Friday, September 28, 2012

transference healing

Whenever I'm alone with you
You make me feel like I am home again
Whenever I'm alone with you
You make me feel like I am whole again
~ The Cure

I was listening to an interview with Fran├žoise Dolto, a famous French child psychoanalyst, and she said that transference* was necessary for psychological healing to take place.  Do you think the same is true for adults?

Great question!

First of all I agree that, yes, in order for therapy to be healing, transference has to occur.  It works the same as an infected wound.  It has to be opened in order to heal again.  In psychological terms, this means regressing to the emotional stage when a trauma first transpired.  Transference facilitates that process. 

But there are various paths to healing.  Psychoanalysis is one path, but it is long and arduous and does not work for everyone.  EMDR is another path.  EMDR facilitates regression but without transference onto the therapist.  It is immediate and effective, but it is not a path that is suitable to complex relational trauma.  Couple therapy is IMHO the most promising path of all.  It is relationally-based, accessible to anyone, and more efficient than psychoanalysis.  Why?  Because, if we are in a love relationship, we have probably regressed to exactly where we need to be in order to be healed from past wounds.  Transference, in other words, has already occurred. 

That said, not all wounds need to be treated with therapy.  Getting hurt is a normal part of human existence and, given time, most wounds will heal all by themselves.  

"The way out of suffering is through it."

*transference is the unconscious projection of feelings (usually those felt for a parent when one was a child) onto another person, causing the transposition of past interpersonal dynamics onto the present such that one’s childhood drama is re-enacted.


  1. I know what EMDR stands for but what is IMHO mean?Pauline

  2. Do you know what LOL means?
    IMHO = In My Humble Opinion (some say In My Honest Opinion)

  3. lol, yes I do, pardon my ignorance!

  4. If getting hurt is a normal part of human existence and, given time, most wounds will heal all by themselves, so, how EMDR can be immediate and effective. As you written no transference is needed with EMDR. Is no attunement not necessary either ?
    How the brain through can learn new ways of being ?
    I cannot see the issue of this, I seem so impermeable to that.
    IMHO (;-)) Johanne
    * Excuse my english.

  5. Dear Johanne,

    Thank you for your questions. In future, please feel free to ask them in French.

    Most wounds heal by themselves, some need help. EMDR is effective for those wounds that need help, e.g. trauma.

    The effectiveness of EMDR does not depend on transference or attunement with a therapist. You can do EMDR on yourself (although this is not recommended).

    How the brain learns is largely a mystery. In terms of EMDR, it is believed that bilateral stimulation of the brain induces a state of relaxed awareness that mimics REM sleep, a state in which the brain naturally re-processes trauma.

    EMDR is immediate both in the sense of not being mediated by transference, and of being instantaneous. I think this is simply because it removes the obstacles that get in the way of our processing trauma.

    1. What are those obstacles could be ?
      Remian me what is the REM sleep, is it when the eyes move from right to left in our sleeping time ?
      I understand the principle but I have trouble to figure hoe it works.
      Next time I will write in French. ;-)
      Have a good day. /jd

  6. Typically, obstacles are the well-worn thinking circuits triggered by reminders of traumatic events, defense strategies that might have once served a purpose but are now interfering with a more adaptive response.

    Yes, REM stands for "rapid eye movements" and are those movements back and forth of our eyes that accompany dreaming.

    There are a lot of theories but I don't think anyone has actually figured out how it works, Johanne!

  7. Hi Patricia, wouldn't forgiveness of others or one's self be a key ingredient with in EMDR working. I'm thinking more in the line of growing up in a dysfunctional abusive family. Can EMDR help our inner wounded child? I feel meditation surely can.

  8. Hi Pauline,

    Good question.

    Yes, EMDR can help the inner wounded child to heal. It does this by loosening the grip of traumatic childhood memories so that we no longer relive the feelings associated with them over and over in the present.

    Forgiveness occurs naturally when we have healed from abuse. So, yes, EMDR does lead to forgiveness although that is the result, not the direct object, of EMDR.

  9. Makes sense, I guess my way of thinking was like "putting the cart before the horse." Thanks.