An Open Letter to Morning Joe Scarborough and Your Team: The Fish Hook Dynamic!

Dear Morning Joe and your team,

You have recently been asking an important question with increasing frequency and intensity: “Why? What has been causing Donald Trump’s soaring in the polls, caucuses, and primaries?

As a depth psychotherapist, a woman, and a citizen of the United States and of our world, I cannot hear your repeated question without offering an understanding on a different and deeper level than those that have been offered from media, government, politics, historians, and the public itself.

When we connect with someone we connect with them on many levels both conscious and way beneath our conscious awareness: whether up-close-and-personal – a romantic partner, a friend, a boss, – or from afar – a spiritual leader like the Pope, a celebrity like any movie star up for an Oscar, a political figure, like the now-political-candidate Donald Trump.

The level most frequently missed by individuals and culturally is that of the wounds we experienced as children, still alive within us today. Still alive within us whether we are 20, 33, 55, 68, 89, or 106. Since we are unaware that wounded child is still alive within us, we are also unaware that wounded child is driving us in ways we can’t even imagine.

We believe we’re thinking, feeling, and acting in an adult way, while it is the young child within that is acting out in a big body. We believe we’re trying to resolve a conflict in the present moment, when unbeknownst to us, we’re trying to resolve something from long ago that is triggered in the present moment. The more we make it about today, the more we fail in finding a solution. Failing triggers us more because we cannot solve yesterday’s issues under the guise of today’s actions and interactions. Then, in the pain of the past, triggered and enmeshed with the pain of not being able to solve the present, we will likely resort to the defenses our parents used and those we, ourselves, developed, thus frantically escalating the current situation beyond all recognition because we are still driven by our unconscious reactions to painful, even traumatic experiences from long, long ago.

So, when we connect with someone else, we connect on the levels of our wounds and on the level of the child within us unconsciously and often desperately trying to resolve something today that occurred in our past. I call this the “fish hook dynamic.” One person’s wounds hook together with another’s wounds like two fish hooks hooking together. Then as the two pull to get away from the intense tug of war – within themselves and with the other in this dynamic – they are only strengthening the dynamic of the two fish hooks hooked together, pulling against each other. As the hooking intensifies and escalates, so does the trapped feeling from long ago and the thoughts and feelings from the past are more and more intensely acted out today.

Let’s look at an example of how the fish hook dynamic can work in the life of a relationship. A woman who was abandoned by her father in childhood and a man who was suffocated emotionally by his mother in childhood meet and fall in love. She, afraid of being abandoned, clings to him. He, afraid of being suffocated, distances a little more each time she clings. She feels abandoned and clings more; he feels suffocated and withdraws more. Things escalate and escalate until he leaves. They have recreated their childhood wounds unconsciously, and in the end, he has proven to himself that all women suffocate, and she has proven to herself that all men abandon … and so the vicious cycle goes, until they each do the inner healing work to truly resolve the painful wounds at their root in childhood.

This fish hook dynamic doesn’t just occur in individual lives or the life of romantic relationships. It is occurring in many ways all over the world. It is very obviously occurring in the election cycle right now. The Republican Debate this past Thursday night was such a blatant picture of what I’m describing.* Little boys in big bodies all dressed up in suits, yelling at each other, bullying each other, attacking each other as if they were in the school yard, perhaps fighting for the position of leader of the gang … all under the guise of a debate for the office of president.

I’m quite sure if we knew the histories of those little-boys-acting-as-if-they-were-grown-ups, we would know more about how they were unconsciously acting out their wounds and their young defenses against their wounds.

I’m just as sure that each supporter of the candidates has wounds that unconsciously hook together with his or her candidate’s wounds … and that have drawn them to their candidate. I would need to know more about each supporter to be specific about how that person hooks together with Donald Trump or any other candidate, for that matter. But here are some beginning hunches:

Since your question, Morning Joe, was about Donald Trump in particular, we’ll delve a bit into what we know about him in order to give some examples.

It is a known fact that Donald Trump decided he would never be made a fool.** Perhaps some of his supporters were shamed and humiliated as children and didn’t want to become fools themselves. They might project themselves onto Trump and try to help him not be made into a fool. Or they might see him as a role model, or idealized parent who’s showing them how to not become a fool, especially if nobody helped them as a child, or if the person who humiliated them was a parent. They might applaud his every move to dodge being turned into a fool. They might, most of all, applaud his making a fool of the other candidates. They might align with him to keep him – in their imagination – from turning on them and making a fool of them. They might even take permission – I call it “ripping off permission” – to act out in their own lives the way Donald is acting out in his: to act out in a big body a child’s defense against being made a fool. And then we don’t just have a candidate believing he’s being adult while acting out like a child, we have a whole “support team” doing the same.

These are just some of the possibilities. They are limitless … as limitless as the ways in which a child can be wounded. As limitless as the depths to which a child can bury his or her memories of pains and traumas and the feelings with them. As limitless as the ways in which we normalize behaviors that are defenses against the childhood trauma. As limitless as the lack of awareness of our own unconscious selves driving our lives and acting out on the stage of our lives – individually and communally.

Something mysterious is happening deep beneath the surface for Donald Trump to be surging as he is and has been for months. I’ve seen the unconscious wounds hooking together in couples, in families, in groups … and in countries, as with Hitler’s Germany.

We have no contingency plan in our political, legal, media, cultural systems for protecting our society from a presidential candidate triggering the early wounding in the citizenry. Most people don’t even realize what’s happening or that it’s happening beneath the surface. And too much of our mental health treatment has discarded teaching people about the unconscious roots of their suffering and helping them heal to those roots.

We all need to help people understand. We all need to take this seriously. It affects us every day in our personal lives. It affects us for lifetimes in our personal lives. It also affects us every day and for lifetimes in our societal lives. And this “fish hook dynamic” in the race for president, and in Donald Trump’s candidacy most obviously, will affect us for years, decades, generations to come.***

With hope …
Judith Barr

© Judith Barr 2016

* Perhaps this happens in most, if not every political debate, whether Democratic or Republican. Sometimes more subtly than others. Sometimes right out in the open.

**“I realized then and there, that if you let people treat you how they want, you’ll be made a fool. I realized then and there something I would never forget: I don’t want to be made anybody’s sucker.” http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/01/opinion/putting-donald-trump-on-the-couch.html?_r=0

*** If you want to understand more, Joe, the following links will take you to a trilogy I wrote in my blog, PoliPsych, to help people more deeply comprehend what’s happening in our world today and how each of us can help.

http://judithbarr.com/2015/11/19/grief-shock-another-tragedy-and-the-poison-is-the-medicine/

http://judithbarr.com/2015/12/05/when-are-we-going-to-heal-the-repetitive-vicious-cycle-from-the-inside-out/

http://judithbarr.com/2015/12/28/safety-from-the-inside-out/

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP KEEP OUR WORLD SAFE
FROM THE INSIDE OUT

As we continue on towards the election, commit to becoming very aware of your reactions to the candidates – the one you support and the ones you don’t – whenever you come across them … when you watch them debate, when they show up in the campaign ads, when you read about them in the news.

Be aware that all of us have unresolved wounds and feelings from childhood, and those feelings can color any aspect of your life – including your voting choices. What feelings do each of the candidates trigger in you? Can you trace back those feelings to your early life? Can you identify the fish hook dynamic in your own reactions?

I’m asked sometimes “Where is the hope for healing our world?” If we become aware of and understand the fish hook dynamic, we can choose to commit to explore it for ourselves and find a way to do our own individual healing. In doing so, we can all help to create lasting change for our world. That is the hope!

If We Keep Using Our Escape Hatches, We’ll Keep Preventing the Miracles – Individually and Communally.

It’s a tragic time in our country. And our world.

Instead of people self responsibly searching within, looking to discover what it is within ourselves that is causing us pain in our lives and others, as well … people are looking outside ourselves at others to blame, bully, threaten, punish, force, torture

… when we don’t get what we want.
… in order to get what we want.
… when we believe we can’t bear what’s happening in our lives.
… when we believe we can’t bear the consequences of our actions.
… when we believe we can’t bear the feelings that rise up from within us.

Introduction to escape hatches

Over decades of experience with people — witnessing, talking with, learning about, helping, and caring deeply about them – I have discovered that when it comes right down to it … we are more afraid of our feelings than most anything else. As a result, we create defenses to keep us from experiencing our feelings. This creates a whole vicious cycle in our lives, one that we try to get out of at the very same time as we fight to stay in.

Escape hatches are a crucial aspect of this process. A crucial aspect of which we have little or no awareness. We use escape hatches to defend against our feelings. We use escape hatches to fight our way out of the vicious cycle. And at the same time we use escape hatches to make sure we continue to stay in the vicious cycle, lost in our own maze.

If you got to the point at which you felt so much – sorrow, hurt, anger, fear – that you thought you wouldn’t be able to bear it … what would you do?

When I ask this question of my clients, together we discover their escape hatches. The concept of “escape hatches” or “exits” is known in various therapy models. To my knowledge, however, the profound, rich depth of the healing work that can be done with escape hatches is rarely taught. And I have never heard discussion of its application to our world.

But just as everything else that is personal also exists on the communal level, so also do escape hatches.

What is an escape hatch?

As children, when we are wounded or traumatized, we instinctively protect ourselves. We do whatever we can to get away from the pain. Among other things, we numb ourselves, deaden ourselves, leave our bodies, strike out aimlessly. We do this even before we have mental concepts or words to speak them. At some point, our thoughts and words become available, and these responses have words that go with them – early decisions we make about ourselves, others, and life, and escape hatch decisions we make about how to get away from the pain: for example, I’m getting out of here. I’ll run away. I want to die. I wish I’d never been born. I could kill you. I’ll destroy everything. I’ll go crazy.

How does an escape hatch work in a child’s life?

With time, the feelings, actions, concepts and words are joined together … albeit perhaps unconsciously. But even if a child knows s/he wants to run away, s/he doesn’t comprehend the more complex dynamic of that want as part of an escape hatch and its vicious cycle.

As we grow, what was once vital self-protection, now becomes a defense – hard, and brittle, and even destructive – which usually ends up creating the very thing we intended it to defend us against.  A little boy decides not to talk to his Mommy, to keep her from spanking him. But his silence angers her as much as his words, and she ends up spanking him anyway. Over the months and years, he transfers it to his playmates, his teachers, his buddies, his wife, his employers, his employees.  And the same thing happens again and again … his refusal to speak – the original means of self-defense – infuriates people.

How does an escape hatch work in an adult’s life?

This evokes deep, strong, even raw feelings in the little boy still alive inside the man – the man who doesn’t realize his feelings are those of the little boy he once was. And neither do the people around him realize it. He looks like a 220-pound 6-foot tall 30-year old man. He has the capabilities of an adult man. But he’s acting on the feelings of a little boy.

So … without awareness, without making a commitment not to act on them … the little boy’s raw primal feelings are reacted to by the adult man. If the little boy wanted to die when he was in pain, the adult man might actually try to kill himself — perhaps succeeding, perhaps remaining alive to go ‘round the maze cycle once again. If the little boy wanted to kill his mother, the man might kill his mother … or someone else in her place – his girlfriend, his wife, his boss, a stranger, a lot of strangers. Again and again in our world, people are killing both themselves and others – domestic violence, suicide bombings, school shootings, wars, just to name a few.

Allow yourself to see this differently than you have in the past. This isn’t just people killing themselves and others. This is people acting out the escape hatches long ago created by the child they once were – still alive within them – to escape the pain they felt they couldn’t bear as a child.

How does an escape hatch work in our world?

This is what is happening in our world today! The children inside the adults are running rampant through our world, under the guise of adults. Whatever their childhood wounds, decisions, escape hatches, and feelings … people are acting them out on the stage of our earth, at the expense of all of us.

Until they are taught, children don’t draw a boundary between feelings and actions. Sadly, too many adults don’t either – not knowing they are having young feelings, the adults act on their feelings just like little children do … only with the power of an adult physical body, mind, and personality behind the action.

Children make all sorts of decisions when they are little – some conscious and some unconscious. These decisions and the feelings that go with them have more power to drive a person’s life and impact the world than most people can even conceive. What if the brother of the little boy discussed above also felt powerless with his mother? What if this brother, in his powerless fury, made an early decision within himself:  “You may have the power now, Mommy, but I’ll have all the power when I grow up”?  What if this boy grows up, becomes the leader of his country, and proceeds to garner all the power he can in his country: the power to arrest and imprison people based on lies; the power to torture people; the power to invade anyone’s privacy; the power to take away people’s rights and safety; the power to start wars, even destroy the world? Oh my! What a child’s unhealed pain and early decisions can create in our world!

What if the very people who could stop this leader in every arena of the country are unable to because of their own experiences with their parents and other authorities in their young lives, because of their own early decisions, and because of their own escape hatches? What if the legislators are afraid they will be punished by either the leader or the voters … and so turn away/run away from their own values and support those of the leader? What if the judges are afraid they will lose their appointments … and give up as a result? What if the military leaders are afraid they will lose their posts … and so support a war that in itself is destructive? What if the media is afraid it will be ousted in favor of other media that supports the leader … and so helps to mold the public instead of reflecting where the public truly is? What if the citizens are paralyzed? What if they have been blinded to the abuse of power by the leader because their own parents’ abuse of power was normalized in the family, the community, and the culture. Normalizing dysfunction and destructiveness does paralyze and blind people. It invalidates instincts, creating and feeding fear.

In these scenarios, which escape hatches has each person in each of these groups of people chosen that keep them and us from feeling – and being fully alive – from healing, from growing into all we can be, from exercising our power to truly protect – not defend* – ourselves, our country, and our world?

We are not alone in this.  It is a phenomenon worldwide. We have been seeing it again and again, in escalating proportions in our world. We have seen it in children, in teens, in men and women. We have seen it in citizens and leaders.

I’ve worked more and more deeply with people over the years and seen both the basic escape hatches and the individualized escape hatches they have revealed to me in their own lives. I’ve come to see that in addition to whatever escape hatches people have developed from pain and trauma in their own childhood, there is also wounding and defenses, including escape hatches, that are passed down from generation to generation. Some of this is because one generation after another acted out their escape hatches upon their children, upon their families, or with their families in their society. Some of this is because they’ve transmitted it emotionally from one generation to the next. Some is by an unconscious psychic transmission that does go from one generation to the next. Some is by the expansion of the transmission culturally, normalizing some form of wounding, pain, and trauma consciously and unconsciously. Some is by a combination of pathways of transmission from generation to generation. These intergenerational roots add to our understanding of the tenacity with which we hold onto our escape hatches, both individually and culturally.

I’ve also come to see that there are many other escape hatches needing to be named: among them blaming, scapegoating, bullying, threatening, and war.

People use blaming as an escape hatch to defend against feeling their own issues, their own weaknesses, their own responsibility. Scapegoating is also used to avoid the confrontation of one’s own inadequacies or deficiencies; but scapegoating is usually used communally, whether in a family, an organization, a country, or amongst countries. Bullying, as explained in my home study course, “Healing Bullying to The Root: A Unique Approach to a Painful Epidemic,” is an escape hatch used to defend against the feeling of powerlessness. And war! War is an escape hatch used to get rid of the threat — and all the feelings it stirs in the cauldron of our beings. But in the process, as with every escape hatch, war prevents real communication, real expression of needs and feelings, real searching for new possibilities. War prevents true resolution, true negotiation and true peace. As with every other escape hatch of the kind I am describing … war prevents the miracle.**

This is a call for healing.
It is a hopeful time in our country. And our world.
It is a time of opportunity for great healing and evolution.

We need to look at this. We need to look at this not just in our outer world. We must look at this, each of us, in our inner world. We need to work with this. We need to heal and resolve what is in us that we avoid when we use an escape hatch.  We need to close the escape hatches: We need to draw a boundary between the thoughts and feelings we have related to escape hatches and commit to not act on them; and then we need to commit to work with the hurt and pain, anger and fear, and all the other feelings that caused us as children to find or create our escape hatches. We need to build our capacity to feel our feelings safely, and, as we become parents, to help our children feel their feelings safely. And we need to follow through on those commitments.

Once we’ve done the healing personally, we need to also explore and work to heal what in our families and our culture was passed down to us as children that has created a vicious cycle of pain and escape hatches and more pain. We need to work on that level of healing, too.

We must remember that every single one of us has an impact – from the inside out – not only on our own lives, but also on the life of our whole country, and even the life of our whole world. If you have an escape hatch open and the wound beneath it is unhealed, that will affect our whole world. So, imagine if we each closed our escape hatches and healed the wounds beneath them! Imagine if we all did our healing work to the very root of our being! Imagine the positive impact we could have.

“Power is like fire, lightning, wind, ocean – like life itself – a raw vital force of nature. It has the potential for great harm and the possibility for magnificent good. Each of us chooses, whether consciously or unconsciously, how we will use the power of our own life energy.” ***

How will you use your power?
What will you do to close and heal your own escape hatches
and what lies beneath them?

© 2008, 2015, Judith Barr.

* To learn more about defenses, read my article, Defenses Destroy, at
http://judithbarr.com/2014/06/08/defenses-destroy/

** None of what I say in this explanation about escape hatches in any way says that people who are really in danger in their circumstances should just stay there and let whatever happens happen. For example, I’m not saying a battered wife should just stay and let her husband destroy her. I’m not saying an attacked community should just stay and let the invaders destroy them. But I am offering that the dynamics of escape hatches from early on and through the generations are very complex and need to be explored deeply and expansively.

***Power Abused, Power Healed, Judith Barr, Mysteries of Life, 2007, p iii.

 

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP MAKE OUR WORLD SAFE
FROM THE INSIDE OUT

Now that we have explored escape hatches and how they are created … the next step is to begin to explore within ourselves our own individual escape hatches.

When you are in pain or under stress – pain or stress you feel is “overwhelming,” “over the top,” or “unbearable”- what is your first reaction? Do you want to run away? Curl into a ball or go back to bed and “pull the covers over your head”? Do you feel like you want to die … or even feel like you want to kill someone? Do you feel as though you’re going “crazy”?

The answers to these questions are your first clues as to what your own escape hatches are. You may have one or several. They may be the same, or may be different depending on the type of situation, level of pain or stress, or what is being triggered in you.

Commit to not act out on your escape hatches, to close them on the action level … but don’t stop there. Commit to go to the root to heal, so you can close your own escape hatches on the mental, emotional, energetic, and spiritual levels, too. Working with escape hatches is very delicate work … and I urge you to find a caring, integritous therapist to work with to help you close your escape hatches and work with the pain underneath them. A therapist who knows about, or who is open to learning about, escape hatches. (You may even want to show him or her this article, to give them an even deeper understanding about escape hatches, and how they affect our lives.)

It is indeed a tragic time in our world, but there is hope … in knowing about escape hatches, in discovering our own, in committing to close our escape hatches and heal what lies beneath them. There is hope in resolving what, within ourselves, interferes with the miracles. There is hope in making the miracle of true healing happen – both personally and communally!

IF WE STAY ON THE SURFACE . . . WE END UP SUFFERING AND CREATING MORE SUFFERING . . . PART 2

Who Do You See . . . Really?
The Power of Transference 

I have been writing about the consequences of our staying on the surface in the outer world and not doing the deep work in the inner world from which what occurs in the outer world springs.

From the responses I’ve received, it seems to be such a difficult thing for people to look at, take in, acknowledge, and commit to working with. As a result, starting last month I began teaching in relation to a few arenas in our world where the interplay between the inner and outer is more obvious than others. This month’s theme is about transference.

Chance, the gardener, becomes Chauncey Gardener in one moment of . . . misunderstanding? Inaccurate interpretation? Gross idealization? Transference.

A woman comes into the amphitheater . . . she is glowing . . . there is soft music playing. The wind is blowing. She doesn’t say a word. All she does is walk up and down the rows and around the banks of seats in the huge amphitheater. According to what everyone says, her very presence heals everyone she passes, near and far. All stand silently, smiles on their faces.

A man walks on stage. He’s tan and handsome, well dressed. He holds his hands up, each hand with the first two fingers in a ‘v.’ He’s running for the country’s leadership position. His party just selected him as its candidate. The crowd roars with cheering and applause.

An elderly man, dressed in all white robes, comes out on a balcony overlooking throngs of people. He’s attended by other older men, also in robes, their robes covered with orange-red garments. He holds up his hands as if to bless those below. The crowds of people all bow their heads to receive his blessings.

Who are these people who have taken center stage, so to speak? Who are they actually? And who do we think they are?

Chauncey Gardener is a character from the movie Being There. The simple gardener of a wealthy man, he spent his life on the estate, tending the gardens and watching television. When his employer died, he was seen by a wealthy woman as a wise man . . . soon became advisor to the President, and then was considered as a replacement for the President in the next term. How could this be? How could people, supposedly intelligent, savvy people, mistake a simple gardener so completely?

The woman who supposedly heals people by walking in the rows past them is a scam artist from a little village in a country across the seas. She grew up in an area where public relations people vacation, and one, spotting her, decided to give it a try. Together they are making millions, raking in the money. She speaks no English, and he’s a fast talker. How could so many people be so deceived by her?  So many people – commoners, people in the healing professions, and famous people, as well.

The tan, handsome, well-dressed man is the leading contender for the country’s leadership position – groomed for decades, since childhood, by his party’s leaders.  Taught how to look, stand, sit, talk, walk . . . and how to think, feel, be. Everyone thinks they know who he is and what he will do as leader of the country, even though nobody really knows who he would have become if he hadn’t been groomed and programmed.

The elderly man is the new pope. The public doesn’t really know him yet. We know what we are being told about him. We know how we take his actions and words, but how much of that is through the filter of what we’re being shown?  Most of all, we don’t really know who he is or what kind of pope he will truly be.  We just know that he is “Papa” . . . the pope, the father.*

*****

Why do we respond to these people and others like them as we do, without even really knowing who they are? Respecting them as more than the human beings they are? Trusting them with our well-being, health and healing? Celebrating and cheering them as our leaders-to-be? Honoring and deferring to them as our religious and spiritual leaders, who also hold sway over things very physical and earthly in our lives?

It’s because of a very simple mechanism call transference. Commonly known but not well enough understood and taught in the world of psychotherapy. Hardly known at all in the mainstream world. And the damage and suffering that are caused by our not knowing, understanding, and being able to utilize this mechanism for good … is staggering.

So let’s begin with a basic understanding of transference. When someone transfers onto a person, a thing, an event, the Divine, or even life itself in the present day, someone or some experience from his or her childhood . . . that is transference.  The person from the past is usually someone experienced as an authority figure: mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, aunt, uncle, adult friends of the family, adults in the neighborhood, teachers, clergy, doctors, or older siblings, babysitters, etc. The event from the past is usually something unpleasant or painful, even traumatic. But it could have been something pleasurable or seemingly pleasurable, a guise for something that was actually damaging – like the seductive, pseudo-playful lead up to sexual abuse. Or it could have been a rare sweet moment in the midst of a lot of painful experiences. And whoever or whatever the transference is put onto in the current day could be a private figure – personal to the individual’s life, like a boyfriend or girlfriend – or a public figure – like a candidate or leader in an organization, a country, a world.

Transference is a complex process with many levels to understand and work with and through. For today, I’m going to talk basic and general, so you can begin to get a sense of the power of this mechanism. And so you can begin to get a sense of just how powerful it is when we are so completely unaware of its existence buried beneath the surface.

*****

Here are some examples of transference related to the situations I described above:

Let’s say a woman’s father was mean and cruel, but her great grandfather, though distant, was quiet and seemingly wise and kind.  That woman might grow up and transfer her cruel father onto most men, especially those she gets close to. With or without her even realizing it, she might draw mean, abusive men to her; and with or without realizing it, she might expect even the kind men that come close to be abusive to her. But she may also – without her awareness – transfer her seemingly kind great grandfather onto men who come toward her but stay at a distance. And from her little girl place, she might imagine what a wonderful, wise, loving man he would be . . . without even knowing him, or anything about him. With this transference in place, unless he actually did or said something cruel to her, she would continue to imagine his wonderful, virtuous qualities. And look to him for his goodness. Perhaps this is how someone like an Eve Rand in the movie Being There, might be drawn into her transference onto a Chance, the gardener.

Let’s say a man’s mother was a doctor in the slums of a major city abroad, a doctor committed to making the lives of the people in the slum better. The man loved his mama, all the more because he so rarely got to see her. But he did see photos of her in the papers and magazines, and stories about her on television . . . always surrounded by people who loved and were grateful to her. Let’s say this man’s mother died when he was a teenager, leaving him with a heart full of grief and an unfulfilled experience of mothering. In his early 20’s, a woman healer came to his part of the country, and he was drawn to her beyond explanation. He became a follower. He even became a promoter for her. He had transferred mama onto her, without any idea what he was doing. Nothing anyone could have said would have dissuaded him from his devotion to her . . . especially not telling him she was carrying out a hoax.  “How could they say that of her – his mama?” He couldn’t have said that. It wouldn’t have been conscious. But it would have lived inside him, very alive within him, since he had unconsciously transferred his mother onto this fake healer.

Now imagine the party’s political candidate for national leader was saying all the “right” things, doing all the “right” things . . . not only enough to get him chosen as the party’s candidate, but also to seduce people, like you, who ordinarily might see through a programmed candidate. But this candidate has been programmed since childhood.

And, he just happens to remind you of your uncle . . . your mother’s brother who was your hero when you were a child. Your mother’s brother who was always there for you when you needed someone. Your mother’s brother who always talked with you, always took you places you needed to go, always helped you when you needed help.

Maybe he was even the brother of the mother who worked as a heroic doctor abroad, while you stayed home and lived with your aunt and uncle. Anyway . . . such a background with your uncle could easily be transferred onto this political candidate, without your being at all aware of the transference. In this case, it would be an example of idealized transference. So you end up utilizing your good experience of your uncle, who was not only good to you but also whom you, as a little child, probably idealized along with your mother . . . and you end up transferring that idealized uncle onto this political candidate. Again, you are not aware this is happening. You think, even believe, you have a very good understanding of who this political candidate is.

One more person to imagine for now – the new pope. You’ve never heard of him before. You are not a student of the papacy. He presents a pleasant enough presence. He is silent for a while. He says and does unique and perhaps touching things when he speaks . . . like staying on the same level with the cardinals instead of being on a raised platform, and asking to be blessed before he blesses the crowds. The media says he is humble, so you see his actions through that filter. They say he is a man of the people, so you let his riding the bus, cooking his own meals, and not living in the Archbishop’s Palace elevate his standing in your eyes and your heart. Whether you’re a Catholic or non-Catholic, you have been gravely concerned with what has gone on in the Catholic Church. You really want to believe this new pope can be trusted to do good in the church and in the world. Just like you really wanted to believe, when your mother remarried after she divorced your abusive father, that your new step father could be trusted to do good in your family. And because you were a little child, with your life in this new father’s hands, you wanted to believe so much . . . that you let yourself believe. The desire, and need, of a little child to believe, plus transference, leads a grown person – with child still alive within – to be vulnerable, seducible, and too easily seduced. In your case, your new step father turned out to be a decent man, to you. But maybe the step father of your next door neighbor wasn’t such a decent man – either to your playmate, or to his own children, now living with their mother; or maybe he wasn’t such a decent man to the children he taught in the nursery school. Nevertheless both you and your neighbor transfer onto the new pope – you transfer onto him your good experience with your step father, and your neighbor transfers onto him an idealized hope of a this-time-decent papa.  And both of you will be somewhat blinded to who the pope really is by your early experiences and your transferences.

Of course, we can transfer anyone and anything. And just like we can idealize someone with our transference, so also can we demonize someone with our transference. So, for example, instead of transferring your new step father onto the pope, you could also transfer onto the pope your abusive father – the father you always wished would be kind and loving to you, but who, in the end, battered and abused you. And you then would anticipate, even expect the pope to be abusive and mean-spirited, and look for proof of that as his papacy unfolds. In the negative transference, too, you are blinded to who the pope really is by your early experiences and your transference.

And unless in each of these possibilities, you all investigate who the current day object of your transference is – the person onto whom you are transferring someone from the past – and also do your own deep inner work with the original source of the transference . . . you will not know who the other person in today’s world actually is. And you will not know who and what you are actually seeing, hearing, and experiencing in the current day. In other words, you will not know when your experience is a here-and-now experience, and when it’s an experience from long ago transferred and imposed onto today’s circumstances.

This is true as we relate to public figures like the ones I have used as examples, and it is also true in our private lives. With our friends, our bosses, our employees, our romantic partners, and even our own children. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve worked with were wounded because their mother or father were jealous of their own siblings and transferred that sibling onto their son or daughter!

*****

“This is staggering,” you say? “How do we get anything straight in our lives – private or public?”

Yes, this is staggering. In terms of our personal relationships and our public discourse and choices as citizens. And yes! This shows us clearly that we cannot just stay on the surface and believe working on the surface level will resolve the suffering – any suffering, any suffering completely. It may bring some temporary relief, but not lasting resolution.

Yes, this understanding of transference is staggering. But it is not a cause to become overwhelmed. Not a cause to collapse. Not a cause to give up. This is staggering . . . it is a very powerful revelation. It is a cause for celebration. It is filled with great potential and possibility. It is a solid reason for true and justified hope.

It is something to open your mind and your heart to . . . and to want to learn about. I hope you will want to learn about it conceptually, but even more . . . I hope you will want to learn about your very own transference experientially and emotionally. I hope you will want to learn about your very own transference and how it affects your life. And the lives of those you touch. I hope you will want to discover it and utilize it for healing. The potential for healing here is enormous.

Will you reach for this healing? Will you follow through on it for your individual healing and for the part your own healing will contribute to our communal healing?

© Judith Barr, 2013.

*This is not a critique of the new pope.  I was actually planning on writing this article for my May newsletter. But with the unexpected changing of the guard at the Vatican, it helped to provide a perfect background from which to teach about transference.

****

WHAT YOU CAN DO
TO HELP MAKE YOUR AND OUR WORLD SAFE . . .
FROM THE INSIDE OUT

Transference is something we all experience . . . each of us, every day.

As you go about your day, notice your reactions to the people around you, people you hear about in the news, in the media, from others. Are your feelings and reactions too intense for the situation or news? Do you find yourself idealizing or demonizing people – people in your daily life or in the public eye? What do you feel when someone you idealize  “lets you down”? And what do you feel when someone you’ve demonized does something unselfish or kind?

Explore the experience you have of others, situations, and things in your life, on a deeper than surface level. Who else from your past have you felt this way about? Trace those feelings back as early as you possibly can.

Usually, we are blind to our own transference and need a healing arts professional who can be objective to help us uncover it. And often, even when we are aware of it, we cannot resolve and dissolve the transference on our own, but need the compassionate, wise, skilled, and integritous real help of a therapist to go through the process.

As a depth psychotherapist, I welcome the opportunity to help people with their exploration of transference. I would gladly do consultations with anyone who would like an individual consultation. If enough people here in my area would like to do a workshop on this, I would gladly arrange it. If enough people here in my area would like to do a short term weekly group on this, I would gladly arrange that. If enough people outside my geographical area would like to do a teleconference on this, I would gladly arrange that.

If you would like to request any of these ways of exploring your transference, I welcome your emails.