Academic journal article American Journal of Psychotherapy

Transference: Shibboleth or Albatross

Academic journal article American Journal of Psychotherapy

Transference: Shibboleth or Albatross

Article excerpt

JOSEPH SCHACHTER: Transference: Shibboleth or Albatross. The Analytic Press, Hillsdale, NJ, 2002, 276 pp., $45.00, ISBN 0-88163-323-2.

In the history of psychoanalysis, it is said, that there have been three designated shibboleths: the Oedipus complex, the interpretation of dreams, and the theory of transference. As the title of this book, "Transference: Shibboleth or Albatross," implies, Joseph Schachter, a psychoanalyst, argues that the concept of transference is not a shibboleth but rather an albatross. He provides an explicit rationale for discarding Freud's transference theory and proposes an alternative theory that focuses on the meanings of the patient's current conscious and unconscious feelings and fantasies about the analyst, which he terms "habitual relationship patterns." Habitual relationship patterns are defined as "persistent feelings and fantasies, conscious and unconscious, which shape our customary ways of relating to others" (p. 149). The therapist's job then is to maintain focus on the "here and now," rather than on childhood events and provide hope of enhancing the efficacy of analytic treatment.

Traditionally, the concept of transference comprises of two elements: first, the patient's feelings and fantasies about the analyst and, second, the etiology of these feelings and fantasies in the individual's history. It is likely that Freud's emphasis on historical antecedents of transference were the result of Darwin's influence on his thinking. For the past several decades there is increasing evidence that childhood experiences are often modified by subsequent experiences; and it is unlikely, therefore, that they will persist and subsequently lead to transference. If infant determinism, the keystone to the theory of transference, is false, then the current theory of transference can no longer be upheld.

Most psychotherapists, especially those trained in the traditional psychoanalytic model, use transference interpretations to which are attributed mutative affects of treatment. Schachter correctly points out that the evidence for this is lacking, especially if interpretations are exclusively those of transference. …

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