Wait, what?! Transference is real?!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this whole idea of transference. An idea which, I will tell you, is not easily defined. For me, it’s the idea that the kind of pains that have been conjured by others in our pasts are being played out in the therapeutic relationship. This can mean that we are being hurt by our therapists in the same ways that our parents have hurt us but I don’t think that transference is necessarily relegated to the realm of parental.

As someone who spent at least a month and a half not connecting with my therapist (and swearing that she “doesn’t even care”), I thought I was safe from this mystical beast named Transference. There was no way I was going to need this person, no way I would ever count on her for anything. I thought I could still heal and stay detached. But, hey, when does life ever work the way we want it to work? Like, never. Or almost never.

And yet… I feel certain, 100% sure that this person whom I’ve actually let myself be vulnerable with… is going to recreate the hurts of my past. And, yes, that does mean that I actually did break down and make a connection with her, temporary as that connection may be.

A Brief Intermission for Anxious Expression:

I was terrified to write this blog, actually, to confront these fears and anxieties in the wide open world of the web. I thought, I’ve got to have this together in my head before I put it out there. I just knew that someone would read this and I would be stigmatized for my neediness. But then I realized that’s not very vulnerable is it. And that’s one of my stuck points. Not saying what is on my mind until it is perfect because I don’t want to risk vulnerability. So, here we are: me, telling you, about my possible transference woes.

My Tale of Woe:

This is how the tale begins: Friday of last week I was having an emotional crisis. I was overcome by that overwhelming urge to just release the emotions by any means possible. Unfortunately, I am still at a point where those means are usually unhealthy. And, I did not want to do something I would later regret. So, I reached out. I text my freaking therapist. And, yes, you probably sense a bit of regret in my tone about that as well. She guided me through the experience and saw me to the other side. It was a positive experience. But that is what triggered my downward spiral. I felt validated, heard, and helped. It felt good. The problem is that in my experience, those feelings are almost always marked by an impending revocation of compassion. Panic ensued.

Saturday, we emailed. This woman is incredibly patient with me. She reassured me, that no matter what the outcome of the previous day had been, she would not have thought any different of me. But, despite that my mind descended  further into the depths of the rabbit hole. The “too sensitive”, “not enough”, “too much”, “too needy”, “annoying”, “pain in the ass” rabbit hole.

I thought, she is going to think I rely too much on her; she is going to think I don’t respect her boundaries, she is going to get annoyed that I email or text too much (mind you, that was the first time I ever texted in a “crisis”). I even went so far as to think, she probably hates my art and thinks I’m a total narcissist. Do you see how the rabbit hole works? Painful, searing thoughts fly at me as if shot in rapid fire succession. And there isn’t any talking myself out of these thoughts, despite the fact that I do possess the appropriate tools. It’s almost like being buried alive by the knowledge of my own insignificance and concurrent too muchness. And that was how we left things, me: raw, vulnerable, metaphorically buried alive.

She went on vacation the very next day. Radio silence. This is where the real notion of transference comes in… I let my brain convince me that she is most definitely tired of me and she is most definitely not going to work with me anymore because that’s what I’m used to. I have had therapists refer me in the past. I am, to this day, not entirely certain why. “Not a good fit” or something. So, it is within the realm of possibility, at least as far as my experience dictates. But it isn’t just about the past therapists. It is also about exes. And, of course, it’s about my parents, too. Friends, unfortunately, are also not exempt. It genuinely feels like everyone, at some point, walks away. Thus contributing to this idea of too muchness. The pattern goes: I steel myself against people, lull myself into a false sense of safety, gradually my defenses lower, I let them catch glimpses of my broken, fragile vulnerability; initially they are kind and patient. I think “okay, maybe they’re okay with just letting me be me while I work through stuff”, but eventually I become “too much”; I don’t work through my issues quickly enough and they get tired of me. They say the friendship isn’t sustainable. They say, “you just don’t feel enough.” They say, “you’re not invested.” They say, “you’re too sensitive.” A thousand contradicting messages, an omen of prophesied retreat.  So what do I do with it all? How do I use this in therapy?

The Only Resolution I Can Offer:

My gut says, “run, just don’t go back. If you just quit then she doesn’t have the chance to make the decision that you’re flawed or too much or too needy.” Realistically, I know that is precisely why I should stay and see it through. These two aspects of self rarely see from the same perspective. I almost always let my gut win when it comes to friendships and relationships. At the first sign of discomfort, I am out! I know it can’t be this way this time, though. Because I do want to have lasting friendships and relationships some day. And, I know, this is my practice opportunity. If I can’t stick it out and talk it through with my therapist, then who can I stick it out and talk it through with? If I can’t count on my therapist to see me through the less than stellar times without judgment then who can I count on? So, that’s where I am: left to hope that she is receptive and patient while I figure my way through this war waging inside my mind. And, hoping I’m brave enough to let her continue walking the journey with me.

2 thoughts on “Wait, what?! Transference is real?!

  1. Thank you for putting into words what so many of us feel but can’t quite get a hold of. My therapist gave me her cell phone number early on and told me to call her anytime I needed her. I told her to not worry, that I would never call. Like you, as she was saying she was open to me, I was saying to myself “it won’t last, I couldn’t bother her, what would she think of me”? So many negative thoughts racing through my mind. I did finally call her during a crisis (about 18 months into therapy) and I felt terrible about calling, about needing her, about bothering her and on and on.
    Having read your words makes me feel less alone in this. I think this must be a fairly common way to feel and just another lovely parting gift that the abuse leaves us with.


    1. Oh, goodness, yes! The more I read from other bloggers and psychotherapists themselves, the more I’m convinced that the therapeutic relationship is a strange form of torture. Lol even if it’s torture for a positive purpose. But, definitely not alone in this.


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