Call in the transference crew


I wish I could call in a cleaning crew to deal with the mess of the hectic transference I am dealing with in the therapy room at the moment. My feelings are splattered across DS’s wall in garish colours. It’s confusing and disorientating to look at. The sheen of shame casts a veil. I cringe. My true feelings trickle down in globs, split into rivulets, meet again as new shades. This is the Jackson Pollock of erotic transference, peeps.

I’ve been in its grip for quite a while but have always kind of tamed it with vigorous swipes of denial, obfuscation or throwing cold water over affectionate, loving feelings for him. As it has progressed, I’ve felt safe enough to open up to DS about my experience of him. He’s dissected dreams and fantasies of beds, being in nature together and other symbols. In my dreams, he appears as a playful, warm, loving, open and accepting male figure who cares about me. I feel beautiful, happy and seen. Awake, there is a longing that gnaws at my soul.

While I’ve tirelessly read up on what transference is and how it works, it has not eliminated the shame of feeling this way about DS when I am a married woman in love with her husband. There’s this little voice that screams that I am bad, not loyal and do not deserve my husband. Today is a strong day so I can muster up a “screw you” to that voice. Other days, I tend to believe it.

I guess the thing that I am slowly discovering is that feelings are not something you can really control. They just are. They pop up when they please. We then choose to assign meaning to them. This is new for me as I tend to to feel overly responsible for my thoughts and feelings, as well as of others’.

This magnetic pull to the wonderful DS is FIRMLY rooted in some long unmet childhood needs that he’s given the space to surface. If I think of it like that, DS is merely a safe container or receptacle for those desires. Instead of acting on them, he’s gently probed for meaning to help me understand what is going on.

The last thing I would want is for him to actually act out the fantasies or cross the boundaries. To do so would be very scary and completely obliterate the professional relationship we’ve both worked hard at creating and nurturing.

On Monday, DS asked me whether I had thought about being with him or what a romantic relationship with him would feel like. Obviously, he asked this question with the professional aim of working out the root of my longings. It was not intended as a suggestion or come-on. I replied that I had not really thought about it in concrete terms. Rather, I would have visions pop up every now and then of what it would be like to do things together or various scenes in which certain scenarios or feelings would play out.

The child in me wants to be loved without conditions or limits. She wants to be given the space to be playful, unrestricted and creative. Above all, she wants to be seen and be enough.

At the moment, I am restricted by my own doubts and fears about being worthy enough to assert myself in the world. Maybe, in the future, I will be brave and skilled enough to successfully fulfill these needs outside of therapy.

In the meantime, I have to trust in the process and try to deal with the awkwardness of talking about all sorts of erotic and romantic notions.

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22 thoughts on “Call in the transference crew

  1. plf1990 says:

    Really, really hard work, but so worth it in the long run. Thanks for sharing x

  2. You are so brave to be talking about these things in therapy. It always amazes me how honest and open you are with DS. Thank you for sharing this. Xx

    • Jay says:

      Wow, I have never really thought of it as brave. Thank you for giving me something to think about. Personally, there is a breaking point within myself where I can no longer keep something inside and have to share it. The impulse to lighten the burden with DS becomes more than the shame associated with it. I wasn’t always this way though. I just used to keep everything inside. I guess that’s progress. Thank’s for being a loyal reader x

  3. Jay!!! You are doing it!!! Talking about the transference!!! Its exciting and frightening all at once. Try to enjoy it!

    • Jay says:

      Your enthusiastic comment made me grin 🙂 We’ve talked in drips and drabs about the transference. But now it feels like something I need to really confront and examine. I guess what I really need from DS at the moment is for him to normalize my feelings. I am hoping the reassurance I need about these particular feelings is healthy because I damn well need it! Could not imagine the possibility of feeling further shame.

  4. I wondered at myself sometimes as I drove away from therapy and thought a very loud clear thought, “The only person I need is Raymond.” (be it father, brother, romantic partner, etc.)
    What an odd feeling so strong it almost yelled at me in my head.
    My take much later, years gone by now since he moved away; It was the first times I felt intimacy of any kind. I’d stumbled onto a place with the right person who laid the groundwork of trust, that he was trustworthy, and I could relax even just a little, and just a little, be myself while at the same time do so with another human being right there beside me; and most importantly, feel ‘safe.’ Thank you Raymond.
    And thank you Jay for such an honest post.

    • Jay says:

      You put it so beautifully. It’s all about the intimacy. Such a foreign concept for so many people. To feel safe and authentic with another is healing and paves the way for growth. Thank you Raymond indeed x

  5. sheswingsinbirches says:

    “The child in me wants to be loved without conditions or limits. She wants to be given the space to be playful, unrestricted and creative. Above all, she wants to be seen and be enough.”

    (small voice)
    this is me.

  6. amandarocksyoursocks says:

    This is such a beautiful post. I think all of us here on the blogosphere are so proud of your bravery. 🙂
    I wish I could put into words how agonizing this whole therapy process feels for me. How much I miss my old therapist and just want to run back to her, and how much I DON’T want to bring it up with my current one.
    I think you summed it up perfectly here: “The child in me wants to be loved without conditions or limits. She wants to be given the space to be playful, unrestricted and creative. Above all, she wants to be seen and be enough.” Thanks for that reminder~~

    • Jay says:

      You are very kind. Therapy definitely seems to be one of those things in life which is generally very beneficial but not always pleasant. It’s like visiting the dentist. You know it is good for you but it hurts so much sometimes and can invoke fear and dread.

      As for missing your old therapist… I am really sorry you are sitting with this longing and feel you have no way to soothe it x

    • Hi your comment really really struck a chord with me. I spent about the first eight months with my current therapist, grieving the loss of ex therapist and longing to go back (which for a while was a possibility). I still miss her and still idealised her but thankfully have a much closer relationship with my current therapist than I did then. Although it’s horrendously difficult, can I encourage you to talk about this with your therapist, when you feel a bit readier? It seems like it’s probably a really important part of the context in which your therapy is happening, it would almost certainly be helpful for them to know and might lead to some important work and insights. All I can say is that it did for me….any good therapist would welcome such a discussion and wouldn’t take it personally. I worried about it endlessly particularly as I felt I was spending all my time telling my therapist all the wonderful things my ex therapist said and did, which she didn’t say or do. But my therapist is committed to me, despite all of that, and examining my expectations, not just of my two therapists, but people in general, was immensely valuable. If you’re interested, the Therapy section of my blog talks about my ex therapist and how I used to feel about my current therapist. Or the All About Jane section is specifically about my ex therapist. Good luck and my heart goes out to you, I know how painful that pull is….

  7. Ellen says:

    A few weeks after I first met my T, I felt a lot of erotic type feelings for him. I think if someone is the right sex, vaguely attractive, and about the right age, that can easily happen. I for sure did not have the courage to discuss this, and felt ridiculous, as I knew he was a T and he was married, I’m not exactly a babe, etc etc. After a while, those feelings subsided, more or less. One time I did tell him I had a ‘crush’, but for me, telling him seemed to make those feelings a lot milder. In my case also, I feel a lot of other feelings about him also – anger, envy, fear. It’s a big soup. All those feelings are transference feelings also, and it does help to try and work with them. I’ve found especially anger is great to work on with someone who is calm and non-reactive.

    Anyway, it’s a tricky area. Thanks for writing about it.

    • Jay says:

      So much of what you say makes sense. I like the “feeling soup” metaphor. I’m personally making strides with anger… As you said, expressing anger in the presence of someone who remains calm and doesn’t react can be extremely healing x

  8. Amazing post, thank you! There’s so much to say I can’t say any of it! These feelings are so confusing and you described them so well. Your therapist sounds wonderful. I find that even just my therapist being comfortable repeating certain ‘shameful admissions’ back to me, without flinching, is healing and increases the trust between us. Therapeutic intimacy is so wonderful but so frustrating and agonising! As for anger, I can’t even let myself feel it in her presence, let alone express it….I need to work on that one!

    • Jay says:

      Thank you taking the time to read and sharing your own experience of therapy! I agree that therapists reflecting stuff back can definitely strip some of the shame. I think it may have something to do with the way they reframe what we’ve said or the acceptance and calmness they bring into such a discussion.

      Anger is such a loaded emotion because so many of us, especially women, were socialised to believe that it is completely unacceptable to express it. Anger then becomes associated with being rude, disobedient etc etc. I often tell DS how scary and dangerous anger feels in a relationship. It’s definitely a long path but I believe that with your therapist, it will become a reality one day to feel it and then express it x

  9. Tina says:

    You spoke my truth so eloquently. My transference with my therapist makes me feel so guilty, embarrassed & confused since I also am happily married & in love with my husband who also occasionally sees the same therapist for individual counseling. My husband knows that I want to hang out with my Dr. & have him in my life as a friend & it caused my husband to wonder why he isn’t enough. I feel ten endows guilt about that. It’s not an erotic transference, but I certainly find myself wishing for a lot of safe, soothing hugs.

    • Jay says:

      I’ve read through your posts and really feel for the inner conflict and confusion you are going through at the moment. The transference stuff is crazy-making… The obsessive fantasies, thoughts and feelings hardly make sense when we consider that we hardly know this individual. But you’re onto something: you desire his safety and comfort. As far as I understand, it’s about uncovering core needs that have not been consciously acknowledged and satisfied. Hang in there! I’ll cite a much-worn transference expression: the only way out is through x

  10. I am soooo glad you are able to process this with your therapist. This is how real healing happens. Many therapists are not able or willing to do this work, as it is very intense. Thank you for continuing to write so intimately about your therapy experience. From all the comments, you are clearly helping people!

    • Jay says:

      Thanks for the visit and comment Sharon. I feel very lucky to have found a therapist who is not scared of transference. i have never really thought that my writing was helping people. That is an interesting observation and has certainly given me something to think about!

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