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Bachant, J.L., Adler, E. (1997). Transference: Co-Constructed Or Brought To The Interaction?. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 45:1097-1120.

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(1997). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 45:1097-1120

Transference: Co-Constructed Or Brought To The Interaction?

Janet Lee Bachant and Elliot Adler

Contemporary understandings of transference diverge around the issue of whether transference is co-constructed by both parties to the analytic interaction or brought to it by each participant. Examining the evolution of the concept of transference distills some of the issues inherent in this controversy. It is suggested that each of these conceptualizations contributes something essential to the development of a broader picture of the way transference functions in the clinical setting. If transference is viewed as a process operating along a continuum of repression, both co-construction of the interaction and the primitive wishes, fears, and fantasies brought to the interaction can be parsimoniously accounted for. Adaptive and archaic transference activity are distinguished, and the two dimensions of transference, dynamically interconnected, are shown to be essential aspects of analytic understanding.

Alongside resistance, unconscious fantasy, compromise formation, and defense, transference stands as a nucleus of psychoanalytic thinking about technique. It is especially prized for its ability to crystallize the meaning of current patterns of interaction, as well as for its


Janet Lee Bachant is a Senior Supervisor, faculty member, and Training Analyst, Psychoanalytic Institute of the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health, and faculty member, Westchester Center for the Study of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy. Elliot Adler is a Training Analyst and Senior Supervisor, Psychoanalytic Institute of the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health, and faculty member and Supervisor, Westchester Center for the Study of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy.

Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the March 2, 1997, meeting of Division 39, American Psychological Association, Denver; the March 25, 1997, scientific meeting of the New York Psychoanalytic Association; and the May 17, 1997, meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association. The authors thank Leon Kupferstein and Howard Levine for their thoughtful and stimulating discussions of the paper, and Jacob Arlow, Ken Barish, Peter Buirski, Arthur Lynch, Leo Rangell, and Arnold Richards for reading and critically commenting on earlier drafts. Submitted for publication June 1, 1996.

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capacity to uncover the perpetually active unconscious wishes and fears from childhood that continue to organize experience. Acknowledged as a central dynamic force within the psychoanalytic situation since Freud's postscript to the Dora case (1905), this concept has generated an enormous and continually expanding literature. Burgeoning discussion among analysts of different theoretical persuasions is currently stimulating creative reformulations and innovative approaches to understanding the process of transference. Many of the most salient issues in this controversy converge on the question of whether transference is better conceived as co-constructed in the analytic situation or brought to the analytic interaction by the patient.

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