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Alvarez, A. (1983). Problems in the Use of the Countertransference: Getting it Across. J. Child Psychother., 9(1):7-23.

(1983). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 9(1):7-23

Problems in the Use of the Countertransference: Getting it Across

Anne Alvarez

As work in the counter-transference is so closely linked with work in the transference, it may be useful to comment on some developments and difficulties in the notion of transference. In Freud's earliest thinking, in the Studies on Hysteria, and in the Dora case, the transference is seen mostly as an obstacle, a resistance, a symptom to be removed, decontaminated (1895d) (1905). Gradually it changes. What starts, in the Studies on Hysteria, as a transference of a woman's compulsive wish for a kiss, and is consistent with libido theory, changes by the time of the Wolf Man to a transference on to Freud of the wish to have the love (frequently it is still only the sexual love) of a valued father (1918). The gradual humanization of Freud's general conceptual structure was accompanied by a major change in his view of the source of the forces of repression. Thus, in The Ego and the Id, the controlling, restraining forces are no longer seen as issuing from external reality, as a sort of lid on the cooking pot, but as a conscience speaking with a human voice to the child in the patient (1923).

Melanie Klein pushed the humanizing process even further in her study of the very primitive superego in paranoid and depressive psychotic patients and in very young children (1955). She found scattered human elements existing in piecemeal form in what appeared to be phantasies of the most inhuman forces and objects. In this light a fascination with fire or electricity, a sensual attachment to a velvety fabric, say, would be seen as representing not only sexual impulses of the patient, but also the imagined sexual and sensual qualities and powers of his parents, or parts or aspects of his parents.

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