I've been contemplating this for a while, and I have a few questions, and I'm hoping a few lovely people might be able to share their experiences …

From what i understand, there are two key transference feelings in therapy one might experience with / towards their T. One is wanting your T to be like a mum and care for you and protect your like a mum should. Then there's erotic transference, where you don't want them to be a mother to you, but a lover / partner.

My Questions are:

1) Can it change from one to another over time?

Or if you feel one way, it will stay that way, while you work through it?

2) If someone is experiencing erotic transference with their T, does that mean its 'progress' in that it's a more 'adult' version of the type of transference where you are coming from a child part and want to be held and 'mothered'?

3) Does erotic transference mean you've worked thoroughly worked through one set of painful feelings (i.e., wanting to be held and your T to be a mother type figure towards you), and they wont come up again?

I'm just looking back and trying to work out what it was I've felt with different Ts in the past, and what I'm feeling with my current T … I'm ok with the feelings I'm having, i don't feel ashamed - not that I'm 'there' to talking specifically about them with her YET, but it's not in the 'this i will NEVER talk about' - and i have discussed some aspects of transference with her already, albeit briefly - i sent her an email expressing my fears and pain, and how the therapeutic relationship mirror that of the one i had with my mother

1) someone potentially kind and caring at the end of it, but who cannot (my mother) or will not (my T) care for me in the way I'd like or need;

2)the power imbalance and how much more heavy my feelings are towards her than her towards me - with my mother, i needed her desperately, but at times she was pretty indifferent to me - it was like she could take or leave the love i had for her, whereas i NEEDED her to love me; with my T - it's more like how if i disappeared off the face of the earth, she would get over it pretty quick; whereas if something happened to her, i'd be truly devastated.

3)similar to that - is that she (my T) will always be more important to me, than i am to her. With my mother, i never gave up trying to get her to love me - if i was better behaved, if i managed to take better care of HER needs; If i got it RIGHT, she would love me back like i needed her to. But with my T - i know already, nothing will change how she is with me - nothing i say, or do, will 'have her care about me' in anywhere near the same depth i care about her. it already feels futile - Ouch.

We haven't really talked much more about it since - but a lot has stemmed from that email and discussion on it, in that being able to tell her how i felt was a HUGE step for me (even fi it was via email). I've never faced head on, any transference feelings I've had with a T.

it's both exciting, scary, happy and sad; loving and painful all in one!
Original Post
Eliza, There is a great website with a fantastic explanation about erotic transference also called the love transference.
Read this. It may clarify some stuff for you.
The website is called guidetopsychology.com. In the clinical section you will find the article.
I brought it to my T. He thought it was spot-on and very well written.
Thanks I'll go check that out.

Would still be helpful though if anyone ??? wants to share their thoughts / experiences....
Quick read of it - thank you for the link very hopeful, but it didn't answer the questions I have

(And can I just say AGs blog is waaaaaaaaaaaayyyy mo re informative on the subject ... Just can't find the answers to my Qs on there so far).

I much prefer personal experience rathe than some psychologist or 'expert' and their theories. It never comes across as if they TURLY know what it is about and what it is LIKE. If that makes sense.
Hi there Eliza,

I'm not sure I have answers as such but in response to 2) I'm not sure different types of transference indicate progress or a lack thereof.

I also don't think different forms of transference are necessarily experienced sequentially either, although I think they can flow from one to the other.

An example I have is that I experienced very strong ET towards a male T AND I felt much better able to trust him although it took a long time to get to that point. That was over 10 years ago now.

I am seeing a female T right now and I have both positive and negative feelings of maternal transference towards her. Trust is a much bigger issue.

It's my opinion that the transference in my situation is different for lots of reasons. I think there's a gender and age element to it perhaps. My male T all those years ago was closer to me in age whereas female T could at a pinch be old enough to be my mother, although she would have had to have got started pretty early!! I think that has paved the way for maternal transference feelings to come out. I also think I did not associate male T with a maternal, more a paternal figure and the dynamic between my dad and I was very different - so the feelings that were elicited between male T and I were more to do with the unfinished business related to my dad perhaps? I'm not so sure on this one.

The one thing I would say is that I don't think erotic transference and maternal/paternal transference are necessarily completely separate things. For example with my male T I wanted him to be both a caretaker and a partner - those feelings were sort of all mushed together. It's worth thinking that language and words are just a way to try and define things to try and make sense of them so all these terms can be are approximations, rather than fixed "truths" which I know doesn't exactly help with the frustration when trying to think about it because it feels like trying to nail steam to a wall.

I'm sure AG has a good explanation somewhere of why the parental feeling can tip over into the erotic but my brain is a bit woolly today so I can't remember which post it is.

Wow your feelings and insights into those feelings so closely resemble my own in regards to the mom and T correlation.

In the beginning I was experiencing mostly erotic transference for my T and then it shifted to maternal transference once I voiced the fact that I was having erotic transference toward her to her. Telling her about it seemed to have killed a lot of its power. For me I think the lines got further blurred because I am a sexual abuse survivor and my mom was my abuser. Sometimes now with the maternal transference when T is being nice and encouraging the erotic transference shows itself again. As a child I equated love and nurturing with sex.

I have had transference with other female Ts in the past and to be honest I never worked through the transference before so I can't say if it ever stops or if we ever work it through to completion. For me, the only thing I can do is try to see it for what it is, make the connection in my brain to the past, try not to take the emotions of my transference out on my current T and try to tame my emotional responses.

I hope you get some relief from this. I am right there with you.
I'm with Mallard. I don't think one type of transference indicates progress over the other.

I'm also a sex abuse survivor, and I've found that a lot of my erotic feelings overflow into close, caring relationships. With my T, there's very much an innocent, child-like part of me that wants to be cradled and rocked by him; there's another part that would like to engage in some more, uh, adult forms of affection. Then there's a third part that's perfectly content with our relationship as it is - and, for me, this indicates the greater reality of how I truly feel. The other stuff is my brain trying to work out some really complex dynamics that involve my past experiences.

In short, it's possible to experience parental and erotic transference at the same time. And just because you're experiencing one doesn't mean the other one isn't lurking in the background somewhere waiting for its turn to come up. It's different for everybody.

Working through the power imbalance and accepting that your T cannot care for you in the way you would like is REALLY tough stuff, and it takes time. Just keep processing it and talking about it. You'll get there.

Hug two
Awe thanks eveyrne for yr replies - really helps hearing other people's experiences - I think when it's less personal (ie reading about it written by some 'expert' whose never felt or experienced it, is so clinical and ... Cold, so I find it almost impossible to relate to!).

Sorry this is so long - I write a lot as it helps me process my feelings; articulate them and get it clearer in. Y head WHAT it all means - so please bare with me!

Mallard - my T is probably the same age as me ... I've never seen a male T (and doubt I ever ever would). I've experienced different types of transference with different Ts. I've experienced mummy transference, and ET. I've experienced ET with close female friends - and it's only now, after reading a lot about it that I relaid those feelings were ET and not some form of misguided love (I say misguided because unsurprisingly, both close female friends I experienced it with were quite unwell in their own way - clearly repeating the relationship I had with my own mother).

I wasn't trying to Imply one form is 'more advanced' than the other - I guess I was curious to see if it's evidence (for myself) of some emotional maturity of my child part; moving from one mummy to ET.

I very much relate to mixed transference. I think with my current T it's both - but overall it's VERY positive. She does. It remind me in any way of my mother - I don't even know if she IS a mother herself (thank god). I feel afraid of getting close / letting down walls. I've had one experienced of feeling like she emotionally molested me (invaded me), even though I was able to be clear in my mind it was absolutely unintentional. I was able to talk it through with her, and it was resolved pretty quick. (I didn't want to hurt her feelings by telling her how much it had hurt - cos I KNEW it was absolutely my reaction more than any intent on her part). I have the feelings of intense FEAR and SHAME, in working on letting her in and building an emotional intimacy. But on the same hand, deep down I know I can trust her an she is very very very insightful and so awesome at her job, I trust her so much.

I think most of the time I'm able to be very clear in my own mind that all the feelings I have with and around and about her are related to my past; so it's rare that I lose insight into that - which makes it a whole lot easier to process!

Ghost Girl I think her so damn brave telling your T about the ET!!! Man that takes GUTS! I've never worked through it before either. But I can tell you, in my experience so far working through it with my T has resulted in me being able to feel so much more honestly connected to her emotionally. Being open and honest about how she triggers past memories and feelings, I'm able to work through it WITH her, and I'm finding it so incredibly healing. I'm experiencing a level of emotional intimacy I've never that possible - I'm beginning to get a real sense of what 'pure' love might feel like. At the same time, I am able to hold onto the fact that the 'love' I feel towards my T isn't 'real' in that there will be no other relationship in. Y life that is sooooooooo one sided - ie, she's there for me and it's all about me; my feelings are always put first; her feelings don't come into it; I don't have to meet HER needs at all; I get all the 'best' parts of her for one hour once a week - I never really get to KNOW her as she really is - so it's all representational really.

That probably didn't make much sense Confused

Affinity. Hehehe - sorry, I did laugh out loud at the bit where you wrote about 'some uh, more adult forms of affection Big Grin.

I very much relate to that - which is probably why I laughed. With my current T, I haven't ever really felt longings for her to be mummy like - even though our therapeutic relationship has so many parallels with the relationship with my mother (mainly in terms of huge power imbalance); more often than not, I feel a lot of affection towards my T that mirrors that of a partner / adult relationship. I have not talked to her about it, and for now anyway, I don't feel a need to - as I feel I understand why I feel the way I do, and I don't feel it's an 'issue'.

More often than not, I feel I am able to enjoy feeling deep feelings of love towards her, without losing insight at all of what it is REALLY about (and what it's not). Sometimes it's more 'lustful' and I know in those cases, what I'm feeling is more to do with trying to tilt the power inbalance more towards ME being the one 'in control' (ie - in my fantasy, she 'wants me' and therefore becomes the vulnerable one, with me in the position of more 'power' who can decide if I want to 'give in' to what she wants - or not.) AGs blog has helped me SO much with knowing and understanding these feelings . I'm just not as good at articulating it as she is.

Other times, the feelings I have are more about expressing my deep care for her - in an adult way (ie sexually). I feel incredibly tender towards her, and the thought of her being sad or hurt breaks my heart . So I guess in those times, the erotic feelings are about expressing my 'love' for her in 'an adult way'- but the overwhelming feeling is warmth, caring, and tenderness - rather than aching and longing and sadness. If that makes any sense Confused.

I must say, I actually ENJOY feeling this way most of the time. Why? Becasue for the first time in my life, I'm getting to experience a very safe, very loving, kind and caring 'relationship' - where my feelings of 'love' are able to be expressed in an 'adult' way and even though it's in the confines of my head ('imagination') it's nonetheless incredibly powerful. Big Grin

I really do appreciate everyone sharing their experiences - I know for every reply and post shared on here by someone, there will be another few dozen people who are going through the same thing but perhaps still feeling so much shame even thinking about it, let alone sharing about it online.

I know what has helped me IMMENSELY is reading about other people's experiences if this - it's helped me realise I'm not 'wrong' or 'flawed' and it really is ok that I have the feelings I do Smiler

(If you're one of those people, I'd just encourage you to try to start to believe your feelings are PERFECTLY NORMAL and there is NO shame or 'wrongdoing' in how you're feeling. NONE. And if you can one day summon the courage needed, it is really really important to raise it with your T. I'm SO Glad I have, as ironically, instead if it driving her further away (I was convicted she'd find me REPULSIVE Frowner) it's reinforced our relationship and is enabling me to really work on building a deeper emotional connection with her).

Meant to get here sooner, but as I have mentioned in a number of places, the work schedule is a bit demanding these days. Smiler But I did want to weigh in.

1) Can it change from one to another over time?

In my experience absolutely. My feelings shift back and forth between romantic/erotic and paternal (which brings its own set of problems OR is an accurate reflection of my experience, depending on how you look at it), since my relationship with my father was incestuous and sexual feelings were mixed in with the paternal in an incredibly damaging way. Being able to track my shifting feelings about my T and what triggers me into what feelings has actually been really helpful in tracking and understanding how those beliefs were formed. For me, really strong erotic feelings are usually a flag that I am trying to avoid something really painful.

The paternal feelings tend to win out when the intensity of the past is not clouding things up, as that is closer to what our relationship really is.

Or if you feel one way, it will stay that way, while you work through it?

Again, in my experience, it shifts back and forth all the time, sometimes in the course of a session. It depends on a lot of factors, including what is going on in my life and in the therapeutic relationship.

2) If someone is experiencing erotic transference with their T, does that mean its 'progress' in that it's a more 'adult' version of the type of transference where you are coming from a child part and want to be held and 'mothered'?

I don't think transference of any kind is an indicator of progress. It just is. It's what occurs, because it's what is coming up in the relationship. So I think that the type of transference is governed by what gets tripped off inside of you and what resonates and where you, as the person you are, fit those feelings. That's why I think working with what is going on in the therapeutic relationship can be so effective (while also being terrifying and difficult) because how you behave with your therapist is often a microcosm of how you behave in all your relationships. The controlled environment (and the safety of that environment) are what afford you a chance to understand yourself, and become conscious of your behaviors and beliefs so you can work on changing those you wish to.

3) Does erotic transference mean you've worked thoroughly worked through one set of painful feelings (i.e., wanting to be held and your T to be a mother type figure towards you), and they wont come up again?


Sorry. Had to get that out. Smiler I think the more I have worked through all these feelings, the easier it has gotten, but this work is woven throughout my work in therapy and continues to be. I have never found therapy to be a straightforward proposition where you just continue upward on a path of progress. To me, it's a helix, where you go around, again and again, hitting the same major issues, but each time the prior work allows you to go deeper. And I don't think you're ever done growing. You don't reach a point where you say "OK I'm healed and there is no further need to be introspective or grow." Life just doesn't work that way. We will always have these issues, we just learn to manage them in such a way as to live a much fuller life. But there is always more to learn and to become aware of. I do think you can hit a point where you do not need weekly therapy or possible any therapy at all to engage in this process because of what you have learned, but the growth and learning itself will never be over. I think its an integral part of being alive.

A really good example of this from my therapy is the issue of wanting to be hugged or held. My T has an across the board no hugs policy and we have spent a lot of sessions spread over seven years on the topic. I have returned to it when it gets triggered. I have always found relief in being able to talk through it and then it settles for a while but later something happens and I have returned to the topic. It's become something we actually joke a lot about now because we've discussed it from so many aspects.

I loved the Guide to Psychology website and also got a lot out of it, especially the Q&A. In many ways, that site is the root of my knowledge about transference. I actually found it when I was first looking for answers about the growing attraction I was feeling for my then marriage counselor. Smiler The author was so clear about it being important to discuss these feelings was my motivation about opening up to my T about how I felt. I actually scheduled an individual appointment to talk to him about it. My T handled it beautifully and in many ways it led to me working with him individually (the story is on my blog in The Beginning). And the author is a lovely man, not long after opening up to my T, I wrote him to thank him and had a lovely warm, email exchange. I understand why you recommend it so highly.

Thank you for your reply AG - really appreciate it.

I kinda suspected what you said - that it's a helix with a loop going around and around... Guess I was hopeful it might be different though, Cos it's impossible to see how much deeper and more painful things can get - it's so up and down.

I can be doing ok, then thrown into deep pain ... Come out the other side, feeling better and feeling I've made progress - only for the next round of pain to be deeper still.

Since yesterday I'm really really struggling to hold onto hope that things will EVER get better

Just passed a major trigger each year (anniversary of my mothers death - I saw her die when I was 10 - sudden and violent fatal heart attack as I walked into her room). I got through that quite ok - even had a pretty good day! But now, my mood has been slipping deeper and deeper into an abyss.

I'm struggling to 'feel connected' to my T - right when I could really really do with feeling more connected. I know I 'ought' to hold onto more than my connection with her to keep me going, but it's not how I'm feeling right now. Sometimes when things are feeling really hope-less, my once a week contact with her shines in the dark like a far away beacon of hope - but right now, I can't even see a ray of her light. She feels so far away it's like she's not there at all

I ache so much for our 'one hour' this afternoon to help me FEEL a connection STEONG enough to help me through the next week. I arrive to see her feeling already sad that the one hour is passing me by with every passing minute. And suddenly, there's just 10 mins to go and that's it. Nothing for another whole week

Whenever I think of seeing my T I get waves of flashbacks from childhood. It's hideous. It's like living with one foot not really in the now, and most if me living in the past [***WARNING - TRIGGER MENTIONS SU AS A CHILD ***] - where life was so unbearable as a young girl I did actually try to take my life (really thought I could put my head under the water when I was in the bath and simply not come up again - the relief I felt T the idea of being able to escape was so huge - and the depression once it failed and I realised I had NO ESCAPE was so suffocating ) [END TRIGGER]

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