It’s the Transference, Stupid

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Tonight I’ve been reading Stuart’s Gay and Lesbian Theologies: Repetitions with Critical Differences. It provides a nice anthology of gay, lesbian, and queer theology. I’ll post a review later on this week. One thing that particular struck me was her review of Heyward’s (the most influential lesbian theologian) experience in psychotherapy. In fact, many of the earlier theologies focused heavily on the healing produced in psychotherapy. Anyway, apparently Heyward experienced the healing of the erotic power during her psychotherapy. However, Heyward felt betrayed that her “therapist refused to consider becoming friends with Heyward after the therapy ended on the grounds that to do so would be to violate professional boundaries. Heyward refused to accept this because her experience of erotic power was so real and she experienced her therapist’s rejection of the possibility of friendship as abusive” (Stuart, Gay and Lesbian Theologies, 54). This was a focus of Heyward’s book When Boundaries Betray Us. Apparently Heyward never understood the importance of transference in therapeutic relationship. Of course her lesbian therapist was completely correct to refuse this dual-relationship, as it is professionally irresponsible. This reminds me of the old analytic joke of the lonely analyst who experiences an erotic countertransference to his female patient. She was relaying to him her fantasy of getting married to him, and he jumped at the opportunity saying ‘let’s go the courthouse after the session and get married at once’. The female patient looked at him quite baffled and said ‘it’s the transference, stupid’. Some people think that analysts are quite self-absorbed by always interpreting the patient’s actions as somehow related to the therapeutic relationship. However, the key point is that is that the analyst is simply an empty container, an anonymous object (in the psychoanalytic sense) on which the patient projects all of his/her fantasies, wishes, and desires. Hence, Heyward should have recognized that while the intimacy she experienced might have felt real it was in reality illusory because the therapist she related to was simply a self-object and not an actual person.

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