious material from infantile or other past experience.

Jung recognized two universal, diametric archetypal urges in the individual psyche: to be separate, complete, and autonomous; and to be intimately bonded to the other, both coupled and enfolded in a group. These longings are primary motivating forces at the root of transference and resistance, constituting a fundamental paradox to be apprehended and resolved in individuation and analysis. Having this profound insight, he sought a metaphor to convey its universal, timeless, and impersonal meaning, to point analysands away from the average dependent/omnipotent transference fantasy. The mythology of medieval alchemy provided an unconscious projective system congenial enough to Western mentality to be accessible, but distant enough to reflect projections made in an analytic process that structures imaginative associations for the purpose of self examination. He chose a sixteenth-century treatise, the Rosarium Philosophorum, to reflect evolving transference/counter-transference fantasies in the analytic process.

All analytical psychologists view transference as a multileveled web of transecting relationships, interpersonal and intrapsychic, conscious and unconscious, occurring simultaneously within and between analyst and patient. Since the spiritual urge was regarded by Jung as an archetypal force equal to sexuality, his concept of transference extends into transpersonal realms. For some analytical psychologists this is the major thrust of Jungian theory, whereas others seek to correct theoretical and methodological gaps, (for example, in the areas of child development and transference) through links to the work of psychoanalysts whose constructions are compatible with Jung's basic concepts (Kirsch, 1995). Modern psychoanalytic theories of self, projective identification, mutuality, and intersubjectivity all have antecedents in work Jung completed before 1946.

Jean Kirsch

See also: Alchemy (analytical psychology); Amplification (analytical psychology); Analytical psychology; Complex (analytical psychology); Counter-transference; Negative therapeutic reaction; Projection and "participation mystique" (analytical psychology); Transference.


Jung, Carl Gustav. (1914a). On the importance of the unconscious in psychopathology, in Coll. Works, III. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

. (1916). The structure of the unconscious, Coll. Works, VII. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

. (1946). The psychology of the transference, Coll. Works, XVI. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Kirsch, Jean (1995). Transference. In M. Stein (Ed.), Jungian Analysis (pp. 170-209). Chicago-La Salle: Open Court.

Further Reading

Abend, Sander. (1989). Countertransference and psychoanalytic technique. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 58, 374-395.

Gabbard, Glen. (1995). Countertransference: The emerging common ground. International Journal of Psychoanalysis,76, 475-486.

Jacobs, Theodore. (1991). The use of the self: Countertransference and communication in the analytic situation. Madison, CT: International Universities Press.

. (1999). Countertransference past and present: A review of the concept. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 80, 575-594.

Loewald, Hans W. (1986). Transference-countertransference. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 34, 275-288.

Poland, Warren S. (1984). The analyst's words: Empathy and countertransference. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 53, 421-424.

Searles, Harold. (1979). Countertransference and related subjects. New York: International Universities Press.

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