Negative transference

The analyst must distinguish whether feelings are affectionate or hostile in nature. The dyadic nature of transference calls for two separate processes of interpretation. Affectionate behaviour is classed as positive transference and hostile behaviour as negative transference. Positive transference occurs when the patient develops a special interest in the analyst. At first they understand the interpretation, become engrossed in the tasks set by the treatment and form certainty in the interpretations. However, the patient moves towards behaving as if they are outside the treatment and fails to accept all the psychoanalytical innovations that were so readily accepted before.

The analysts realises that the patient is withholding and that they have fallen to resistance. Negative transference, particularly evident in male patients, is created by hostile and unaffectionate feelings towards the therapist. Freud witnesses this form of transference in his analysis of Dora (1905), who often rejected his interpretations and later, abruptly terminated her session with him. Counter-transference Freud’s analysis of Dora (1905) not only caused him to reflect upon her reaction and feelings toward him but also to question his attitude towards her. ‘Counter-transference’ is when the therapist transfers feelings onto the patient and Freud requested that this be avoided, calling for self-analysis (Freud,1910) and training analysis (Freud,1912) as a method of prevention.

Later psychoanalytic theorists, such as Melanie Klein, declared that counter-transference could also be a useful therapeutic tool rather than a danger to the analysis (Hinshelwood,1991). Neo-Freudians who follow this idea have founded a more interpersonal approach to psychoanalysis (Frosh, 1987), which Freud avoided by opting for an opaque or “cold approach” (Ferenzi,1933/1999) Transference in Cyberspace As a professor at Rider University in New Jersey, Suler (2002) has studied the relationship between psychoanalysis and computers, particularly the Internet. He explains that “In psychoanalytic terms, computers and cyberspace may become a type of “transitional space” that is an extension of the individual’s intrapsychic world.”

When we interact with others online, we often blend with them and filter them through our “infantile imagos” (Freud,1914) or the templates we create from our relationships with family members in infancy. This is active transference which is aided by the ambiguous nature of the machine, much like the ‘blank screen’ the analyst represents in the therapeutic situation (Frosh,1987). “Healthy online relationships are those in which we realize that our perceptions are not always accurate.

Other people are other people, not extensions of our beliefs or ghosts in our machine. Given the complexities of transference reactions, this isn’t always easy to do. As Otto Kernberg was fond of saying about unravelling transference in psychotherapy, one must continually ask, ‘Who is doing what to whom?'” (Suler,2002, One cannot escape “the centrality of transference in the theory and practice of psychoanalysis” (Frosh, 1987, p.239) as well as in everyday life (Frosh,1987).


Breger, L (2000) Freud: Darkness in the midst of vision.

Breuer, J. and Freud. S (1893-1905) Studies in Hysteria, S.E., 2

Esman, A.H. (ed.) (1990) Essential Papers on Transference. New York: New York University Press

Ferenzi, (1933/1999) Selected Writings London: Penguin Books

Freud, S. (1896). The aetiology of hysteria., S.E., 3:191-221.

Freud, S. (1905). Fragment of an analysis of a case of hysteria., S.E., 7:7-122.

Freud, S. (1910). Five lectures on psycho-analysis., S.E., 11:9-55.

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