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Nunberg, H. (1951). Transference and Reality. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 32:1-9.

(1951). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 32:1-9

Transference and Reality

Herman Nunberg

A patient of mine was from the beginning of treatment very critical of me; whatever I did or said was wrong. She found fault with everything. She corrected me constantly, trying to teach me what to do, how to behave, what to think and what to say—not only what to say, but also how to say it. Because I could not give in to her attempts to re-educate me, she felt hurt and angry. Although she soon recognized that she expected literally to find her father in me, she did not change her attitude. The more conscious the attachment to her father became to her, the more she demanded that I change to the likeness of his image within her.

What did this attitude express? Certainly, it did not reflect the phenomenon that we call transference. It revealed merely her readiness for transference. This readiness obviously produced two attitudes in her: first, an expectation of finding her real father in the analyst; secondly, the wish to change the real person of the analyst into her father as she imagined him. As this desire could not be realized, she suffered constantly from disappointments, frustrations and anger. This situation led to conflicts with her analyst on a quasi-real basis. Thus it is evident that she did not 'transfer' her emotions from her father to her analyst, but rather that she attempted to transform her analyst into her father. The particular fixation to her father created the wish to find his reincarnation in the person of the analyst, and, since her desire to transform the latter into a person identical with her father could not be fulfilled, the attempts to establish a working transference were futile.

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