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Peters, R. (1991). The Therapist's Expectations of the Transference. J. Anal. Psychol., 36(1):77-92.

(1991). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 36(1):77-92

The Therapist's Expectations of the Transference

Roderick Peters, MB, M.R.C.P., M.Sc.

My next door neighbours have a Passion Flower creeper. It makes rather beautiful flowers which open into perfect mandalas and complete themselves as yellow egg-shaped fruits that turn deep orange. It is a vigorous plant, and many years ago came over the fence dividing our properties and also established itself in my garden, rooting itself in my earth and swarming over and above everything else.

If I do not want to end up with a garden of nothing but Passion Flower creeper I have to cut it down to size at fairly frequent intervals.

A metaphor to illustrate the therapist's experience of the transference? It certainly could be, but as it happens I want to use it to illustrate ideas and expectations about the transference - not any one particular transference, but transference in general. In other words I want to say something about how we use the term ‘transference’, and what it means to us.

It is important that the terms we use should mean something sufficiently definable; if they are allowed to sprawl all over the place they lose value. I think this is happening to the term ‘transference’; its meaning has become so extended that it tends to dominate the whole garden of psychotherapy.

Sometimes when I am supervising I hear a detailed account of some session; I hear how the patient told the therapist about a row with the boss at work, or a quarrel with the wife or husband, or about their anxiety over a sick child. The therapist, however, has contrived to take every statement, every gesture, every action, word and glance, as if it were a communication and expression of the patient's infantile relation to the therapist and has made various interpretations on this basis. Had the patient really been communicating all that the therapist imagined, these interpretations might have been valuable.

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