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The Social Dimensions of Transference

  • Salvador Millán's main thesis is that social character--the way patients and therapists internalize the values, cultural beliefs, and class structure of their society--is always present in the consulting room and often becomes manifest as transfer-ence and counter-transference reactions. Indeed, according to Millán, transference and countertransference are just another name for developmental processes of so-cial adaptation as it be-comes expressed in a particular relationship between an analyst and his/her patient. Millán takes us through the origin of the concept of transference in Freud, with its patriarchal and authoritarian overtones, to its classical definition in Fenichel's work. With its surgical metaphors, Fenichel crystallized an approach to technique and the handling of the transference. Analytical technique re-quired a neutral and detached observant role, with precise interpretations directed at the psyche, similar to a surgeon's skilled incisions into the patient's body. Millán compares this approach with the guidance Fromm offered to the students of the Mexican Psychoanalytic Institute during supervision and in his seminars in Cuer-navaca during the 1960s. Fromm's point of departure was like Freud's. Transference has to do with the experience of infancy that is repeated in the presence of the ana-lyst. Fromm (1968) thought that this definition of transference, while true, was lim-ited, since it took into account only one source of irrational strivings based on infan-tile longings. However, if one looked at transference as an experience in which the patient deposits in the person of the analyst the origin of >all of his expectations and fears,< (p. 2) a much broader range of transferential reactions is taken into consid-eration. Some of these reactions may be traced to parental influence. Others may have origins that are broadly social, in which the parents' influence is based on be-ing representatives of societal norms, or parental roles may even be irrelevant. In this definition, transference is not just based on childhood experience, but repre-sents the whole experience of the patient's life. Millán points out that one of the limi-tations of psychoanalysis is that it is primarily based on the experience of working with clinical populations. Millán briefly reviews a series of social character studies that have been conducted in the last two decades in factories, in corporate environ-ments, and in rural communities with normal populations, and that have broadened our understanding of the process of social adaptation beyond the consulting room. According to Millán, these studies provide support for Fromm's more inclusive con-cept of transference.

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Author:Salvador Millán
Parent Title (English):M. Cortina and M. Maccoby (Eds.), A Prophetic Analyst. Erich Fromm's Contribution to Psychoanalysis, Nothvale and London (Jason Aronson Inc.) 1996, pp. 325-340.
Document Type:Articles
Year of first Publication:1996
Release Date:2012/12/13
Format:PDF-file to download
Writings about Erich Fromm (Secondary Literature):Articles / Artikel
Erich Fromm's Library and Erich Fromm Archive:Articles / Artikel
International Erich Fromm Society's Writings:Articles / Artikel
Licence (German):