Principles of Transference and the Breakdown in Thought

Transference is the unconscious transfer of thoughts, feelings, and attitudes from one thing to another, and I’ve noticed that I seem to experience that a lot lately. Anything that frustrates me right now is transferred to a certain person, and the consequence is a nice roller coaster of spiraling frustration. As those thoughts transfer into an already intense and frustrating situation for me, I’ve also noticed that reason, logic, and the norm of thought are easy to discard. Finally, the whole thing is synergistic. The original frustration and the transferred frustration are not, by themselves, able to drive a person to the point of true anger or rage, but combined they accomplish what neither could do alone.

I’ve also noticed that transference seems to be more or less common to the human condition (of course it is), but perhaps more so than what you and I typically give it credit for. As I’ve struggled with not transferring that frustration and letting it build, I’ve noticed that transference isn’t necessarily bad nor is necessarily human related.

On the human front, how much does it bother you that people group people into categories by preconceived stereotypes? For example, have you ever heard a liberal talk about a conservative (or vice versa)? Both are transferring the preconceived notions of their personal experience from a severely limited viewpoint to paint an entire demographic in a certain light. And yes, did you notice that I transferred my own experiences in those conversations into a generalization of the attitude of both groups against each other?

But the point is that transference in this case is more related to the attitudes we have about something or someone as much as it is about transferring real emotional thoughts onto another person. This is as much about your own attitude and willingness to listen and participate in the human dialog as it is about the actual transference. Optimism isn’t always thinking positively just as pessimism isn’t always thinking negatively. Rather, it is the transfer of negative or positive attitudes to a potential future based on your prior experiences AND–more critically–to the experiences you choose to transfer.

So where am I going with this? No clue. 🙂 Must there be a point to the rambling?

I guess the goal was to make sure that I’m being open to the experiences around me for what they are–independent, unconnected events that are there for the opportunity–instead of pre-assigning or transferring my past experiences.

In other words, give it a chance.

We can all grow, change, learn, try, do differently, and otherwise experience life in new ways each and every day. Surprise yourself sometime. You’ll enjoy it.

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2 Responses to Principles of Transference and the Breakdown in Thought

  1. angeladecker says:

    Deep thoughts here today. My replies are about the stereotypes. People often argue that stereotypes are always bad because they are preconceived notions that incline us to judge harshly, prematurely, and negatively. However, stereotypes exist for a reason – the average majority will fit the average majority of the stereotyped characteristics. If you took the whole population and condensed it into one person, of course, but still. Stereotypes are what lazy people have turned archetypes into–the archetype being the divine pattern or mold. The word “archetype” probably doesn’t fit with your political analogy, but I read some good thoughts about it a while back and wanted to share.

    “Both are transferring the preconceived notions of their personal experience from a severely limited viewpoint to paint an entire demographic in a certain light.” True, but to a point, this is how we have to go about life. Without a basis to judge from, we are left with no paradigm or knowledge from which to make any sort of judgment or understanding.

    The trick is to not be the lazy man who attempts to fit new experiences into his old, narrow-minded boxes (the sort of transference you are talking about in the part I quoted), but to be the wise man who adapts his understanding to fit the new paradigms/truths of each new experience. People often confuse this to mean you end up breaking your standards or backing down on your values, but that often isn’t even a factor–I just mention this because this topic usually comes up when people are talking about hot topics like abortion and whatnot.

    With emotionally difficult situations though, it takes a lot more than just not applying the common stereotypical views to get over the new powerful thoughts and emotions. You’re talking about thoughts much more emotionally significant than common stereotypes like “all fat people are gluttons” or “all Asians are smart” being transferred to new, similar situations. Those deeper thoughts are much harder to work through than overcoming silly, movie-trope biases, especially since the new situations likely often remind you of the past painful ones (or what might have been) and then you’ve got the conflict of past, present, and future to deal with in addition to emotions.

    You’re also likely in a situation that is public, where a reply is expected immediately, or in some other situation where you can’t work through your thoughts via the nice outlet of a blog post. I know I prefer writing to speaking because I can make my message more clear. I’m not sure it worked in this reply, but I’ve rewritten it a dozen times. If I was talking, I’d just be jabbering on and then give up because I’d lose track of what I was saying, and then I might never get my thoughts straightened out or said because I’d have no time – the conversation would likely go elsewhere or somebody else would be talking when I finally figured out how to phrase it.

    “But the point is that transference in this case is more related to the attitudes we have about something or someone as much as it is about transferring real emotional thoughts onto another person. This is as much about your own attitude and willingness to listen and participate in the human dialog[ue] as it is about the actual transference.” There’s a term in psychology called the “fundamental attribution error” where people blame the faults or actions of others on those people’s character, but when they themselves do the same thing, they excuse it as being the fault of a situation over which they have no control. Take driving. The other guy going fast is a maniac but you’re just doing it because you’re late for an important meeting.

    Well, I’m not sure how to end, but I hope that all made sense.

    • daveloveless says:

      I love replies that are longer than the original post!!! 🙂

      I agree with everything you said, and I find I’m guilty of attribution errors as well, though I like to think I do a good job of “wearing their shoes.” In a lot of ways, I’ve always been fairly intuitive when it comes to understanding the nature of someone’s feelings, and I’m especially capable of doing that when I’m disassociated from the event. I think part of the problem that I’ve had in transference lately is that I’ve found myself struggling to intuit the feelings on the other side. In some ways, I’m transferring how I’m feeling to them and then interpreting that transfer as the way in which they are really feeling and transferring it back.

      Maybe I’ve discovered emotional money laundering! 🙂

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