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W., H. (1952). International Journal of Psychoanalysis. XXXII, 1951: Transference and Reality. Herman Nunberg. Pp. 1–9.. Psychoanal Q., 21:574.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: International Journal of Psychoanalysis. XXXII, 1951: Transference and Reality. Herman Nunberg. Pp. 1–9.

(1952). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 21:574

International Journal of Psychoanalysis. XXXII, 1951: Transference and Reality. Herman Nunberg. Pp. 1–9.

H. W.

In this paper Nunberg attempts to clarify some of the basic mechanisms underlying the phenomenon of transference. He begins with the premise that 'transference is a projection', e.g., 'the patient's inner and unconscious relations with his first libidinal objects are externalized'. Transference must be differentiated from unsuccessful attempts to externalize unconscious object relationships. Nunberg gives contrasting clinical examples as illustrations: in one, the patient unsuccessfully 'tried [actually] to change her analyst according to the image of her father'; in the other, she 'succeeded in getting an identical picture of her father through the medium of a real person … she almost had a hallucination of her father'. Such a true transference called by Nunberg—following Freud—'identity of perceptions … forms the basis of the phenomenon which is called "acting out"'. With another clinical example the author shows how 'an urge to establish identity of perceptions through repetition of past experiences' is found in life situations other than the psychoanalytic one. Identification of perceptions is followed by projection; in fact at certain depths of analysis it is hard to differentiate between identification and projection, and the patient has difficulty in distinguishing his ego from the outside world. However, only in dreams, delusions and hallucinations is the 'identity of perceptions' fully gratified, is the old completely identified with the new.

Although repetition compulsion is the driving force behind transference, nevertheless the two are not to be confused. Repetition compulsion is regressive, backward-looking, fixed; while transference attempts to change present-day reality and to discharge the 'frozen' energy of past experience in 'a new and present reality and thus becomes a progressive force'. It is in this context that reality testing is furthered and the ego is gradually freed of its infantile involvement.

Finally Nunberg develops the thesis that 'through transference the patient is re-educated not only in respect to the instincts and surroundings but also in respect to the superego'. Again following Freud, he shows how in hypnosis—which is closely akin to the psychoanalytic transference situation—the hypnotist is identified with the superego of the patient, i.e., with the father image to whom he submits. Here is seen once more the 'tendency to establish identity of perceptions' in which the superego is projected onto the analyst. The all important task of the analyst—possible to him only if he has gained sufficient mastery over his narcissism—is to free the patient from his projected ego ideal.

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Article Citation

W., H. (1952). International Journal of Psychoanalysis. XXXII, 1951. Psychoanal. Q., 21:574

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