The Healing Crowd

All about group therapy: what it is, why it works, and which group is right for you.

Manhattan Transference Part 7 Final Episode

How is it that you work through a transference in group therapy?

This is a serialization of the chapter by the same name from  Confessions of a Former Child: A Therapist’s Memoir This series began here.

Analysis followed the session and questions about the process were asked. Although the dramas had been very insightful and fulfilling, I still had one question.

"One thing still puzzles me." I said to the facilitator. "I didn't realize you could have two transferences on to one person."

"What we did tonight was a generational psychodrama," said Alice. "Your father picked your mother because he thought she was different. She wasn't extroverted like his mother but she was just as narcissistic and critical. At some level you knew they were different sides of the same coin. What you saw in Elaine was an amalgam; a fusion of the generational influences on you. Your unconscious saw the details and tonight you allowed yourself to become aware of it all."

"So I guess I got my money's worth tonight, eh? A two for one special."

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Alice smiled. "Oh it's a bigger bargain than that," she said. "Wait 'til you find out that your mother and grandmother live inside you and create the core issues in your own life."

"Are you saying I'm a closet narcissist?" A few people in the group laughed.

"We see in others what's in us," answered Alice.

"I'm amazed that all this can come from a group," I said, "I'm amazed that we can get some insight into whom we are by understanding our reaction to others. It’s a little like magic."

"I suppose it's like any other type of magic," she said, "it's all done with mirrors."

 

This concludes the series from Confessions of a Former Child:  A Therapist's Memoir. 

The lessons from this training group have served me as a facilitator as a trainer. What impressed me most about what happened is that the experienceof transference was very different than reading about transference or coutertransference. As the Spanish proverb explains "It's not the same to talk of bulls as to be in the bullring."

Below are the main insights devired:

1. The transference can be known or unknown. You may know who the person reminds you of, or you may not. If you do the work is to tease out what part is transference, feelings coming from a previous relationship, and what part is the individual activating it. Ultimately transference clouds how we see another person.

2. If the transference is known then noticing how the person is different from the transference will help. In the story it was when I realized none of my activators would be in a group as Elaine was.

3. If the transference is unknown then recognizing the pattern of feelings that comes up becomes the clue. The fact that Elaine’s behavior kept activating me was this clue.

4. In a group you can easily check out the differential reactions. Not everyone feels how you do toward the individual. This is confirmation that something, a distortion in perception, is coming from inside.

5. The goal is to assimilate the projection. What are you seeing in the person that has come from a previous relationship. Figuring this out is the working through of transference in group therapy.

Daniel J. Tomasulo, Ph.D., TEP, MFA, is a licensed psychologist specializing in group psychotherapy and psychodrama.

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