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Have you ever had a boss who could bring you to tears? Or enrage you to scary proportions?

Do you ever wonder why you select certain people from an online dating service, only to then be shocked at how they turn out face-to-face?

Do you struggle with men or women in general understanding you?

Most people could answer yes to these and similar questions.

Is the exaggerated emotion really about the boss, the blind date, or all men/women? Sure people can treat you badly, and you have a right to get upset, but it’s worth exploring unprovoked and subconscious reactions.

In psychotherapeutic terms, this is called a transference reaction. Originally developed by Freud, the concept of transference, in a nutshell, means you unconsciously transfer an emotion meant for one person onto another person. However, as I will guide you, you can learn to become conscious of this behavior.

Transference reaction sounds like a mouthful of psychobabble, but it’s something everyone is guilty of and, as a concept, is really quite simple.

To help clarify, let’s look at some examples of how transference plays into the original questions I asked.

The Boss: Your heightened reaction does not have to do exclusively with him, but with something about him—maybe the pitch of his voice, his eyes, the way he walks—that reminds you of your father, who was very controlling and belittling.  Your fear-based or approval-seeking behavior is related to your childhood experience but is informing your current work situation. You are transferring charged emotions from your father to your boss.

Online dating: You’re a male seeking a female. Your past relationships have all ended with your partner being unfaithful. All you know about your potential partner is based upon a paragraph and a couple of pictures in her bio. This makes her a perfect, white screen on which to project your desires and fears about women and relationships, based on your past romances. There is a downloaded blueprint about women and how they are that influences how you experience dating. Even in this superficial “filtering” process, you are drawn to the same types of women that are somehow familiar to you. There is an unconscious recognition and a compulsion to repeat what you have seen, which becomes what you recognize as love—although it does not produce the result you seek.

An entire gender “doesn’t get you”: You are a women who struggles to have non-romantic female relationships. Your mother left you when you were young and it has replayed throughout your life as “females will abandon you and cannot be trusted.”

As you read these scenarios, think about reactions you have to certain people and situations in your life. Where do you transfer feelings from a past injury to the present? If your response is extreme in relation to what is actually happening, this is a hint that you may be having a transference experience. To help you gain clarity and find the root (original) injury, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Where have I felt like this before?
  2. Why is this familiar?
  3. Who does this person remind me of?

When you connect the dots backward to the original experience, you can free yourself from the transference. By doing so, you will not compulsively react to people, but rather discover who they truly are. Just as you want to be authentically known and liked, so do others.

I know this can be a big issue and a bit confusing, so please ask any questions and leave comments. Knowing your insights can help others that are struggling. Please share your stories and responses to the three questions I posed.


PS. There is a guided Forgiveness to Freedom meditation on my Meditation Transformation CD if you need a little help getting started ❤


Terri Cole is a licensed psychotherapist, transformation coach, and an expert at turning fear into freedom. For almost two decades, Terri has empowered companies, celebrities, professional athletes, and individuals to Live Fearless and Free. Currently, Terri is wrapping up her first solo book project, “Flip Over and Float—8 Steps to Sustainable Change,” filming “The Conversation” for the Lifetime Network, executive produced by Demi Moore, set to launch February 2012. Terri can also be seen as the guest transformation expert on A&E’s Monster In-Laws. In addition to her website, Terri can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.