Monday, August 07, 2006

Transference To The Blog

In psychodynamic psychotherapies, the concept of Transference pertains to the patient's tendency to impose feelings and reactions from past relationships onto the therapist. The process is, by definition, unconscious and the patient is initially unaware that s/he is doing this. Put more simply, the patient comes to the relationship primed to repeat significant relationships from the past (hmm, was that more simple?). Okay, if you hated your mother you might find yourself hating your therapist (--that's better, right?). The concept of counter-transference involves the same process when the doctor unconsciously imposes feelings and reactions from his past relationships onto the patient. So, if you hated your mother, you might find yourself hating your patients. It's a complicated issue because in addition to the transference, there's the Real relationship: if you hate your psychiatrist because he really is a jerk, it's not transference and sometimes the definitions get a bit liquid. I'm not a psychoanalyst; if you are, please feel free to fix my simplified explanations.

Since I've joined Blog-o-Land (aka the blogsphere), I've been struck by the fact that so many people use their blogs as both therapy substitutes (--hey, if it works, I'm all for it) while others use their blogs to talk about their psychotherapy sessions and their psychiatrists-- kind of like therapy for the therapy. For example, in her blog "Alone--just a way to get my feelings out and cope"--writes about The Psychiatrist That Pushed Me Over The Edge. (Taken from Grand Rounds 245)

Now people don't just write about their psychiatrists, their therapy sessions, the events of their day, and the associations they have to a variety of things, on their blogs, they write about it in the comment section of other people's blogs, including right here at Shrink Rap. Over time, there develops some Back & Forth (right, Foo?) and I've come to wonder if there might be a reportable phenomena of Tranference To The Blog.

Transference To The Blog might be a rather confusing phenomena. Would the transference be to the blog itself (the ultimate so-called blank screen ripe for projection), or to the authors? So does ClinkShrink evoke pleasant memories of that kindly lady warden from days of old? And what about Roy, the scattered intellectual who loves the ironic (Do I have you right, Roy?) and uses the same phrases as old Aunt Tillie? I really don't want to know what feelings I evoke, especially not after my "What's in a Name" post.

And while I'm at it, what about counter-transference to the blog by the authors? How do we feel about our regular commenters? And if they have their own blogs, then is it Transference or is it Counter-Transference? So, Dr. A, you didn't even comment on my post "Ranting on Dr. A's blog" or give an opinion on What's in A Name? that linked to you. Were you ignoring me? Are you mad? How dare you! My Uncle Rupert used to do the exact same thing when I was a small child. (oops, no Uncle Rupert, but you get the point and now even I am confabulated).

Okay, I'm just using Dr. A as an example-- he made himself an easy target when he vanished for a bit. But you get the point. And Fat Doctor, the kid's not going to be a drug addict if you don't make him eat asparagus, unless he would have been one anyway. I don't think. My mother never made me eat stuff I didn't like; maybe that's the problem. And Foofoo: how can you not wonder about a man named Foofoo who wields the power to have have your jail term extended for 3 months if you curse at him: the ultimate mean daddy. And Dr. Crippen's got to be old, right, with a name like Dr. Crippen? Flea, I'm not so sure about, but I think he, Turboglacier (of May Shrink and Fade) and Dr. A are younger than I am, but who knows. SHP, a bit like my little cousin (oops, I'm the youngest of my cousins). I'm only picking on the doctor bloggers, but rest assured, if you're in my blog-o-land, I may be thinking about you.

And how does that make you feel?


Dinah said...

I forgot to mention transference to the duck.

Sarebear said...

Now you're passing the duck?

I thought the duck stopped here . . .

apparently, this last week, it stopped on my blog. Lol!

Well, at first, I thought this post was all about ME. See, cause of me checking out that skewed perception w/you the other day.

But then I'm like, get off it, everything is NOT about you. But I'm afraid it is. I guess cause I had to be hypervigilant as a child to avoid stepping in it big time, and to avoid others doing it to me, big time. As much as a child is able to avoid being hurt by others horribly, which often isn't much.

*Yanks self back to topic*.

Oh yeah, ME (I'm being facetious here now, hee hee!).

You knew I was going to make duck jokes, didn't you? Mebbe I should talk with my therapist about this transferred fowl obsession (said somewhat jokingly; I'm not obsessed, I just like feeling part of an in joke . . . .)

Feelin' just ducky,


Dr. A said...

I'm baaaaack! Miss me?

Well, if you must know, the name Dinah always has put me in the fetal position because that was the name of the big bully from my kindergarten class. I cringe at the things that she did to me like push me around on the bus and take my twinkie from my lunch every single day -- HEY! That's MY twinkie!

So, I just shut down. I withdraw. I try not to escalate the conflict of the situation when I hear the name "Dinah."

How's that sound? Transference? Counter-transference? Silliness? You be the judge. (Thanks for all the shout outs on you blog, though. I appreciate it :)

Sarebear said...

I should say, I'm afraid THAT it is, or I'm afraid THAT it might be. Not that, I'm afraid it is.

Sorry, my anxieties made me say that. (Well, I know I made me say it but I'm just being funny)

Anonymous said...

I will now say what I say to my nine year old bi-polar son all the time: "Stop thinking so much. You might use up all your brains, and then I'll have to pour oatmeal in there."

Dinah said...

Sarebear: It's not about you, or at least it's not just about you.

Dr. A: Yes that was me on the playground, if only you'd have brought M&M's once in a while, I would have let up. Welcome back.

Sharla: The blog was started because we like to think. Oatmeal would be a fine substitute for my brain.

FooFoo: your comment disappeared and I wish it hadn't. I never meant the concept of transference to be pejorative & puzzled by your comment, I re-read my post. It seems I used every confabulated example to be of a negative transference: hating one's mother, anger at Dr. A, with the exception of the example of Clink as a kindly warden. I'm not sure what this says about me or my feelings about psychoanalytic theory (though certainly transference is one concept that resonates). Aside from my poorly chosen examples, I agree with you that transference is a often a good thing in therapy (positive or negative) depending on how skillful the therapist is at either using it or interpreting it, and depending on how amenable the patient is to exploring it. And often an unexplored positive transference is a very helpful thing even if no one looks at it. My examples were all meant to be tongue-in-cheek, and you seem hardy enough to tolerate the mean daddy play-identity. The transference to the duck, by the way is all good. Hoping this didn't trouble you.

Sarebear said...

I think this is a really good post and discussion. I'm trying to let myself call my ologist a pig. This is a GOOD thing (oink!) because I'm pushing past the "training" ingrained in me of being "nice" and getting at the feelings and emotions simmering and bubbling beneath.

It's reassuring to know I could call him whatever the @#$# I want, but this concept of transference, finding the emotions acceptable, is hard sometimes.

To find all aspects of me acceptable enough to express in therapy, is the difficulty. It isn't that I don't trust him.

That's kind of afield from what I was trying to say.

Oh, I also kind of explored transference a little inside myself, when I realized a few weeks ago that Clink was a gal, and not a fella. And then I was like, well, I feel differently about Clink, why is that? So I explored that a bit inside, and found it educational and enlightening. And Clink is just as pleasant as always; just ducky!

Becoming more aware of myself and transference is kinda cool, at least, in things like this where it's less intense than alot of the urgently intense stuff.

Steve & Barb said...

Interesting thoughts, here. It's important to point out that some equivalent to "transference" and "countertransference" occurs every day in all of our relationships. The boss. The spouse. The lady in the car ahead of you who's driving below the speed limit ("C'mon, Grandma, move it!").

Since "transference" can only occur in therapy, and that is not what happens in these online forums (I just can't bring myself to use "fora"), it can't occur here. But certainly something similar.

JW is right... a third thing is needed. Is there a name for when this phenomenon occurs in daily life? I can't think of one.

A goal of therapy is to learn how to identify when we do this, when it gets in the way, and how to keep it from infiltrating into our otherwise normal relationships. For example, not every instance of intergender conflict is caused by female oppression of men, or by men falsely crediting women with kindly intent rather than devious manipulation. (Flame off, JW... I'm not instigating, it's just an example.)

Keep in mind also that the view of an individual thru a blog is merely a small keyhole, thru which we see a very small portion of the blogger's personality. It's like the 5 blind men feeling the elephant, who perceive different things based on their perspective (a snake, a tree, etc).

I find it useful to always remind myself of this when I may be tempted to overinterpret an online action or statement, such as the removal of a comment due to a premature click (rather than indecisiveness or anger), or the lack of a comment to a provocative blog due to not seeing the inciting blog in the first place (rather than to anger or a cold shoulder).

Finally, bloggers likely choose to present only one or two aspects of their personality (or their chosen personality), so it gets even more complicated, potentially.

ClinkShrink said...

Roy, I drive a Plymouth not a Ferrari so if you don't like my speed you can just buy me a new car. Oh wait...maybe you weren't really talking about me in your comment...

I think what you're talking about isn't transference, it's really stimulus generalization isn't it? We get conditioned to perceive things in a certain way based upon previous experience. So on a blog, which lacks many of the social cues to put interactions in context, this is more likely to happen.

And Dinah, anyone who can generate twelve comments overnight has earned her way into the wooden logo club. How do you feel about that?

And I don't want the duck transferred anywhere.

I'm going to try posting this but, like Foo, I can never get that darn word verification right the first time.

Dinah said...

SkinnerClinK: get that damn logo off my post!!!!!!!!! or the duck goes to Vinuatu.

Foo, I'm lost though I sense you're displeased. Talk all you want. If it's therapeutic it's great. Transference is good, in the right time/place (it can be dysfunctional, obviously, when the boss gets the mean daddy transference)-- the post was meant to be both thought-provoking and a bit facetious.

And Roy, stop trying to run Clink off the road.

I was serious about that damn logo.

Jessica said...


Now you have me thinking, is my hating my psychiatrist coming from my dislike of my father? (Though I only dislike my father not really hate him).

I have found though that I do have a harder time geting along with any male doctor/psychologist/psychiatrist, but none of them has pissed me off as much as this last one did.

Actually one I liked; because he really made me think and another had a weird sense of humor, like my dad so it took a while before I got to trust him, but then again at first I didn't want to trust him.

My current psychologist though is awesome! She seems to know exactly where I'm coming from and I don't have to justify everything I say with a bunch of references.

BTW, thanks for linking to me! :)


Sarebear said...

Yeah, I find that alot of what i do with reading other people's blogs, much of my emotional reaction is due to the mental filters and perceptions and distortions (ala Dr. Burns' Feeling Good book, CBT).

Personalization being a big one.

I'm trying to talk about this in a more . . . general sense than get into a mini-therapy for self, if you understand my intent by saying that.

Just that these things play into it alot; I wonder if our brains/emotions tend to "fill-in" some intent/emotion into a blog post, to partly make up for the fact that we can't hear tone of voice and can't see body language, facial expression, etc. . . . .

Obviously our perceptions, our view of the world and the way we tend to see things affects all our interactions, blog or otherwise, but it's interesting to think about them in this context.

(ducking out to my therapy appt now, whee!)

Fat Doctor said...

I love chocolate doughnuts (I hate the shortened "donut" - one should savor every letter) so I think that's why I love your blog. When I come here, I see doughnuts.

And I appreciated your comments about my kid. Not the part about you being a psychiatrist (although I was quite amused that you started with a "you can't sue me for this" statement) but the part of you being a mom.

That's why I blog. It's like a big dysfunctional family - you get a lot of advice, some you need, some you don't, and it makes me feel better. Isn't that the point of therapy?

Anonymous said...

As a mental health service user and not a psychiatrist, I think that it is inevitable that when I go on a psychiatrist's website, there is a risk that I will transfer onto the blogger some of my feelings for the various psychiatrists I have had over the years, but I think that this is a normal phenomenon in human relationships that you have to accept on a blog.

Likewise, I have seen several examples on various blogs of psychiatrists and other doctors reacting to what mental health service users say as if it were a personal attack not a part of a discussion.

Blogs can be terribly personal. They are written in one's own personal space, and read by others in their personal space. Thus the relationships can seem more personal than they actually are.

ClinkShrink said...

Hmm...interesting reaction to an innocent, unassuming logo. Transference, perhaps? A deeply rooted trauma associated with listening to the Carpenters?

Sadly, logos are like puppies. They tend to wander off if they are not cherished or wanted.

Feel free to take it down if you like. I just didn't want you to feel left out of the exclusive wooden logo club.

DrivingMissMolly said...

Wow! All this transference/countertransference stuff is fascinating, but, what if the PT, me, in this case, is hyperaware of transference and comes to the apt. with shields up?

I would think, since from my research, exploring transference in therapy is supposed to lead to greater insight, and, like Foo said, healing, that I am sabotaging things from the get go, but I can't exactly "forget" what I know.

I admit that I avidly look for countertransference reactions as well.

On the one hand I know I need the help of psychiatry, and am fascinated with it, but on the other hand, I mistrust psychiatry.

Part of me is convinced that it is a tool of oppression,an "enforcer" and possibly creator of societal "norms," marking the line dividing normal and abnormal and acceptable and unacceptable.

I enjoy psychiatrists blogs, but I hope that reading them is a phase I'll grown out of. Something about reading them seems verboten to me.

Steve & Barb said...

Clink, I agree... stimulus generalization is a good term for this, but then, isn't transference a specific instance of stimulus generalization? True, with no stimulus (blank slate) there is nothing to generalize to... but the reality is that there are always stimuli... the slate is never truly blank. The mere fact that one's therapist is a male or a female is the first stimulus that one may generalize to, as this is the first thing most of us learn... that there are two feedme-cleanme-holdme beings... how do I learn to tell them apart? (Even infants of same-gender parents share this task... they still tell the parents apart, except some of the differentiating characteristics are a bit more subtle. I wonder how this is different in truly single parent households where there are no other caretakers, such as siblings or grandparents.)

Nutty, good points.

Molly, most people have shields up... therapy gives you more control and understanding over their use.

JW, I agree with your analysis. The universal response of not accepting F-to-M harm tells me that this is not just cultural, but probably more deep-rooted. It is hard to accept that a mother would harm her son. (Oddly, it seems somehow a bit less hard to accept that a mother would harm her daughter; am I wrong on that point?) Thus, I suspect that this dynamic plays into the reluctance to accept the more general phenomenon of women harming men, expecially where there is a sexual implication (women raping men and female teachers sexually molesting boys are met more with snickers than with disgust). What can be done about it? That's a whole 'nother blog.

Anonymous said...

How does that make me feel? Hmmmmmm, I feel left out . . . ;o)

NeoNurseChic said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
joy said...

Uhm, sometimes, I kind of want to turn the comments off. My commenters are driving me crazy, and now I'm trying to figure out which issue with which parent I'm working out through them.

Thanks for the insight!

nomore said...

i have strong positive transference feelings for my therapist. i just moved and not being in contact with him is killing me. any advice on how to get ride of these feelings and what does it mean when you have strong feelings for the therapist. i know i am not in love just very very needy. how does this relate to my childhood experience. can anyone help?