transference

by Andrea Elizabeth

I wonder if the biggest thing that affects interpersonal relationships after childhood is transference. According to Wikipedia, “transference is a phenomenon characterized by unconscious redirection of feelings from one person to another.” Another application is the saying that we are always fighting the last war. Children are clean slates so they don’t have baggage, wounds, and expectations for healing from past relationships. Until a wound occurs. Transference can also work positively in that we can project good experiences and preconceptions onto new relationships. Regardless, the new person doesn’t really initially “deserve” the feelings. I think children approach relationships much more investigatively by asking questions rather than assuming things about the other person.

Becoming aware that the feelings about the new relationship aren’t necessarily realistic doesn’t solve everything, because in a post-traumatic stress sort of way we can’t help our reaction. If something reminds us of someone else, we still can have an involuntary flinch or warming. I think this awareness mostly helps us understand that the other person’s reactions aren’t necessarily our fault or to our credit, and to help us try not to put too many conscious expectations on others to make up for past experiences, or the lack thereof.

This is not to say that new relationships cannot be healing, but since some of that process is beyond our control, we just have to be open to letting it happen. Then healing becomes the goal, not the relationship. I say that because when a relationship is the goal, things can get really messy. Relationship can mean status, or a notch on the belt, or other self-gratifying things. Health is more about trusting God to meet needs (mine or theirs) whether it is through other people or not.

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