J is for Jung

jungGood Morning! I have a busy day ahead, so I thought that instead of writing something completely fresh, I would share with you the short paper I wrote on Carl Jung last quarter. Our assignment each week was to write a couple of paragraphs on the personality theorist of the week. We were to choose our favorite concept that theorist espoused and explicate it a bit and then we were to find an outside source that explains that concept and write a bit more about it.

My favorite Jung concept is transference. I’ve always wondered about how this concept works–and given the intimate nature of counseling or therapy, I’ve always suspected that transference is completely normal. How can a person not develop strong feelings towards someone with whom they share such intimate life details?

I found two articles in Psychology Today that I thought did a fantastic job of slicing through this tricky concept. I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I did. Here’s my paper (Feist is the author of the text we read):

Favorite Jung Concept: Transference

Once concept that Feist touches on but doesn’t delve too far into with either Jung or Freud is the idea of transference. We first encounter the concept of transference with Freud, who believed that the “transference situation is vital to psychoanalysis” (Feist, p. 51). According to Freud, “transference refers to the strong sexual or aggressive feelings, positive or negative, that patients develop toward their analyst during the course of treatment.” Freud maintains that the therapist does nothing to earn the patient’s feelings; the patient was simply putting on the therapist the feelings the patient had toward his or her parents.  Like Freud, Jung believed that transference is a “powerful ally to the therapeutic process” (Feist, p. 51), but unlike Freud, he attributed transference, both positive and negative, as a natural outcome of the patients’ intimate revelations. It followed, Jung believed, that a patient would have strong feelings toward his or her therapist after revealing such personal information (Feist, 132). Jung encouraged his patients to see him as a savior or a god, according to Feist, as he guided them on their paths to wholeness and self-acceptance. Given that Jung had affairs with two of his patients, Sabina Spielrein and Toni Wolff, we can conclude that Jung might have seen himself as a bit more than merely a facilitator or guide on his patients’ journeys and did not do his own work to understand or overcome the pull of countertransference.

Outside Sources on Transference

While Feist doesn’t have much to say about transference with either Freud or Jung, quick research reveals a wealth of information. An article by Stephen A. Diamond in Psychology Today, http://bit.ly/1f0sfVh, takes a closer look at both Jung and Freud on this issue as well as at the concept of transference from a patient’s perspective. In a letter to Jung, Freud called psychoanalysis a love cure, and Diamond does a nice job of untangling how this “love cure” can work in therapy without crossing any moral or ethical boundaries. Therapy clients, Diamond asserts, come to therapy seeking to heal an unresolved “love wound,” looking for “acceptance or physical affection they never received from their [parents].” Therapists can heal this wound, not by entering in to an erotic relationship with clients, but by making “deliberate and proscribed use of love’s potent power to help patients heal . . . from being inappropriately loved.” Diamond acknowledges the difficulty inherent in providing the therapy patient with “a loving, supportive, caring, empathic, and non-judgmental” relationship that can truly help a client heal. Diamond also points out the importance of not denying the client’s strong feels when they do come up in a session, but to “honor and reflect” on the feelings without acting on them. For a client who has experienced trauma, large or small, around love, the therapist’s offering of a platonic love, according to Diamond, gives the patient an opportunity to respond “in kind . . . [t]o open up to love” with all of its risks and potential pitfalls. Handled properly, transference is, says Diamond, “the royal road into the very core of the love wound complex.”

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