Use of Self, Self Awareness, Counter-transference

When I google counter-transference all the pages are from sites dealing with therapy, and the ways in which  transference and counter-transference  are defined and/or made use of in therapeutic interactions. The emotional processes identified by these words are ubiquitous. They are happening all the time, in all our relationships, not only with others, but also in all our dealings in the world.

Something impacts on me. I have an emotional response to it (beginning in my unconscious, maybe never even reaching consciousness). Part of this response will come from me, my past, my previous experiences, patterns already embedded in my psyche.

Psycho-babble expands to fill the space available. But, the idea is simple. That bit of my response which has been triggered by my previous experience, that’s transference.

So what is ‘counter-transference’? Well, read the formal definitions, go to college for a few years, or, simply, accept that if there is transference in the world in which you happen to be (there is) then you will also have a transference to that other’s transference. It is like those images of an infinite series of mirrors, reflections of reflections. A particular kind of transference gets called ‘counter-transference’ in the therapeutic or psychoanalytical world because the people in those worlds do have different roles: one is the person who is subject of the therapy, and one is the therapist. Because they are both trying to understand / help / enable only one, the ‘patient’, the responses of the therapist/analyst are called “counter-transference”. This is just the transference response the therapist makes to the patient.

CUT the psycho-babble.


This is counter-transference in an everyday world – I have also heard “mindsight”. The idea is a sort of self-awareness or reflectiveness, developed in a particular way, from a recognition that one is IN the situation, therefore one’s response carries information about both self and situation. Currently I hear another word is catching on, “mindfulness”, I think in its best sense this is the same idea, importantly its purpose is NOT to satisfy the want of the self, satisfaction is irrelevant, it is about a way to find out what is really happening, rather than what you might imagine or assume or wish.

1.   Attend to your own feeling and try to track how much of it comes from your own previous or present experiences – whatever you find is yours – own it – you can do something about it later, as soon as you can. No judgment, feelings just happen, even if you don’t like them or think you ‘should’ feel differently. [‘Should’ can also be attended to.. ]

2.   Attend to your own feeling, but think about what it might be telling you about the other person, or the world you are just now perceiving, not about yourself. That is, if I feel this, now, at this kind of intensity, what is it that is coming from them, or from there, which triggers this in me?

3.   This message “there is information about the context in a feeling I am just now feeling” applies to groups, cultures and organizations, as well as to individuals. Possibly it also applies to nature, shown by the inspiration of poets and the intuition of scientists, who use their craft to explore what it is that they have felt.

4.  The particular bit of you which is triggered holds the information. It actually doesn’t matter whether you do 1 or 2 first – you have to do both to sort out the present information from your own past experience, which may or may not help.

Transference is a kind of pre-judgment or bias towards a particular direction in emotional perceiving. The more self-awareness you have, oh uh I have this kind of prejudice in this kind of context, the more you can see the differences in the present context, the more you can be aware of its uniqueness, the more you are opened to learning right here, right now.

 USE yourself. Particularly, use your emotions and your feelings, experiences to be thought about. They do not have to be expressed, they do not have to be hidden, simply acknowledged privately or publicly as you choose, and thought about as carrying information with them.

What happens? The probability that you are connecting with reality is improved. The effects of ‘ego’ are lessened. The genuineness and authenticity of your communications to others is improved. Unhelpful fears and anxieties are lessened. You become more alive to living in the present.

[Psycho-babble – the process of “using self in self awareness” enables  containment, which is an emotionally mature process.]

7 thoughts on “Use of Self, Self Awareness, Counter-transference

  1. […] Second, a recent post from Sidey suggests she has been in a dysfunctional group for about a year now. Again, doesn’t mean she is not functional, she is affected by it, but, as far as bloggy buddies can see, she continues to function. And she will have other roles in other groups. No-one needs to know details, what she posted lets us feel some of the feelings she has experienced. Second piece of info to give – it is “feelings” which provide the awareness to observe what the unconscious process might be, and offer a guide to whether what is happening in the group is functional or dysfunctional. Get to know your own feelings, at several levels, and how and when they shift or stay stuck. [I posted about using feelings here.] […]

  2. […] I find that this truthful thoughtfulness (in which one is active, an agent) has many names, call it what you will: be mindful; meditate; use systems thinking, situated knowledge, reflexivity, ecological thought; heed heuristic as well as evidence based science; use critical friends, the examined self, connect with others; be open to change, hear and bear criticism, use  self. […]

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