Transference and Countertransference

Transference and Countertransference, and the Relation to Dream Analysis

(Copyright Talmage Carawan, 2013; for rights reserved and permitted, see the post entitled “New Publications”)

Transference and Countertransference are discussed here, as they relate to dream analysis.  Before getting into those very important components of the psychoanalytic process which are adopted (and adapted) to bring about a meaningful dream creation, recollection, and analysis process, a few things need examination. 

The first two sections here- self empowerment and the distinction between dream and analyst, were first presented in the paper on NIM and MALA methods, to examine levels and abilities of the process participants.

They are expanded here to form the foundation for the presentation of a key analytic process, where it not only involves the dynamic of the dreamer-analyst relation, but the dynamic of the conscious- unconscious within the empowered dreamer

Does this sound confusing?   Quite possibly,  if one is not familiar with these concepts,  but by the end of this paper, this confusion will be gone.  To assist in the understanding, a brief examination of Ego and Classical Psychoanalysis is made.

Those with a solid understanding of the Transference and Countertransference process may read only the first two paragraphs below, and then skip to the section relating to Dream Analysis.

Self Empowerment

It must be made clear that in a study of the Dream Dharma presented in these pages that an important goal is for a self empowerment of the recording, recollection and analysis, that is, the dreamer is capable of understanding their unconscious world through dreams and bringing about an improvement in their conscious life.  These abilities will vary of course from one person to another, but with study and effort, this should be possible.

A more primary goal of this presentation is to be able to develop an awareness of one’s own capabilities, to know when to both seek assistance in this analysis, and whether one is indeed capable of helping another person in this process, or should be referred to someone with more experience and knowledge.  In the case of requiring assistance, then a general outline for the Empowerment process will be made here, and opportunities for in person sessions will be made, as well as a course developed for distance learning.

 The Distinction Between “Dreamer” and “Patient”

Note that we do not refer to someone as a “patient,” but a “dreamer.”  The distinction must be made, particularly in cases where referral for more help is indicted.  The Dream Analyst is not typically a medical practitioner in the commonly accepted legal context, and should not be viewed as one.   Of course, there are psychiatrists and psychologists, and others that may properly present as a clinician, involved in these or similar methods of analysis, but that label must be supported by licensing and credentialing as might be required by the community.  Any questions of both capability and liability must be answered directly, to the point of having the dreamer sign a statement indicating awareness of the relationship, and not confusing what may be the expectations of both the analyst or dreamer. 

Some thought may be given to labeling the dream analyst a “facilitator,” in order to establish some formal distinction.  However, there are compelling reasons for retain the analytic focus, as will be presented here, regarding Transference and Countertransference, as both adopted and adapted from the Psychoanalytic method. 

(a note on the spelling for publishing purists- texts from Freud and the classical school show a one word spelling for “Countertransference,” while Jung’s texts typically read “Counter-transference;” these differences are nonconsequential and reflect editing choices.)

Ego and Classical Psychoanalysis

An understanding of  Transference and Countertransference might be gained without context, but is best explored with some history of the founding and continuing practice of Western Psychoanalysis.  This is adopted for our approach to dream analysis, and more specifically adapted to dream analysis when we add relevant components of the Dream and Sleep Yogas.

We stay strictly on the Western path at this time, and as one might have asked “Should we not add Freud to the title here?” the answer is clearly “Yes…but.”  The understanding and practice of Psychoanalysis originated with Sigmund Freud in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and while modified as many times as there are practicing Psychoanalysts, the root concepts and method remain an integral part of the practice, regardless as to what school of modification is claimed.  However, the stereotyped reputation of Freud is such as to dissuade too obvious an association.

Today, we have several types of Psychoanalysis, notably Freudian, Neo-Freudian, Classical, Ego, Neoclassical, Jungian, Self, and Relational, but this is not an exhaustive list. Of these, all but Self and Relational are very close to Freud’s methods.  Ego and Classical categories comprise the large part of Freud’s work, with various changes to accommodate the growth of both knowledge in the field, largely resulting from the accumulation of more and more case histories that may be studied, as well as political correctness. 

That last part is clearly indicated, as a reading of Freud’s critical texts sees the focus on the sexual aspects of girl and woman, and interpreting everything from a “man as doctor,” “woman as (often hysterical) patient.”  perspective.  Those following Freud in the ego and classical schools, including his daughter Anna, would adjust such emphasis.  In another section, some of Freud’s quotes may be given, indicating the great degree of reliance on the woman’s anatomy and sexual experience. 

However, given that Psychoanalysis was not only a medical phenomenon, but a social one, and many of those in attendance at Freud’s lectures were young women, in a time sexuality was only starting to be widely and publicly discussed among women as well as men, it is understandable from a business point of view- Freud talked to those things his audience found “most titillating.”

Transference and Countertransference

For our purposes here, we need only examine the core of the Psychoanalytic process, to understand Transference and Countertransference.  Freud introduced the method of the patient reclining on a couch, with the analyst seated behind and outside their immediate view.  In this manner, a certain amount of objectivity might be permitted, a more scientific analysis than that which prevailed at the time, some of which centered on hypnosis.  Largely Freud’s method eclipsed that of hypnosis as a means of facilitating improvement of the patient.  

His methods have been well documented in his texts, with the “Dora” case history being a classic which condensed his methods and approach in a short, very readable book.  By eliminating the face to face type of interview and discussion, Freud hoped to minimize any subjective dynamic, where the influencing activities of the “analyst-analysand pair” might be diminished, and preferably eliminated.  This might include bias brought about by looking at the facial clues and body language, feeling nervous, and avoiding confrontation of the “in your face” variety.  However, it is widely recognized that preconceptions of both analyst and analysand can not be eliminated.  Both come into an analysis with certain views as to what the other one is, and what they may do and say.

Over the 20th century, a good amount of humanizing would take place to move the analysis from the caricature of Freud as a judgemental scientist, approaching the patient as a biological specimen to be observed and perhaps experimented with, to what today one may find the labeling of the two a “dynamic duo,” where both are capable of influencing each other, and may go so far as to term them “equal participants in an evolving relationship.”

The key that we are driving towards, as an important component in our dream analysis, is that a transference of the analysand occurs, in which the unconscious components are brought to the surface and to the attention of the analyst.    This conveyance, with the involved dynamic of the consciousunconscious, or transference, forms the main action of Psychoanalysis.

S.H. Goldberg (Textbook, ch. 5, 2012) discusses the following definition and properties of transference:

=> a universal mode of human relating in which past experiences and modes of thinking are brought to interactive life in a present relationship
a boundary concept linking:

  • dimensions of past/ present
  • unconscious/ conscious
  • intrapersonal/ interpersonal,
  • discovered/ created

=>the past contributes in generating present experience
=>the present transforms our experience of the past
=>a gateway to mutual understandings of the unconcious

Related to this core process, and occurring as a result of it, are resistance and Countertransference.  Resistance is one aspect of the two-way dynamic, and as classically viewed is a key element of the patient’s actions which must be eliminated by the analyst to make progress.  This effort then is part of Countertransference, where not only is the analyst taking in, but giving out to the patient.  It is recognized that the analyst can change as effort is made to effect positive change, that is an improvement in the clinical picture on the part of the patient.

As an indication of how interrelated these two processes are, an effort was made here in several places to discuss them separately, and then together.  However, this proved as useful as talking about only about wheels, and then talking only of engines, where the main subject to discuss is an automobile.   There may be a historic value in treating only transference first, but truly personal information exchange is never one way.

For more information, consult the Textbook of Psychoanalysis, or the works of Freud and Jung given in the References paper.  The purpose here is to supply a general introduction, so we can now relate to how this is involved with Dreams.

Transference and Countertransference as Relating to Dream Analysis

For anyone who already knew all of that above, and has skipped directly here, welcome, as we dive into the core material.  If you’ve jumped here just to save time, welcome as well and perhaps you’ll go back above for anything not understood.

CJ Jung, in “General Aspects of Dream Psychology,” explores countertransference as relating to dreams, with a healthy measure of skepticism for his medical peers.   One comes to the differences between Psychoanalysis and Analytic Psychotheraphy, with Jung splitting from the more scientifically diciplined, and yet, creatively challenged, physician’s approach to analysis, and in particular, dream analysis.

Jung’s discussion of dream analysis leads him to several issues related to his perceived narrow mindeness of the MDs.  He relates that:

doctors are not always the best guardians of the psychiatric art” and that of “all the professionals, the medical man has the least opportunity of developing the function of thinking…they have habituated themselves to handing out prescriptions and mechanically applying methods which they have not thought out themselves.”

It becomes little wonder then that while Freud commands a list of several hundred references (possibly a thousand) in the Textbook  of Psychoanalysis spanning several pages, while Jung has on one short line… five.   Jung would not likely be surprised to find today’s psychiatrists handing out Rx for things such as ADHD, anxiety, and depression (often these three together), putting 10% of American school children on what is likely to be a lifelong, roller coaster dependency on drugs.  It becomes simply more profitable and expedient for a school counselor and a psychiatrist to spend 30 minutes each on a troubled child, than to engage in a more holistic and organic treatment. (read The End of Sadness for more on the US addiction to psychiatric drugs)

Jung goes on to say:

“I have found that even elementary distinctions, such as those between subjective level and objective level, ego and self, sign and symbol, causality and finality, etc, which are of the utmost importance in practical treatment, overtax their thinking capacities.” 

Perhaps Jung is fortunate to have the five references!  Jung looked further and deeper into many levels for the understanding of dreams than did Freud, although Freud must be credited for the core method involving transference and analysis.   Jung wrote that

“the interpretation of dreams as infantile wish-fulfilments… is too narrow and fails to do justice…A dream, like every elements in the psychic structure, is a product of the total psyche…. The dogma that mental diseases are diseases of the brain is a hangover from the materialism of the 1870s.”

Now that we’ve established how that split happened, at least in large part, here is what Jung has to say about countertransference, and one can see the MD raising a skeptic’s eyebrow.  Yet, as we will find when we better explore our methods of MIN and MALA, and broaden our approach to include eastern and western approaches to the mind, Jung had much to offer the field of dream analysis. 

Jung extended transference to projection, and examined both the physical aspect of an object, or it’s quality , and the energy and value associated with the object.  He wrote (paragraph 519, General Aspects of Dream Psychology, after paras 364,383 in The Psychology of the Transferrance):

For all projections provoke counter-projections when the object is unconscious of the quality projected upon it by the subject, in the same way that a transference is answered by a counter-transference from the analyst when it projects a content of which he is unconscious but which nevertheless exists in him.”

Jung stated the importance of this counter as a means of pulling an object out of the unconscious by hooking to the projection, thereby luring it out.  Whereas Freud minimized the value of the counter-transference, stating largely that is was something negative, for the analyst to simply be aware of and be mindful of, Jung saw the method in its use (and other analysts as well, as it is firmly rooted in the classical and neoclassical schools).   Jung went further, though, discussing the tie between transference and countertransference as “a compulsive and forcible tie, because it creates a mystical or unconscious identity with the object.”   He goes to the heart of the matter of resistance however, when he writes:

“Against these unconscious ties there are always resistances- conscious resistances if the subject’s attitude allows him to give his libido only voluntarily, but not to have it coaxed or forced out of him; unconscious resistances is he likes nothing better than having his libido taken from him.  Thus transference and counter-transference, if their contents remain unconscious, create abnormal and untenable relationships which aim at their own destruction.








…this section is currently in preparation, publication to occur once review is completed, so for now, a bit of humor and entertainment as a reward for waiting… perhaps this migrates to a Humor page at some point.

a dangerous method

“self crediting and sensational” anonymous ad review

“if Carl had just grown the damn beard, he’d get some credit by the ego- classical pundits!”

“I am telling you both to take me serious.  Yes, I can grow a beard but you won’t want to see it… oh, no you don’t Sigmund, I am not going there again with you.  Behave!”

polar bears check out sub

Who invited this ugly duckling to our party?? Did they bring their own bottle at least?


We had sailor last week, but perhaps if we fry them this time instead of boiling.

And here is a place for a joke by Harrison Ford, when he was on the David Letterman show.  Better, google this, adding “cannibal” in your search term, the video will be better.

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