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Freud and Ferenczi on Transference Love

By Richard Snowdon MA (Merit) Psychoanalysis
Sigmund Freud, approx 1900. Source: Wikimedia Commons.This paper is on transference love from the perspectives of both Sigmund Freud and Sandor Ferenczi. Firstly, a consideration of the work of Freud on transference love is taken from a selection of his papers written between 1910 and 1919. This will be followed by certain contributions from Ferenczi on this subject which were written between 1919 and 1928. In conclusion this paper will provide a comparison between the two.
What is the transference love according to Freud? Freud writes that the erotic life of a person is formed in childhood through the combined effect of both innate and acquired influences. This determines how she falls in love in adulthood, which if circumstances allow, is “constantly repeated”. Both unconscious and conscious libido form her erotic attitude. When she enters analysis, if she is “unsatisfied”, she transfers “libidinal anticipatory ideas” on to the analyst. This is the transference love. More specifically, she transfers either her father, mother, brother or sister “imago” from childhood. The imago is an unconscious prototypical figure which determines her way of apprehending other people. It is formed on the basis of the first real and phantasised relationships from childhood. (Freud 1912:99/101). She repeats or acts out her forgotten past, rather than remembers it. (Freud 1914:147/151).
Freud writes that the transference-love is “induced by the analytic situation”. The analyst has evoked the transference love by instituting analytic treatment in order to cure the neurosis. It is “unavoidable and so difficult to clear up”. He states that the beginner in psychoanalysis often “feels alarmed” when he deals with the “reproduction of the repressed”. (Freud 1915:159/161). The analyst will find it difficult to retain a “grasp” on the analytic situation and “keep clear of the illusion” that the analysis is at an end. Freud writes that preparing analysands for the emergence of transference love or urging them to “fall in love” with the analyst is “senseless”. (Freud 1915:162).
Freud writes that it would initially seem that there are only three choices for the outcome of a transference love, none of which he advocates. Freud’s first outcome is of a legal union between the analyst and the analysand. Freud’s second outcome is that the analyst and analysand “part and give up the work”. He writes that the transference love will be repeated if she enters analysis with another analyst. It would “remain unexpressed and unanalysed” if she does not enter analysis. From Freud’s perspective she would have to accept “falling in love” with the analyst as an “inescapable” part of the treatment. (Freud 1914:155). Freud writes that the analyst may “insist” that he is “indispensable” for  her recovery. Freud’s third outcome in which the analyst and analysand enter a temporary “love-relationship”, is “impossible by conventional morality and professional standards”. (Freud 1915:160).
Freud writes that it is initially hard to see the emergence of transference love as an advantage to psychoanalysis. The analysand “loses” her “understanding” of and “interest” in the analysis. Instead, she wants to speak of their love and have it returned. (Freud 1915:162). Freud writes that the analyst should remember that whatever “interferes” with the “continuation” of the analysis “may be an expression of resistance”. He states that the analyst will have already noticed “the signs of an affectionate transference”. These signs include her “acceptance of the analytic explanations”. Freud writes that this stops when she becomes “swallowed up in love”. Freud writes that her change in attitude occurs when the analyst is trying to bring her to “admit or remember” a “distressing and heavily repressed” piece of her life-history. She has been in love for a time, but now “the resistance is beginning to make use of the transference love in order to hinder the continuation of the analysis”. (Freud 1915:162).
Freud writes that certain motives complicate our understanding of transference love. The analysand wants to “assure” herself of her “irresistibility”, and to “destroy” the “authority” of the analyst “by bringing him down to the level of a lover”. Freud sees the resistance as trying to get the analyst to comply with her love demands, and be “taken to task” for it. He mainly sees the resistance as heightening her love for the analyst in order to “justify the workings of repression”, by showing the “dangers” of such actions. (Freud 1915:163). Freud explains what else would happen if the analyst complied with her love demands. She would have succeeded in acting out rather than remembering her unconscious material. In the course of the relationship, her “inhibitions and pathological reactions” would emerge, without there being any possibility of “correcting them”. The relationship would end in “remorse”, and her repression would strengthen. (Freud 1915:166).
Freud writes that until the analysand’s “repression’s are removed”, she is “incapable of getting real satisfaction”. The analyst must therefore not “repulse” the transference love or “respond” to it. He must keep a “firm-hold”, trace it back to its unconscious origins, and bring her hidden erotic life into consciousness and under her control. The analyst should stress to her the “unmistakable element of resistance”. The analysand exhibits “a stubborn and rebellious spirit”. She is “bringing out a resistance under the guise of being in love” with the analyst. She is told that if the analyst refuses the love which “his duty and understanding compel him to do”, she can feel scorned and withdraw from the analysis out of revenge. She is also told that the transference love “exhibits not a single new feature arising from the present situation, but is entirely composed of repetitions and copies of earlier reactions, including infantile ones”. The analyst tries to prove this by an analysis of her behaviour in love. With patience the situation is overcome and the analysis works with the now “moderated” transference love, in order to uncover her “infantile object-choice and phantasies”. (Freud 1915:165/7). Freud writes that the analyst must allow the analysand “time to become conversant with this resistance” by working it through.
Freud states that the part played by the resistance in transference love is “unquestionable and very considerable”. However, the resistance does not create the transference love but makes use of it. Transference love as genuine love is not disproved by the resistance. It consists  of “new editions of old traits” and “repeats infantile reactions”. Freud writes that this is however, the “essential character” of every state of being in love. He writes that “there is no such state that does not reproduce infantile prototypes”. The infantile prototypes determine the compulsive character of transference love. Freud believes that transference love therefore has the “character” of a genuine love. However, it does have “certain features” which set it apart. These are the analytic situation, and the analysand’s lack of regard for reality and consequences. (Freud 1915:168).
The libidinal anticipatory ideas which are found in the transference love can find satisfaction in other forms of behaviour. Freud writes that in certain cases the analyst should take measures which drive away the substitutive satisfactions which the analysand finds both within and outside of the analysis. Freud states that the analyst should make sure that the analysand’s suffering does not come to an end prematurely. Freud writes that “if, owing to the symptoms having been taken apart, and having lost their value, his suffering becomes mitigated, we must re-instate it elsewhere in the form of some appreciable privation”. (Freud 1919:163). Freud had originally stated this point concerning the rule of abstinence from substitutive satisfactions, during his speech at the 1918 International Congress of Psychoanalysis in Budapest.
Ferenczi felt encouraged by Freud’s speech and later made his own address at the 1920 congress in The Hague, where he presented an overview of what is called the active technique. Ferenczi’s 1920 paper is discussed later. First of all though it will be useful to discover what the transference love is according to Ferenczi, and how his active technique emerged as a response to it. Ferenczi states that transference love consists of “repeated love phantasies, which are always concerned with the doctor”. He states that transference love makes the analysand disinclined to make any effort in analysis which causes a delay in it’s progress. Ferenczi uses an active technique in order for the analysis to continue. He fixes a date upon which the analysis is to end as an “incentive to effort” for her to overcome the transference love. A period of effort on her part is once more soon replaced with the transference love. Although Ferenczi tries to convince his analysand, she cannot “understand the transference nature of her feelings, and trace her affects to their real but unconscious object”. (Ferenczi 1919:190).
Ferenczi notices that she is exhibiting larval forms of masturbation both during and outside of the analysis. Ferenczi states that the masturbation has “discharged unnoticed the unconscious impulses and allowed only useless fragments to reach the material of her ideas”. He totally prohibits her from the form of masturbation. This causes the emergence of “long forgotten memory fragments” from her childhood and allows the discovery of “traumatic causes for her illness”. Although she reconciles herself to the prohibition she again takes “refuge” in the transference love. (Ferenczi 1919:191). Ferenczi’s prohibition stops a “channel of discharge” for her “sexuality”. Therefore it returns to its “genital zone, from which it had been repressed at a certain time in development”. (Ferenczi 1919:192). Ferenczi writes that larval forms of masturbation are “hiding places” for the libido. If they remain unnoticed by the analyst, the analysand “attaches pathogenic phantasies to them, short-circuits them constantly by motor discharge, and thus saves himself the irksome and unpleasant task of bringing them to consciousness”. The prohibition means that “long-standing resistances against the continuation of the treatment have been brought to an end”. (Ferenczi 1919:193).
Ferenczi stresses that the use of active techniques is intended solely to aid in overcoming “dead points” in the analysis. (Ferenczi 1919:196). He states that the precedent of the active technique was set by Freud when he instructed phobic analysands to confront phobic situations. Ferenczi writes that it was not Freud’s intention to accustom analysands to such situations, but to free the wrongly anchored affects from their connections. (Ferenczi 1919:196 and Freud 1910:145). As I have stated, Ferenczi felt encouraged by Freud’s 1918 Budapest congress address and made his own speech at the 1920 congress in The Hague. There he commented on existing passive techniques and further developed his own active techniques. Ferenczi stresses that he intends no modification of the fundamental rule of free association. Instead the active technique is meant to make it easier to observe the rule. (Ferenczi 1920:198). Ferenczi points out that passive techniques also consist of activity; the analyst directs his attention to particular material in order to decide upon an interpretation, the delivery of the interpretation alters the flow of the free associations, (Ferenczi 1920:199), the ego of the analysand is altered under the influence of the analyst, (Ferenczi 1920:201), and the rule of abstinence ensures the analysand finds as few substitutive satisfactions for her symptoms as possible. (Ferenczi 1920:202). Ferenczi states that the active technique does not refer so much to the analyst but to the analysand; facing a phobic situation is a task just as keeping to the fundamental rule is also a task. (Ferenczi 1920:201).
Ferenczi states that the active technique consists of two phases which are intended to permit the activation and control of erotic tendencies, even where these have been sublimated. The first phase comprises of injunctions which transform repressed instinctual impulses into a manifest satisfaction, so making them into fully conscious formations. The second one consists of prohibitions regarding these same formations. The analyst is then able to relate the activities and affects brought out by the first phase to infantile situations. (Ferenczi 1920:205). Ferenczi would also “encourage or discourage” his analysands “towards or against” adhering to the rule of free association when it was misused as a form of resistance. (Ferenczi 1920:207). He stresses that active techniques should only be used in exceptional cases, for a limited time only, mainly towards the end of analysis, solely if the transference has become a compulsion, and not by new analysts. For Ferenczi, active techniques are an auxiliary to and not a variant of existing technique. (Ferenczi 1920:208).
Ferenczi formulates that prohibitions cause a “‘rise of pressure’” in energy which overcomes the resistance. (Ferenczi 1919:197). Firstly, the active technique increases the resistance through stimulating the “ego sensibility”. The increased internal conflict both increases the symptoms, and disturbs “the peace of remote or deeply repressed psychic domains hitherto spared by the analysis”. Then “derivatives from this, in the form of ideas that can be interpreted, find their way into consciousness”. (Ferenczi 1920:213). Ferenczi writes that it is also possible that “certain early infantile unconscious pathogenic psychic contents, which never were conscious (or preconscious) but which date from the period of ‘unco-ordinated gestures or magical behaviour’, cannot be simply remembered at all, but can only be reproduced by a re-living in the sense of Freud’s repetition”. (Ferenczi 1920:217).  
Ferenczi appears confident in his active technique when he writes that “there is no kind of neurosis in which activity might be employed” (Ferenczi 1920:209). He seems less confident later when he writes that “it will indeed be a long time before we shall be in the position positively to formulate the indications for activity for every kind of neurosis separately”. (Ferenczi 1925:220). Ferenczi’s final view was that the active technique considerably increased the analysand’s resistances. By formulating injunctions and prohibitions the analyst played the part of a parental super-ego. He writes that active measures “induce the physician to forcibly thrust his will upon the patient in an all too true repetition of the parent-child situation, or to permit the sadistic bearing of a schoolmaster”. (Ferenczi 1925:220). Ferenczi writes that he never intended the analyst’s role to “go beyond that of interpretation and the occasional setting of tasks”. (Ferenczi 1925:224). Here again, Ferenczi states that there is “no question” of the active technique replacing “classical Freudian technique”. The active technique “should only be applied occasionally as adjuvants in reinforcing the Freudian method”. (Ferenczi 1926 Preface:8)
Ferenczi writes that Freud “left open the possibility” for psychoanalytic techniques beside his own. (Ferenczi 1928:88). This was before the introduction of the second fundamental rule of analysis. The rule is that anyone who wants to be an analyst must first of all be analysed themselves. For Ferenczi, the implementation of this rule meant that the “personal element” concurrently disappeared with “differences” in technique. Ferenczi’s particular personal element is “tact” or the “capacity for empathy”. For Ferenczi, this allows the analyst to “conjecture” what is unconscious to the analysand. The analyst is also able to do this as he is “not having the patient’s resistances to contend with”. (Ferenczi 1928:89). Ferenczi makes several recommendations “in accordance with the empathy rule” which are intended to avoid the resistance from exploiting any opportunity. The analyst should; “repudiate in advance any responsibility for a possible failure of the analysis”, (Ferenczi 1928:91), inform the analysand of any unconscious expressions of rejection or disbelief,  and be “patient” with the negative transference which will be replaced with positive transference. (Ferenczi 1928:93).
Ferenczi also recommends that the analyst should; be tentative when talking to the analysand, not be too confident in his own opinions, not irritate the analysand, and remember he could be wrong. Ferenczi invites a comparison of the empathy rule with the “lofty attitude” of some analysts. (Ferenczi 1928:94). Ferenczi also recommends that the analyst should wait patiently until the analysand “makes up his own mind”. He writes that there must be an “elasticity” in analytic technique. “The analyst, like an elastic band, must yield to the patient’s pull, but without ceasing to pull in his own direction, so long as one position or the other has not been conclusively demonstrated to be untenable”. (Ferenczi 1928:95). Ferenczi writes that both the analyst and analysand are involved in the working through. This involves the “patient reconstruction of the mechanism of the symptom and character formation should be repeated again and again at every step in the analysis”. New insights call for a revision of previous material. The analysis itself becomes part of the material which is also open to revision. (Ferenczi 1928:97).
Ferenczi finally abandoned the promotion of active measures entirely. His conviction that the analysand and not the analyst must be active led him to conclude the he must content himself with interpreting the analysand’s concealed tendencies to action, and supporting his attempts to overcome the neurotic inhibitions, “without pressing or even advising him to take violent measures”. He thought that with patience the analysand would decide for themselves to defy a phobic avoidance, and that analysts should not withhold their consent and encouragement. Ferenczi had decided that “it is the patient himself who must decide the timing of activity”. (Ferenczi 1928: 96-97).
From the papers of Freud and Ferenczi that I have selected for my own paper I have drawn the following similarities and differences. Freud is more specific and extensive in his writings on the origins of transference love than Ferenczi. It appears that Ferenczi draws on Freud’s understanding. These origins of transference love are the first real and phantasised relationships from childhood. Ferenczi is also in agreement with Freud that the transference love is concerned with the analyst. Both Freud and Ferenczi encountered the loss of interest in the work of analysis by the analysand experiencing transference love. When Freud and Ferenczi are writing of analysands in general, the sex of the analysand is often male. When writing of individual cases the sex of the analysand is always female. Neither of them discuss individual cases where the analyst is of the same sex as the analysand.
Freud compares transference love to genuine love where Ferenczi does not. For Freud, transference love is induced by the analytic situation; something which Ferenczi does not write on. Ferenczi’s prohibitions do extend outside of the analytic situation where Freud’s techniques almost never do. Freud warns us that the analyst first encountering transference love could be alarmed. His advice is to be patient and keep hold of the situation. Ferenczi’s initial response to transference love is not to be patient, but to actively intervene. Freud appears to succeed in convincing the analysand that the transference love is rooted in infantile object choice whilst Ferenczi does not. Ferenczi employs active techniques to overcome the resistance. His failure to convince the analysand of the transference is also apparent.
Both Freud and Ferenczi acknowledge that whatever interferes with the progress of the analysis is probably resistance. Ferenczi makes many recommendations for avoiding the resistance where Freud offers techniques in working with the resistance. Both realise that resistance in the form of transference love indicates the proximity of repressed material. Within this selection of papers Ferenczi also points to the larval forms of masturbation as indications of repressed material. Like Freud, Ferenczi believes that until the repressions are removed, the analysand can get no real satisfaction. Ferenczi views larval forms of masturbation as substitutive satisfactions. Ferenczi sees the transference love as a refuge for the analysand and a dead point in the progress of the analysis as it disinclines her to make any effort. For Ferenczi then the transference love has to be got rid of by an active measure. Freud sees the transference love as a source of information on the analysand which he can work with.    
Ferenczi’s active technique differs theoretically to Freud’s passive or neutral technique. Ferenczi’s active technique involves injunctions and prohibitions for certain repetitive behaviours which provide substitutive satisfactions, block recollection and delay the progress of the analysis. More specifically, Ferenczi’s injunctions transform repressed instinctual impulses into a manifest satisfaction which makes them into conscious formations. Ferenczi then makes a prohibition regarding these formations. Ferenczi relates the activities and affects through the initial injunction to infantile situations. Freud’s passive technique consists of the listening and interpretations of the free associations. More specifically, Freud’s technique admits the compulsion to repeat into the transference, the ordinary neurosis is turned into a transference neurosis where it is accessible to his intervention. Freud learns from the traits of the transference love, interprets what is acted out to the analysand who works it through in order to become conversant with it. The libidinal energy is used by the transference which is allowed to persist in order to serve as a force compelling the analysand to do the work of analysis.
Ferenczi’s active technique stresses repetition in the sense in which Freud contrasted it to remembering. In order to overcome the compulsion to repeat and make recollection possible Ferenczi suggested not only to permit, but to encourage repetition. Like Freud, Ferenczi realises the working through by the analysand is important. Ferenczi extends the working through to include the analysis itself which becomes material for the analysand. He also stresses the work of the analyst in the working through. In one respect it is easier to view Ferenczi’s active technique as exhibiting more authority on the part of the analyst than it is within Freud’s technique. However, both techniques effect the flow of free associations. Consider the effect of Freud’s persistently repeated interpretations instead of Ferenczi active measures. Both Freud and Ferenczi rarely consider counter transference as a possible way of learning about the transference love.
Ferenczi’s approach is concerned with the intersubjectivity between the analyst and the analysand, where Freud’s is not. Ferenczi stresses the capacity for empathy. For Ferenczi, empathy allows him to conjecture what is unconscious to the analysand. He writes that he is also able to do this as he does not having the patient’s resistances to contend with. Although Ferenczi implies that the analysand and not the analyst has the resistances, it is down to the analyst to point these out to the analysand who may not even be aware of them. Therefore the analyst does have to contend with the resistances.
This paper has considered transference love from the perspectives of both Sigmund Freud and Sandor Ferenczi. Firstly, a consideration of the work of Freud on transference love was taken from a selection of his papers written between 1910 and 1919. This was followed by certain contributions from Ferenczi on the subject which were written between 1919 and 1928. In conclusion this paper provided a comparison between the two.
This paper 'Freud and Ferenczi on Transference Love' was written in 2000. It was first published on this website in 2006.
Ferenczi, S., (1919), Technical Difficulties in the Analysis of a Case of Hysteria, in Rickman, J., (Compiler), (1926), Further Contributions to the Theory and Technique of Psycho-Analysis, Karnac, London.
Ferenczi, S., (1920), The Further Development of an Active Therapy in Psycho-Analysis, in Rickman, J., (Compiler), (1926), Further Contributions to the Theory and Technique of Psycho-Analysis, Karnac, London.
Ferenczi, S., (1925), Contra-indications to the ‘Active’ Psycho-Analytical Technique, in Rickman, J., (Compiler), (1926), Further Contributions to the Theory and Technique of Psycho-Analysis, Karnac, London. 
Ferenczi, S., (1928), The Elasticity of Psycho-Analytical Technique, in Balint, M., (Ed,), Final Contributions to the Theory and Technique of Psycho-Analysis, Karnac, London.
Freud, S., (1910), The Future Prospects of Psycho-Analytic Therapy, in Strachey, J., (Ed.), (1978), The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XI, Hogarth, London.
Freud, S., (1912), The Dynamics of Transference, in Strachey, J., (Ed.), (1978), The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XII, Hogarth, London.
Freud, S., (1914), Remembering, Repeating and Working-Through (Further Recommendations on the Technique of Psychoanalysis II), in Strachey, J., (Ed.), (1978), The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XII, Hogarth, London.
Freud, S., (1915), Observations on Transference-Love (Further Recommendations on the Technique of Psychoanalysis III), in Strachey, J., (Ed.), (1978), The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XII, Hogarth, London.
Freud, S., (1919), Lines of Advance in Psycho-Analytic Therapy, in Strachey, J., (Ed.), (1978), The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XVII, Hogarth, London.

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