The Non-Transference Relationship in the Psychoanalytic Situation

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Image courtesy of Hal Brindley at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

written by – Ralph R. Greenson and Milton Wexler,

Los Angeles – Presentation to the 26th International Psycho-Analytic Congress, Rome, 1969.

Int. J. Psycho-Anal. (1969) 50, 27

“Transference is the experiencing of impulses, feelings, fantasies, attitudes, and defences with respect to a person in the present which do not appropriately fit that person but are a repetition of responses originating in regard to significant persons of early childhood, unconsciously displaced onto persons in the present.  The two outstanding characteristics of transference phenomena are 1) it is an indiscriminate, non-selective repetition of the past, and 2) it ignores or distorts reality.  It is inappropriate (Greenson, 1967).

The very fact that the concept of transference has, over the years , come to have this rather precise meaning implies that it was technically and theoretically necessary to differentiate it from other reactions which are relatively transference-free.

… All object relations consist of some elements of repetition from the past, but the so-called “real”, the non-transference, relationship differs, from transference in the degree of relevance, appropriateness, accuracy, and immediacy of what is expressed.  Furthermore, non-transference responses are basically readily modifiable by both internal and external reality.  They are adaptive and “realistic”.

There is a school of thought, mainly Kleinian, which asserts that everything emanating from the patient is transference.  Such a broad definition of the term transference seems to deprive it of usefulness.  Beyond that, it would seem to negate the possibility for new and creative experiences in human relationships and relegate all of us to some dismal expectation of monotonous repetitions in life.  One can hardly argue the question that the past does influence the present, but this is not identical to transference.  Indeed if there is a present, a here and now, an immediate reality, we are told little or nothing about what to do with it.  Surely we are not to hope it will go away.”

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