Self-Care Tip #131 – When someone transfers negativity on you, just be. Be a friend to yourself.
Reading up on the woe’s of Harry Potter, Sam did not let his children near those books. He’d read “what they say” which shows that when kids read books like Harry Potter, it was the same as inviting the devil into their minds. “Kids can’t tell the difference between fantasy and truth,” he said.
Sam had a friend. A best friend named Matthew. Sam was very afraid for Matthew who didn’t guard against this kind of attack. Sam said, “Did you know…?”
What was Matthew’s response?
There are 2 terms we’ve used in psychotherapy since before Freud and Jung were around –
- transference – putting our feelings on the therapist. For example, say my therapist is a man who looks like my father. I will transfer on him my feelings about my father and subconsciously think my therapist is like my father.
- countertransference is the opposite. The therapist thrusts her own memories and associations on her patient.
These can be positive or negative. Of course they don’t stay on the couch. Transference and Countertransference happen between all of us all the time. Often it is healthy. It helps us grow, model others, fantasize and move towards fantasy’s long enough to make them true.
In Sam and Matthew’s case, Sam was transferring his fears of immorality on Matthew. But what was Matthew’s reaction? What was Matthew’s countertransference?
I have often been guilty of negative countertransference in situations like this. I remember feeling dirtied by people’s prejudices and fears. Almost like I needed to bathe afterwards. The truth is though, we don’t have to. When people are afraid of us, we don’t have to be afraid of them. We don’t have to despise them. We don’t have to be angry, irritated, or feel “soiled.” We can just be with them. Let it be about them and not run away. Just be present.
Matthew, wonderful best friend Matthew had heard this song from Sam before. When Sam started in on it again this time, Matthew was able to sit back, listen to his fear rather than worry about what words shuttled it. And Matthew was better for it. Maybe Sam was too. But the gift Matthew gave was first to himself. By just being with Sam in his fear, he was able to just be with himself too. Quite friendly.
Question: How has transference and countertransference played out in your life? How do you, “just be,” when you are inclined to “countertransfer” instead? Please tell me your story.
- Reflecting on feelings of powerlessness (a video blog) (mindfulmusictherapist.blogspot.com)
- Fear Not, My Friend (redletterbelievers.blogspot.com)