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Rendon, M. (1995). The Ambiguity of Transference. Am. J. Psychoanal., 55(3):199-214.

(1995). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 55(3):199-214

The Ambiguity of Transference

Mario Rendon, M.D.

“The patient sees in him (the analyst) the return, the reincarnation, of some important figure out of his childhood or past, and consequently transfers on to him feelings and reactions that undoubtedly applied to this prototype.”

(Freud, 1940, p. 174)

Freud (1900, p. 562) used the term transference for the first time in The Interpretation of Dreams to refer to the displacement from an infantile wish onto a “day residuememory. This transfer explained for Freud the fact that it was the trivial, not the dramatic memories, which were usually present in dreams. This represented a compromise reached by different topographies to allow for the manifestation of the wish while censorship was weak. Later Freud used the term transferences in the sense quoted above, meaning a similar displacement this time of a wish occurring in the psychoanalytic relationship, from infantile “prototypes” or “complexes” onto the analyst. The patient unconsciously “acts out,” in the relationship, the feelings and expectations of those early wish models.

Freud (1912, p. 97) did not reserve the term transference for the analytic situation but saw it as a pervading phenomenon in human relationships. However, he felt that the special characteristics of analysis made this situation ideal both for the emergence and the resolution of transferential displacements. The analyst is sort of an ideal day residue because of his constancy, closeness, neutrality, and abstinence. This paper intends to demonstrate the necessary ambiguity of the concept of transference, and how such ambiguity is reflected in a number of at times opposite theoretical interpretations along several transference-related issues. A common denominator will be sought.

First of all, most analysts have traditionally seen Transference and Resistance as the main coordinates of therapy, in the context of the analyst's expertise, neutrality, and abstinence, and of the patient's “most complete candor” manifested in free association (Freud, 1940, p. 174).

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