Some people can push all my wrong buttons. They don’t even have to try, it just happens. I can recognize two patterns there: First, domineering men who want to walk all over me and don’t listen to reason. Second, women who act out all their drama and have the need to justify everything they do.
If you’ve been reading carefully, you already recognized the exaggerated tone in the last two sentences, betraying the signs of what psychologists call ‘transference’. That’s a fancy way of saying that someone subconsciously reminds me of someone from my early years who had a big impact on me. This triggers an automatic reaction in me as if it were this person.
This doesn’t necessarily have to be behavior. It can be as subtle as a certain perfume or physical appearance.
I’ve trained myself to recognize transference and it usually doesn’t occur. Or when it does occur, I see it quickly and can change my reaction. But still… some people can and do get to me…
I am, by the way, talking about negative transference here. Positive transference can also occur. Like the lady with pretty white curls who reminds you of your beloved grandmother. (Yes, I really had a client tell me that once! I’m happy he did, so I could help him say critical things to me as well.)
How do you recognize transference? Is there someone you prefer to avoid or with whom you often end up arguing? Without you really understanding why? Put an empty chair across from you and imagine him (or her) sitting in it. Think about all the things you dislike about that person. Then look away and look back. Ask yourself who is really sitting in that chair. Note the first name that comes to mind. Let this sit for a day and then go back and think about your relationship with that person and how you used to react to him. You may just start recognizing a pattern.
When it happens again, say to yourself, “He’s not so-and-so. He reminds me of him. But I can react differently now, I don’t need to react in the same way.” Thank this person silently for giving you the chance to learn more about yourself.
Do you recognize transference? How do you deal with it?