Saturday, July 17, 2010

Transference and projection

Roses asks, “Is projection a lot different to transference then?”

Many do say that transference involves a good deal of projection but that is not actually accurate in the technical theoretical sense.

Projection was originally hypothesised as a defence mechanism. Its goal is to allow the person to maintain a positive self image. It allows the person to view self in a positive light which we all want to do.

We all have Child ego state urges that our Parent ego state does not think is right, good or proper. If we consciously acknowledge these in our Adult ego state then we feel bad about ourselves. They usually involve things like sexual thoughts, greed, envy, revenge and even feelings which some see as bad such as anger.

A good example of this is the passive aggressive personality. A woman has angry and aggressive feelings in herself which her Parent ego state thinks is bad. To maintain a positive view of self she must push these feelings into her unconscious so she is not aware of them. She can use projection to do this and will start to see those around her as being angry and aggressive as the passive aggressive personality tends to do. They tend to feel poorly and unfairly treated by the angry others around her and tends to view self as righteous and decent.

Of course her unconscious anger does not go away so she will also express it in a passive way such as with sarcasm, bitchiness, slight ridicule and so forth. With the proficient passive aggressive person, after talking with them for a time you start to feel bad (and maybe even angry) and you kind of don’t know why. They are so good at hiding the expression of their anger you don’t even know it is happening. That is one of the tell tale signs of the passive aggressive personality you come away from then feeling bad about something and you can’t really figure out why.

However getting back to the point. The passive aggressive personality often uses the projection of their anger out onto others so as to defend their own self perception.

Transference involves “placing mother or father’s face onto the therapist or another person”. That does sound very projection like and often the person is quite unaware they are doing it which is also a feature of the defence mechanism of projection.

However in transference the wife’s projection of father’s face onto her husband is not to defend ones self perception. She is not doing it to keep some unwanted urge or feeling in her unconscious. Hence it is not a defence mechanism in the technical sense of the word. Thus one could argue that it is not projection which is a defence mechanism which is designed to keep something out of the conscious.

So what does one conclude? It seems to me that humans are capable of projecting out internal feelings, thoughts, urges and relationship prototypes and so forth onto others in the world. We are all capable of the psychological process of projection. However there are a variety of reasons why a person would employ the process of projection of which all humans are capable. Thus we have two aspects of projection.

1. The psychological projection process.

2. The psychological motive behind the projection.

If the motive is to keep some undesirable feeling in the unconscious then we have the defence mechanism of projection.

If the motive is to place a relationship template onto another person then we have transference projection.

In answer to your question Roses. In transference people will use the psychological projection process but for different motives than it is used in the defence mechanism of projection.



  1. Yeah Tony, thanks for your reply.
    After I posted you the question, I thought about it.

    1. Projection is because I don’t want to/ not allowed to know something about me – we pretend.

    Because we swallow it into our subconscious, when we see it, our C ego state kind of goes – “Oh yeah! That’s right! I did that – boy it was good!”
    Meanwhile our P ego state says – “NO! See how yucky that is... we’re not like THEM!”
    After which chimes in our C ego state with something like – “Oh yeah – eww! We’re not like them!”

    So that links up with the whole; “I’m/we’re ok, you’re/they’re not ok” thing? So we can feel good/better about self?

    2. Transference is a need sought, that may or may not have been fulfilled from an object/person. Somehow we pretend that this need may be ‘magically’ filled by another object/person – we pretend.

    “My dad used to like to sit and talk with me when I was little, my husband isn’t like that now, but he will become just like my dad – I will change him.”

    10 years later...

    “I wonder why my husband isn’t talking to me? He must not love me anymore.”

    “Wow, there’s really something wrong with my husband... he’s changed so much. We don’t talk anymore.”

    “I’m ok, you’re not ok.”

    Answer SEEMS simple... my husband IS NOT my dad NOR WILL HE EVER BE, and no amount of pretending will change that fact.

    Is that even close to what projection and transference can be like?

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