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Bernstein, A. (1958). The Problem of Transference in Psychoanalysts. Psychoanal. Rev., 45C(3):85-91.

(1958). Psychoanalytic Review, 45C(3):85-91

The Problem of Transference in Psychoanalysts

Arnold Bernstein

A mature and normal adult is a person who does not actually expect others to be engrossed in his personal problems and his state of well being, but has taken onto himself the primary responsibility for his own protection and gratification. Adults have abandoned unrealistic expectations that either the world or other people will relate to them as benevolent parents, and have shifted from an ego-centered view to a more objective view of themselves and the world around them. They are thus able to place their wishes into perspective with reality and minimize projective distortions arising from wishful thinking. Their mature egos are able to tolerate the frustration of knowing that one cannot always have what one wants but must renounce gratifications that are unattainable.

Emotionally immature individuals cling tenaciously to the ungratified wishes of their infancy and refuse to surrender these even in the face of clear evidence that wish-fulfillment has long since become a virtual impossibility. It is easy to see that such persons will continue, both in analysis and outside of it, to seek parental surrogates upon whom they will endeavor to transfer the responsibility for their personal care and happiness.

Because physical illness tends to render an individual more helpless than usual and more dependent than ever upon those who love him, it tends to encourage regressive behavior. And, by virtue of his authority and ability to bring relief from suffering, a physician-wittingly or unwittingly-reinforces such dependency feelings even further, sometimes fostering an almost childlike attitude on the part of patients and reviving in them their old expectations toward the parental figures of their past.

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