Carl Rogers (1902-1987) felt that all humanity has one basic motivational force - a tendency toward actualization. The way we receive regards from others is the way we are going to regard ourselves. If an individual receives unconditional regard, the individual will have a positive self-regard for his or herself. An infant is believed to have one basic motivational force - the tendency toward self-actualization, which is compared to organisms trying to develop to their full capacity.
Emotional Congruence and Transference in Therapy
By Ray Doktor, Psy. D.
Carl Rogers (1902-1987) felt that all humanity has one basic motivational force - a tendency toward actualization. The way we receive regards from others is the way we are going to regard ourselves. If an individual receives unconditional regard, the individual will have a positive self-regard for his or herself. An infant is believed to have one basic motivational force - the tendency toward self-actualization, which is compared to organisms trying to develop to their full capacity. The core of psychological maladjustment is the incongruity between the organismís total experience and what is accurately symbolized as part of the self-concept. The incongruence between self and experience is the basic estrangement in human beings.
Heinz Kohutís (1913 -1981) work has developed into the study of selfobject experiences, experiences (usually with other people) that nourish the self and which define the experience of the self and self-esteem. Kohutís clinical experiences with patients who had idealizing or mirroring transferences led him to initially see that there were two kinds of selfobjects: those that respond to and confirm the childís innate sense of vigor, greatness and perfection (i.e., mirroring); and those to whom the child can look up and with whom he can merge as an image of calmness, infallibility and omnipotence (i.e., idealizing). If these selfobjects are inadequate and lack empathy, the self becomes fragmented. The goal would be to bring these splintered parts of the self to maturity.
Rogers and Kohut may have had different definitions of the self and how the self becomes fragmented; however both see the value of love and nurturing as a cross-purpose need for the developing child. The values, which he or she is aware of, may differ from those of his or her parents. The way the child responds and reacts because of his or her parentís difference in value may constitute the childís behavior and self-worth throughout his or her adulthood. The more conditional the love of parents, the more likely psychopathology will develop. Because of the need for self-regard, individuals begin to perceive their experiences selectively, in terms of their parentsí conditions of worth, which have been internalized.
Unconsciously, one will be motivated to organize, reshape, and try understanding oneself through relationships. Whether these relationships are truly intimate or merely projections, the presence of others will provide certain types of experiences that will evoke the emergence and maintenance of the self. Past learning in significant relationships in the early years of life shapes this process of organizing experience. It reflects unresolved issues and painful experiences from childhood, as well as reflecting the ways the person has had positive experiences, which provide a greater sense of fulfillment in their life.
Until one is congruent and authentic with archaic, denied affect states, these memories of unresolved residue will leak and surface into present and future relationships. These unconscious affect states are autonomous and need to be made conscious in order for one to integrate them for present learning. All emotions that have been repressed in order for us to be recognized and to keep self-preservation in the ďnorm societyĒ need to be honored - not compromised or filtered. Feelings that were in hibernation and not fully expressed need to be awakened and heard through active, empathetic listening skills. When one is able to safely go within and retrieve these forgotten affect states without being denied, new experiences will begin.
As children, it was unsafe for many of us to decipher or make sense out of traumatic and hurtful experiences. When we can enter into our past-childhood memories as an adult and leave as an adult bringing new cognitive skills and boundaries, we may be in more control of our lives. Even though some wounds scar us for life, it doesnít mean they have to effect us for life. This new affect integration allows us to explore parts of our self as the benign observer.
When one is working out these issues with a therapist or someone close, transference is likely to happen. When transference occurs in a setting outside of a therapeutic environment, it is usually not understood or recognized. In many schools of therapy, transference is a phenomenon that a therapist hopes for. Other schools acknowledge it, but do not make it the primary focus or tool for the therapeutic process. Therapists understand that clients managed their relationships with their parents the best they could. When relationships are difficult or traumatic, the childís primary concern is doing what it takes to survive, seeking support and validation. From these childhood experiences, patterns develop that are carried over into adult life and relationships, including the relationship with the therapist. These patterns mean that the client reads the therapistís behavior in particular ways that make sense and trigger affect states under the scope of earlier experiences, and responds to the therapist in ways that are congruent with their early organization of experience. Sometimes such patterns are not appropriate in adult life and thus often work against relationships being effective. When both the therapist and client in this intersubjective relationship can view these patterns and the significance of transference, the client can conceptualize and make sense out of these patterns.
New experiences must be integrated into the personís existing knowledge of the world. This process of organizing new experience, which is constantly engaged in at an unconscious level, becomes partially visible in the transference element of relationships. This process is present in all relationships, but has particular meaning in the special situation of the therapeutic relationship, where it can be coined as a mirror to the clientís internal self and world.
When a therapistís sanity encourages us to accept more of life, often a frightened inner child is evoked who decided long ago that some things were unacceptable. A state of consciousness arises in which we are both aware of being an adult in therapy, and becoming that inner child in thought, speech, memory, mannerisms, and belief. In this state, beliefs that we adopted as children come to the surface and new, more nourishing beliefs can be explored and integrated with them. When more life is received, more of the inner child can live in harmony with previously alienated aspects of ourselves and the world around us. We come closer to our primal selves.
It is not about controlling or trying to change the behavior of the inner child. What is important is to find out what the inner child needs Ė what she lacked, and how she can obtain validation in a more effective way. When she welcomes and understands her inner child, thatís when change begins.
About Ray Doktor, Psy. D.
Ray Doktor, Psy. D. is a clinical hypnotherapist, past-life therapist, spiritual counselor, and life coach based in Los Angeles and Santa Monica. He can be contacted at his website http://www.wholeminds.com