Clarifying And Re-Mystifying Transference, Counter-Transference And Co-Transference. A Guide To Avoiding Procrustean Psychotherapy
By developing Jung's Cross Diagram (inspired by an Alchemical woodcut) this paper clarifies the distinct processes of transference, counter-transference and co-transference. Drawing heavily on Jung's book “The Psychology of the Transference” and his clinical experience the author critically analyses the contributions of the Freudian, Jungian and Field Theorists schools approach to the subject.
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By developing Jung's Cross Diagram (inspired by an Alchemical woodcut) this paper clarifies the distinct processes of transference, counter-transference and co-transference. Drawing heavily on Jung's book “The Psychology of the Transference” and his clinical experience the author critically analyses the contributions of the Freudian, Jungian and Field Theorists schools approach to the subject. The author underpins his critique throughout with the contention that a clear understanding of the psychology behind transference enables therapists to go beyond offering their clients the Procrustean bed of normal adaptation and facilitate a process of profound personal transformation in both their clients, and themselves.

This paper was first presented at the Bristol C.G. Jung Public Lectures on 13th November, 2010 and revised on 30th April, 2011. Revisons include -
- Use of term "Co-transference" to replace "Transference & Counter-Transference".
- Re-writing of section on Field theory and Projective Identification.
- Revisions to section Working with the Transference, Counter-transference and Co-transference.
- Various other minor alterations and expansions.


“I inquire, I do not assert; I do not here determine anything with final assurance; I conjecture, try, compare, attempt, ask....”

Translation of Motto to Christian Knorr von Rosenroth

Quoted on the title page of The Psychology of the Transference by Carl Jung.  


In his essay “Problems of Modern Psychotherapy” The Practice of Psychotherapy CW Vol. 16 Jung tentatively sketched four stages of psycho-analytic treatment, confession, elucidation, education and transformation. The first three he sees as processes leading to the attainment of normal adaptation. For some though this is not enough “... for people of more than average ability, people who never found it difficult to gain successes and to accomplish their share of the world's work - for them the moral compulsion to be nothing but normal signifies the bed of Procrustes[1] - deadly and insupportable boredom, a hell of sterility and hopelessness.... their deepest need is really to be able to lead abnormal lives.” Jung CW Vol 16 p70. It is the fourth stage of transformation that these individuals require, where the meeting of the personalities of Doctor and patient is likened to the mixing of two different chemical substances wherein if there is any mixing at all, both are transformed. This means that “the doctor is as much “in the analysis” as the patient. He is equally a part of the psychic process of treatment and therefore equally exposed to the transforming influences. Indeed, to the extent that the doctor shows himself impervious to this influence, he forfeits influence over the patient.” ibid p74. What Jung is alluding to here is what I call the process of co-transference (sometimes confusingly referred to as transference and countertransference, or sometimes simply as the countertransference) as distinct to the discrete and separate processes of transference and counter-transference. It is the purpose of this paper to define these three nebulous processes so that co-transference can be seen for the subtle and powerful tool of personal transformation it is rather than subsumed within the other two.

Any cursory reading of the subject quickly reveals diverse definitions, beliefs and opinions about transference, counter-transference and co-transference along with ever more convoluted intellectual attempts to nail down the subject. I think that the historical evolution of the subject has lead to an overly complex body of theory generating much misunderstanding in its use and significant harm to clients. The first part of this paper describes the historical evolution of transference and counter-transference theory from Freud's discovery of transference and counter-transference, through to Jung's alchemically inspired contribution. Some of the misunderstandings in, and arising from, Jung's work are then explored along with a brief look at the more modern development of Field theory‘s projective identification and its approach to the subject. I end the paper by reflecting on the practical use of transference and counter-transference and present a case example that shows the working through of a co-transference.

My interest in this subject derives from my own predilection to use (or be used by) the transference process in my work. It also comes from my personal experience of being on the receiving end of what I experienced as an abusive transference and counter-transference muddle. Only with the help of a skilled analyst was I able to extricate myself from the situation and learn more about the psychology of transference. My involvement with the Client Voice Movement has revealed to me how widespread the harm caused by the misuse of transference and counter-transference is. This paper is my contribution towards trying to reduce this and future harm, whilst also pointing to the potential for a more useful understanding of the psychology of transference in order to change people's lives, for the better.



Projection is the tendency to ascribe to another person, unconscious contents such as feelings, thoughts, or attitudes present in one-self, or to regard external reality as embodying such feelings, thoughts, etc, in some way. Transference is the term applied to projection from a client to the therapist that occurs in the analytic setting.

Projection is something we all do most of the time without ever realising it. We distort how we see and relate to the outer world by laying over it the dynamic and autonomous images of our inner world, including all the feelings, wishes, wants, beliefs etc that they embody. The contents of our inner world, or the unconscious, include not only elements from our past, but also what we may be, our potential. Additionally we share a common, or objective psyche i.e. that as part of being human we all have the same underlying unconscious or archetypal processes, complexes or myths and these too influence and shape our inner world, distorting our perception of the outer world. The influence of the objective psyche is explored later in this paper with particular reference to alchemical processes and imagery. For now it is sufficient to recognise that our inner world, however it is formed can significantly influence how we perceive and relate to the outer world. The effectiveness of positive thinking and affirmations is testament to how an individual can consciously affect how they see the world. Projection is the unconscious version of these processes, for better or worse. The distortion in our perception becomes a problem when it brings us into conflict with the outer world and this is most likely when we encounter the polarity opposite to that to which we are identified. Then we are likely to either try to force our view and wishes onto the other person or become subject to them. Powerful unconscious feelings and desires may be behind the projection and can cause even normally balanced people to behave out of character. We should not see all action out of projection as some kind of unhealthy activity, and deride it with the derogatory term “acting out”. We all “act out”, or more accurately “act in”, for no-one is fully conscious of the motivations behind their actions and just because the action may include a degree of unconsciousness it does not necessarily make it wrong or inappropriate as the object or person receiving the projection usually bears some resemblance to the content projected i.e. we don't project onto a blank screen. By becoming aware of our projections, through internal reflection or external acting out, we get to take back parts of ourselves we have inappropriately put out into the world. We project in order to know who we are. The greater our need to re-integrate what we have projected, the greater our fascination is with the projection. Furthermore the greater the correspondence between the target of our projection and the content we are projecting, the harder one has to work to win back the projected part of our personality. The work of redemption becomes not only a journey of self discovery but also one where we can discover another for who they truly are, not who we like to believe them to be.

The dialectic analytic setting provides an ideal environment for conducting this intimately personal and revealing work. In this way, transference has become the second royal road to the unconscious and is the cornerstone on which many of the modern psychotherapeutic models have been founded.



I will now build up what many will recognise as Jung's Cross (or Gate) Diagram (see appendix 1) to illustrate and explain the historical development of transference and counter-transference.

1. The face to face, ego [2] to ego relationship between therapist and client.


Here we have what could be seen as an ordinary conversation between individuals or what is typical of the medical doctor-patient relationship. According to Jung much good work can be done here and one “can be satisfied with other therapeutically effective factors...Among these the patient's own insight plays an important part, also his good will, the doctor's authority, suggestion, good advice, understanding, sympathy, encouragement, etc.” Jung. The Psychology of the Transference p9

2(T) The relationship between the therapist's ego and unconscious & 2(C) The relationship between the client's ego and unconscious.

With Freud's theory of the unconscious we now have the early psychotherapeutic scenario prior to the discovery of transference. In this set-up the client is seen to be troubled by influences from their unconscious hence the bold arrow 2(C) in the diagram above. The therapist in Freudian therapy is meant to be a neutral presence. The analytic setting/consulting room should reflect nothing of the personality of the therapist. The therapist was to dress and behave in a professional manner, placing themselves out of view of the recumbent client. The analyst would have been through their own analysis, so that their unconscious would not pollute the analytic setting, hence the dotted arrow 2(T) above. The belief was that psychoanalysis was an objective science and that through free association, the interpretation of transference, dreams, Freudian slips etc. the unconscious could be emptied and the Id and Superego depotentiated, leaving the client free to live an adult life.

3. Transference: The relationship between the client's unconscious and the therapist's ego.

From his clinical experience Freud noticed the tendency for clients to project onto him significant figures from their past, such as Mother or Father, and is illustrated by the dashed arrow 3 in the above diagram. The arrow is dashed because of the intangible nature of this process.

Freud coined the term transference to describe projection occurring in the analytic setting. He saw his clients were transferring elements of their unconscious onto him. The most common personified projections to occur in therapy are where the therapist is female and as a carer are confused with the client's Mother, or where the therapist is male and due to their position as an authority figure are easily confused with the client's Father.

Technically, recognition of the transference can be acheived by the therapist engaging any of the psychological functions, thinking, feeling, intuition and sensation to perceive the distortion of reality generated by the client. Dream analysis, Freudian slips of the client, unconscious body movements and other unconsciously generated material can help the therapist flesh out the nature of the transference.

Freud saw transference as an inconvenience, and undesirable as it got in the way of his analytic technique of using free association. In line with his theory of the unconscious he saw the transference needed to be de-potentiated and believed this could be done by setting up/encouraging another similar but different transference, in the form of a transference-neurosis. In this, the transference is transferred from its original source, typically a parent or significant other, to the analyst. Once the transference had shifted into the consulting room, recognition of it and its subsequent resolution would be easier. With the transference shifted to the analyst, the analyst could interpret the client's problems based on a combination of, their experience in relation to the client, knowledge of the client's history and psychological theory, in order to dissolve the transference. The term ‘reductive interpretation' has come to be used to describe this kind of interpretation that aims to remove unconscious contents by making their existence, actions and consequences conscious.

In ‘Observations on Transference Love', Freud spoke of how, when faced with a female patient who declared she had fallen in love with him, the analyst should neither accept nor reject this love, but adopt a course for which there is ‘no pattern in real life' and contain it: ‘You hold onto the love-transference, but you treat it as something unreal, as a situation that has to be worked through in the therapy, taken back to its unconscious origins and made to help bring the most deeply buried aspects of her erotic life up into the patient's consciousness, and therefore under her control” Freud, ‘Observations on Transference Love' (Further Recommendations on the Technique of Psychoanalysis III) (1915a [1914])..   SE , 12: 157-171.

It should be noted here that not all transference is necessarily negative or to do with historical contents. Positive elements of the client's past may also be transferred, as too can potential or archetypal contents.

4. Counter-transference: The relationship between the therapist's unconscious and the client's ego.

Counter-transference is the term Freud applied to projection from the therapist onto the client, illustrated by the dashed arrow above. This is drawn as a narrower arrow than arrow 3 otherwise there are serious problems likely for the course of the therapy. Here the therapist due to their own personal unconscious dynamics unknowingly falls under the spell of the client's psyche. As a positive counter-transference this may manifest as the therapist showing favour to a certain client, extending sessions inappropriately, or even wishing to commute the analytic relationship in order to pursue a personal relationship with the client. Negative counter-transferences can have severely detrimental consequences for the work involving a dislike or even hate of the client leading to the therapist abusing the client emotionally, sexually or financially. Beyond this the therapeutic scenario itself produces its own forms of counter-transference such as the therapist identifying with the healer archetype thereby forcing the client into the position of the wounded one, practicing seductive shamanism or trying to satiate a neurotic need for therapeutic success.

Counter-transference is therefore heavily frowned upon in Freudian therapy, being seen as a pollution of the therapeutic space due to the consequence of the analyst being insufficiently analysed (hence the slightly more solid arrow 2(T) in the diagram above than in the previous two diagrams). The remedy is usually the requirement for the analyst to undergo supervision or further personal analysis to resolve the relevant conflicts.

Despite what the etymology of the word implies, I want to underline that counter-transference by the therapist is independent and unrelated to the transference of the client, it is not ‘counter' as in ‘return'. The two terms - transference and counter-transference - form two distinct and separate processes. These two processes are unconscious to either of the people generating them, and that any therapist claiming that they know what their counter-transference is in relation to their client betrays their ignorance of the process. The best the therapist can ever claim is to know is what their counter-transference was, not is. (They are more likely to be confusing their use of the more subjective feeling and intuition functions to perceive the transference, as communications from their own unconscious. The term best reserved for describing what someone experiences in relation to another's transference or projection is projective identification, or even more pedantically, projective dis-identification (described in more detail later in the section: The Development of Field Theory since Freud and Jung)).

At this point we have completed our picture of transference and counter-transference as described by Freud and what could be regarded as typical of classical Freudian psychoanalysis. 

5. Co-transference. The relationship between the client's unconscious and the therapist's unconscious.

Jung, in his book The Psychology of the Transference describes a form of transference and countertransference, i.e. co-transference, that lay beyond what he saw as the narrow and reductive Freudian versions of transference and counter-transference. This difference in attitude can be attributed to their different attitudes to the unconscious. “Freud, as we know, observes the transference problem from the standpoint of a personalistic psychology and thus overlooks the very essence of the transference - the collective contents of an archetypal nature. The reason for this is his notoriously negative attitude to the psychic reality of archetypal images, which he dismisses as an “illusion.” This materialistic bias precludes strict application of the phenomenological principle without which an objective study of the psyche is absolutely impossible. My handling of the transference problem, in contrast to Freud's includes the archetypal aspect and thus gives rise to a totally different picture.” Jung. p21 The Psychology of the Transference.

Or in a more even handed manner as expressed by Wiener this difference in attitude to the unconscious is described thus “In contrast to Freud's concept of repression, visualised as a form of horizontal splitting, Jung conceived of the normal psyche as essentially dissociated, implying a vertical rather than a horizontal division. Freud's repressed unconscious is different from Jung's idea of subpersonalities, the fragmentary personalities that he came to call complexes. Jung's view is that dissociation rather than repression is the main mechanism for keeping mental contents out of consciousness but allowing space for the “not yet known,” the unrepressed, to emerge.” Wiener. p30 The Therapeutic Relationship.

This additional understanding is shown by arrow 5 in the diagram above. For the sake of clarity, I choose to the term co-transference to represent Jung's additional understanding of the psychology of transference. This will probably antagonise many Freudians, Jungians and practitioners of the various other schools of therapy but with so many different factions laying claim to the term counter-transference there is a need to be clear what is being talked about. Jung's version of co-transference is often referred to, and known by many, as archetypal transference. I believe this to be a misnomer expressing only part of Jung's contribution, another cause of much misunderstanding. I explore this misperception in more detail later in this paper.

Jung was the first to recognise that co-transference (arrow 5) was the cause of the more intractable forms of transference (arrow 3), and in the foreword of The Psychology of the Transference he was at pains to state that he was specifically addressing these particularly obstinate transference cases. Jung did allude to transference occurring without co-transference when he said he was “glad when only a mild transference was present or practically unnoticeable in that far less claim was made upon one as a person”, CG Jung p9 The Psychology of the Transference thereby indicating that not every transference was necessarily co-transference. In this way Freud's version of transference remained an undisputed psychological process in its own right and likewise counter-transference by the analyst could occur without a transference from the client.

Co-transference as described by Jung was an additional process occurring outside of the awareness/consciousness of both the therapist and the client. It may (but need not necessarily) be related to the transference of the client, in that the transference, and the symptoms it produced, could well be a more apparent manifestation of this underlying process.

Co-transference can be seen as the cause (and consequence) of these more obdurate transference cases where the relationship is actually built on mutual unconsciousness: “The patient by bringing an activated unconscious content to bear upon the doctor, constellates the corresponding unconscious material in him, owing to the inductive effect which always emanates from projection in greater or lesser degree. Doctor and patient thus find themselves in a relationship founded on mutual unconsciousness.” Jung p12 The Psychology of the Transference.

Co-transference as described by Jung is neither directly or indirectly accessible to either therapist or client. I underline indirectly to emphasise the degree of unconsciousness. We are not aware of it, or even of something irking us... it is not available to us by any means... it is not subconscious (i.e. out of consciousness but retrievable at will), it is unconscious. It does not yield itself through later reflection and analysis of one's own responses, feelings or reactions to a client that occurred during a session. It is a process that is unconscious but has yet to work itself through, and will only do so if the appropriate attitude is adopted by therapist and client, and for want of a better phrase, God willing.

This could not be written larger... and bears repeating... “in a relationship founded on mutual unconsciousness”. Being a mutually unconscious process, understanding comes later, it is a process to be lived through just as “life is a mystery to be lived, not a riddle to be solved” to mangle a quote of James Hillman. The therapist cannot know how this process will resolve itself as it is a playing out of the client's unique personal drama.

Through his own personal crisis Jung had experienced and recorded the autonomous working of the unconscious to provide a positive, purposive and transformative experience for himself. Later in his life when studying alchemical texts he came to understand his own process and applied his understanding to his clinical experience of the therapeutic dyad. Jung saw that each of the opposites constellated in the transference were underpinned by an archetypal force and that the process was mediated by the archetype of the Self. The successful negotiation of this process meant that the archetype provided the client with the necessary missing component to work through the transference. Freudian analysis never included an archetypal element to the transference and hence reduced everything to the personal level and through reductive analysis threw everything out. The effective application of reductive interpretation generates a serious impasse in that by continually analysing away the client's past, the client is left hanging over a void, where all that appears is continually referred back to their past and analysed away. The Freudian method, if adhered to, acts as a mill that grinds everything to dust and can lead to the severe traumatisation and abuse of the client (see Rosie Alexander's Folie à Deux and Anna Sands's Falling for Therapy ).

Jung posited that, despite the mutual unconsciousness of both client and therapist, there was an appropriate attitude that the therapist could adopt in order to collaborate with this underlying process. The appropriate attitude is one of openness to what lies outside of the personal consciousness of both the client and the therapist. Such an attitude in contrast to the Freudian paradigm implies openness to, and valuing of, infection - hardly the usual method employed by these psychoanalytic pioneers with their medical model background. (The appropriate attitude includes faith on the part of the analyst... not that faith can be assumed, it needs to be genuine, acquired through experience.)

In The Psychology of the Transference , Carl Jung states that within the analytic dyad both participants typically experience a variety of opposites, and that, as in love and in psychological growth, the key to success is the ability to endure the tension of the opposites without abandoning the process, and that this tension allows one to grow and to transform. This “tension of the opposites” is possibly similar to that generated in the practice of courtly love where the love object of the troubadour was always an idealised woman above their station who was unattainable. Likewise the analytic boundaries of time, space and professional discipline frustrate desires that would usually be met (or avoided in a variety of defence mechanisms) in situations with less formal or rigid boundaries, helping to constellate and intensify the transference. The analytic setting acts like a container - intensifying and ultimately transforming the psychic forces.

Beyond this though, Jung saw that the process of co-transference had its own pattern and order reflected in the alchemical process of coniunctio, the union of the opposites. In the alchemical text, the Rosarium Philosophorum , a series of woodcut prints illustrate this coniunctio process and Jung used these to depict the process of co-transference. The ten woodcuts he used are shown below.

1.The Mercurial Fountain 2.King and Queen 3.The Naked Truth

4.Immersion in the Bath 5.Conjunction 6.Conception or Putrefaction 7.Ascent of the Soul

         8.Purification             9.Return of the Soul        10.The New Birth

                                                     FIGURE 1

Jung provided a full interpretation of this series of images, sometimes I suspect beyond the original intention of their creator. They serve as a guide of how to go through the union of opposites, where old wounds are opened up and properly healed. So not only did Jung discover a collective dimension to the transference process, offering a way out of the Freudian impasse, he also pointed to how this archetypal process may work itself through.

Here I will provide a simple short summary followed by an imagined translation of how this may play out in the therapeutic setting. (A detailed interpretation of the full series, including a further ten woodcuts is the subject of another paper.) The series Jung chose starts with a picture of a fountain providing a sense of universal wholeness and completeness. We next see a male and female couple meeting, getting naked, bathing together, and having sex in a lake. Then, in what appears to be a tomb, they are physically fused together in a post-coital state wherein conception occurs simultaneously with a sense of death and the departure of the soul. A period of spiritual cleansing ensues before the soul returns re-animating the fused couple who are reborn into the world as a resplendent winged hermaphrodite.[3]

A description of the above series played out in the therapeutic setting including a male therapist and female client could be something as follows. The client and therapist meet each other formally, agreeing to work together on what the client presents with, but at the same time an unconscious agreement to work on something with incestuous undertones is made (through the shaking of left hands), the energy driving this being described by Jung as kinship libido. The work will include or require something of God's grace, the Spirit (as represented by the Dove) and the opposites constellated in the co-transference not restricted by their conscious limitations as the couple are underpinned by the archetypes (as represented by the Sun and Moon). As the psychotherapeutic work - or what their ego's believe is the psychotherapeutic work - continues, the therapeutic alliance develops and sessions pass. Their unconscious's become more exposed and open to one another. Their work deepens as they enjoy a shared feeling context and their (lesser) personal transferences are washed away. They maintain a psychological distance between themselves, allowing the co-transference to develop. Eventually, though there is a penetration by the male therapist's unconscious psyche (her projected animus) of the female client's psyche. He is the carrier of the opposite she projects - in this case a potential masculine insight (possibly spiritual) greater than her present ability to bear, and following penetration she has in fact taken back the projection. She lets him in and is affected by him. This brings the experience of being met, penetrated, fulfilled, and all the feelings of consummation. Simultaneously the boundaries of the analytic setting are experienced as oceanic, universal as the client moves beyond their previous psychic bounds. Depending on how this is experienced by the client, at this point they are likely to either want to marry or kill the therapist (the primary Freudian drives of sex and aggression, Eros and Thanatos). The therapist points this out to the client who is then shut in the container now shrunk from its oceanic proportions to that of a coffin or tomb. In all of this though, an internal marriage, a union, has occurred so things are different. Conception has happened but the gestation period means nothing is apparent yet. The poles of the opposition have collapsed inwards and in merger there is no separateness, no consciousness but at least they are now contained within one being, one body. The union at this point is experienced as a loss of individual identity. In this space, the work may enter a period of listlessness and both client and therapist may wonder where their work together is going. The next stage (as if you thought things could not get any worse) involves the departure of the masculine force now animated within the female client which she experiences as a loss of soul, the dark night of the soul. With no identity, no soul, nothing remains but the husk of a body, the feeling of a dead life. The risk of psychosis is great for the client at this point. Out of nowhere a cleaning out for a new beginning occurs as the client attempts to understand on all levels how they have arrived where they are, and implement new practices (possibly spiritual practices) to make the space for the soul's return. Finally following a period of trial and error and further understanding of the dynamics they have been caught up in, the integration of the opposites completes and rather than being caught up in their tyranny the client is able to access both opposites and use each in a healthy way. Armed with their new level of insight into their unconscious they are free to relate to it, rather than be bound by it.

Whilst my description is a fanciful notion of the process I hope it provides an insight into what Jung's work with its alchemical influences gives us. It provides a backdrop against which the client's individual and unique struggles may play out. It helps by hinting at what may be going on underneath the surface for the client and demonstrates the interdependence of client and therapist in the process. It helps to make feelings of mania, depression, putrefaction, lifelessness, abandonment, lack of boundaries, suicidal urgings etc more allowable even though we may not understand their cause. The alchemical processes - Calcinatio, Solutio, Coagulatio, Sublimatio, Mortificatio, Separation, Coniunctio, Nigredo, Albedo, Rubedo etc - stimulate the imagination and broaden our capacity to understand our client's experiences. The client's experiences can be seen as an essential part of a process that can more readily be endured or worked through, and given that these experiences are part of a process, they are likely to end at some point. Allowing the feelings, and the images that these processes bring, to be, allows them to run their course. It means trusting that something within us, within our unconscious, beyond what we know or believe ourselves to be, knows what it needs to do to bring us to ourselves, to balance, to wholeness.

Jung's “Cross Diagram” diagram was inspired by the second alchemical woodcut in the Rosarium Philosophorum series shown below.

                                            FIGURE 2

The image captures the transference phenomenon well, with the left-handed handshake supposedly representative of the pact made unconsciously between the couple to enter, and be affected by, this mysterious relationship. They seem quite oblivious to the fact that the ground they stand on is the archetypal forces of Sun and Moon (even the Sun and Moon look away from one another) and that these external forces infuse their relations.

The general (albeit vague) orientation alchemical knowledge and understanding gives to the therapist of the co-transference process helps point out the possible experiences, traps and pitfalls the client is likely to face and how the two of them may try to avoid them. To ignore the dictums alchemy provides, risks denying the client the very escape route they need to avoid being ensnared in a mutually enabling, but soul crippling relationship with the therapist.

The alchemical tenet that gold is required to make gold, points both to the truth that the client will be unable to go anywhere the therapist has not been themselves, and to the relevance of a therapist undergoing a through training analysis/therapy if they want to be of full use to their clients. Just as a novice alchemist was apprenticed to a master, so too should a trainee therapist be apprenticed to an experienced therapist. The practice of psychotherapy and especially the workings of co-transference are not something that can be learned from a book; they need to be experienced and are hard won.

At this point you might feel that you have more of a handle on the workings of the processes of transference, counter-transference and co-transference and this is the same feeling Jung's book The Psychology of Transference can easily leave you with. However, things are, thankfully not so easy.




Jung chose Adept and Soror as a pair of opposites to illustrate the co-transference as, in their contra-sexual polarities they represented the most common pair of opposites. The roots of this arrangement he described as the “marriage quaternio”, and he explores its relevance in the text, quoting sources in folklore and fairy tales to illustrate the working through of the process. By choosing this particular alchemical series of woodcuts from the Rosarium Philisophorum to illustrate co-transference, Jung also chose the male-female dyad to represent the process.

The problem arising from Jung's choice of the male-female dyad, whilst being the most obvious (or most apparent) pair of opposites with which to represent the process they, are (inevitably) simply single representation - but not the only possible representation. In fact all the opposites can occur. The image (figure 2) shows the King and Queen standing on the Sun and Moon (Sol and Luna). Jung saw these as the particular archetypal forces influencing this particular process and whilst he did recognise this as a simplifcation, we need to realise that any archetypal pairing could occur depending on the particular mutual unconscious process constellating between therapist and client, be they male and female, or both male or both female. What we are looking at is an illustration, by way of illustration, an example, not a unique occurrence.


Jung's use of this particular pair of opposites - Male and Female, Sun and Moon, Yin and Yang, animus and anima etc - as opposed to any other single pair alchemical series to illustrate Co-transference has also lead to further misunderstandings or perhaps more accurately accentuated prejudices. We have to remember when Jung was writing in a time before female emancipation and that this may have prejudiced his views of women and women's psychology. Jung's experience and explanation appears to be based on the analyst being male, as he was, and the client female. This I believe has lead to an over emphasis on the importance of animus and anima as a pair of opposites in this work. Again we are dealing with terms, they are simply an example, a lazy shorthand cutting us off from our experience, killing the image.[4]

This concretisation, by Jung, of the concept of anima and animus being peculiar to men and women respectively is a limiting concept. They are seen as distinct ways in which the sexes mediate with the unconscious ascribing an inherent irrationality to women and seeing homosexuality as a psychological aberration to be cured. No room is given to the sexes having elements of both (or even a myriad of) ways of relating to their unconscious. By setting up typical ways that the sexes may mediate to their unconscious, we define what is normal or to be expected, and deviance from this, is by definition, to be seen as abnormal. In this way we are setting our clients up for a process of normalisation rather than individuation.

Jung in later texts considered anima and animus together, calling the pair the syzygy, but these revisions seem to have been overlooked until Hillman expanded on them in his book, Anima: An Anatomy of a Personified Notion. 

Other Oppositional Pairings

There are other pairs of opposites that occur in co-transference that are clearly not contra-sexual (Ego-Shadow, Father-Son, Mother-Daughter, Senex-Puer) yet alone where the contra-sexual element is not the primary concern. To this end the guidance that Jung's work with the woodcuts gives us, was never meant to be prescriptive or specific, and will have little or no relevance in these other co-transference dyads. The mythic backdrop may provide some pointers as to patterns that may occur as the process works through but like with alchemy and Jung's work they are never the thing itself. In the Epilogue to The Practice of Psychotherapy Jung shows his awareness of the limitation of his theoretical work...

A logical order, as we understand it, or even the possibility of such an order, seems to lie outside of our subject at present. We are moving here in a region of individual and unique happenings that have no parallel. A process of this kind can if our categories are wide enough, be reduced to an order of sorts and described, or at least adumbrated, with the help of analogies; but its innermost essence is the uniqueness of a life individually lived - which nobody can grasp from outside, but which on the contrary, holds the individual in its grip. The series of pictures that served as our Ariadne thread is one of many, such that we could easily set up several other working models which would display the process of transference each in a different light. But no single model would be capable of fully expressing the endless wealth of individual variations which all have their raisin d'être.” Jung. Para 538 Epilogue to The Practice of Psychotherapy (CW 16)

... not that this has prevented some of his followers turning his theorising into dogma. 

Mis-perceptions arising from Jung's explanation being taken out of context.

The development of transference theory outlined in his book The Psychology of the Transference was seen by Jung himself as an addition to Freud's theory. Jung started from Freud's understanding; adding and revising when he experienced its limitations. It is important to recognise the context that The Psychology of the Transference “is not intended for the beginner who would have to first be instructed in such matters, but is addressed exclusively to those who have already gained sufficient experience in such matters.” Jung. p.X. The Psychology of the Transference Foreword.

Jung was describing co-transference as an additional facet of the transference phenomenon, not a separate and discrete process. If Freud had described a house, Jung found that it had a cellar (and attic) that Freud was unaware existed. From references he makes in The Psychology of the Transference , and as the Cross diagram implies, it is easy to forget Jung's caveat that his book is not for the beginner and applies only to the more obstinate cases. Consequently various muddles arise such as people believing counter-transference is a response to transference or that Jung's description of co-transference is the whole story.

A further complication has been introduced by those who had knowledge of Freud's contribution labelling the transference as identified by Freud - the personal transference and what Jung identified as the archetypal transference - thereby introducing an artificial division where none previously existed except for the want of explanation. Whilst, theoretically the possibility does exist that a Freudian transference may occur independently of a Jungian co-transference, in reality none of us can ever be sure, given that such a declaration would presume an impossible knowledge of the unconscious. The root of the problem lies in a misunderstanding of the concept of archetype, as if the archetypes can be split off and separated whereas they pervade and encompass. We live in them, or are lived by them, they are not out there. We are them and they are us.

Jung himself tentatively preferred the terms ‘anagogic' [5] and ‘synthetic' [6] transference respectively giving the Freudian transference a sense of moral direction (possibly in relation to the therapist) and his co-transference a more inclusive, purposive, multi-relational feel.

Roberto Assagioli, the founder of Psychosynthesis and former student of Freud, developed the terms Lower and Higher Unconscious to represent similar principles; however I eschew the terminology because of their prejudicial implications. Personally I prefer the terms Historical transference and Potential transference. 

Repression of personal transference and elevation of archetypal transference.

A hangover from history is that the “Freudian” personal transference is still seen by some as negative and regressive, something to be got rid of by reductive analysis. The problem had always been that “you soon discover there is nothing for him (the client) to stand on and nothing for him to hold on to. Return to the parents has become impossible, he hangs on to the analyst. Jung Foreword p.X The Psychology of the Transference. Jung's addition of co-transference or, how it became known, the archetypal transference, provided the client with something other than the analyst to hang onto but it never redeemed the personal transference. From this the archetypal transference is generally seen as desirable and healing through the provision of what has been missing by the client opening up to more than who they are.

An attitude and practice based on these prejudices, which believes it can separate the transference into personal and archetypal risks demonising the client's parents and eradicating their personal history - good and bad. No wonder so many clients through the course of their therapy end up falling out with their parents. If as Jung said the Gods are in our diseases then the archetypal is surely personal. 

The fallacy that the personal and archetypal transference are sequential.

A commonly reported experience, and therefore expectation, is that, as “ the personal level of the transference is assimilated and then the archetypal is opened up” Edinger p316 The Mysterium Lectures. By artificially dividing the transference into personal and archetypal transference and then introducing a dictat that the personal precedes the archetypal implies that little discrimination is applied to what (if anything) of the personal is retained and what is rejected, and is likely to encourage rushing blindly into replacing personal history with new experiences. This is all at the expense of Soul; it flies from accepting things as they are and looking for the meaning and purpose in the suffering. It denies how our wounds are our opening to what we have lost and who we are. It cuts us off from our roots; it denies our ancestors and blunts our character.

We need to see that the personal is archetypal, that the archetypes don't stand behind our personal experience; they are inextricably wedded to it. Spirit and Soul are in the world, in matter, they permeate us, not as we tend to imagine them - remote and resident only in the peaks and vales of inner landscape. It is just our little Ego that projects them out there, (or in here) or believes it can distinguish or disentangle them from matter.

Wiener speaks to this - “She (Mary Williams) maintains that Jung did not separate these concepts in an arbitrary manner when treating patients, although his writings can give this impression. She points out that the personal and collective unconscious in image-making and pattern-making activities are always interdependent. “Nothing in the personal experience needs to be repressed unless the ego feels threatened by its archetypal power. The archetypal activity which forms the individual's myth is dependent on material supplied by the personal unconscious... the conceptual split, though necessary for purposes of exposition, is considered to be undesirable in practice.”” Wiener. p26. The Therapeutic Relationship. 

Starting the therapeutic journey from the wrong place.

The splitting of transference into personal and archetypal along with its concomitant attitudes of aversion to the personal, and attraction to the archetypal, prejudicially distorts the perceived quality of the experience. Positive influences from the past can be overlooked or unnecessarily removed. Attachment to parental conditioning can easily be seen by the therapist as limiting and harmful to the client's individuation even when they shaped the client into the person they are as per Hillman's Acorn Theory, described in his book The Soul's Code, that illustrated how particular, often harsh, childhoods helped produce many remarkable people. When the therapist has such a negative attitude to limitation there is even less hope of the therapist accepting what the client perceives as negative parental influences. To borrow a maxim from my woodworking workshop days - make a feature of the fuck-up. In this way, a chip out of a table leg does not mean throwing the leg out, we'd carve something into it and the other legs making a feature of it. Customers then see a thing of beauty not the fuck-up. This is similar to the practice of blessing the obstacle, or loving our enemies. The personal needs to be transformed, tempered by its opposite, not triumphed over, by throwing it out or disregarding it. We need to become conscious of our history and what we project, so that we can choose our actions, whether that means to carry on in the same way or do something new. We can't start a journey of healing from somewhere else; we have to start from where we are, with what we have got. This is the challenge of psychotherapy, to accept our limitations, welcome the constraints our souls place on us and shrink into who we are - it is no coincidence that psychoanalysts are called shrinks. Choice or Will, is the key. To simply do the opposite in an attempt to free oneself from habitual patterns is still to remain victim to them.

Should something unknown, something from beyond the familiar, beyond the family become apparent then so be it. We don't necessarily need to know from where it comes, or where it is going, we need to relate to it. Just because it may originate from the archetypal realms, or we believe it originates from there, does not necessarily mean it will be for the better. This is the flip side of the positive attitude to archetypal transference; the archetypes are not all benign, or all good. What we perceive as being outside of our psyche is out there for a reason. Who is to know whether the client's ego can withstand experiencing such overwhelming forces - that way lies inflation or psychosis. Jan Wiener writing of Samuels, alludes to this when “(he) Samuels finds a place for both by making the helpful distinction between the personal “ghosts” of the past, which must be carefully exorcized before growth is possible (Freud), and the more valuable archetypal “ancestors,” who carry the potential for symbols to emerge into consciousness, so vital for the growth and development of identity (Jung).” Wiener. p35 The Therapeutic Relationship . However the statement needs to be treated with great care. To distinguish between an obstructive ghost and a helpful ancestor, never mind a useful ghost and an obstructive ancestor risks an act of hubris that would simultaneously dis-empower and infantilise the client, inflating the therapist into the roles of exorcist, and usher to the archetypes. It is the client that needs to do this distinguishing and it is the very act of choice, this act of Will (or Willing) is what forms the clients character.

How we relate to what we see as outside of us, what we do when we are crucified between the ungraspable subtlety of Spirit and the unbearable density of Soul, this is what defines us, this is what shapes our character making us who we are. It's all personal, in the body but the source is different. The source may be in our soul, from our personal history, involving an opening to our past and an honouring our ancestors. Alternatively, or more probably simultaneously, it may mean taking in something we have never previously experienced, something unfamiliar, ‘unfamily', opening to our spiritual possibilities, to something of who we may be. 

The misunderstanding of the principle of the archetypes.

The problem lies with how the archetypes are seen. What is needed is to see the archetypes in a different way. The term “arche” actually means “is the beginning or the first principle of the world.” If we envisage that this is the first movement away from Spirit towards matter or incarnation, we can see that the word archetype means a typical way in which something moves away from the infinite towards the limited, or the first movement into form. The problem lies in the way Jung formulated the archetypes, in that they tended to be from his personal experience. Out of his personal experience he wrote about archetypes that were influential to him, rounding them off with names such as Mother, Father, Child, Trickster as if they are distinct entities. This “typicality” becomes a lazy shorthand, a premature closing down of experience. Similarly mythical figures, the panoply of Gods of various religions (even alchemy) whilst they derive from cultural commonality and provide a psychological holding backdrop for the individual, what remains paramount (and I am sure Jung would have agreed) is personal experience. The Oedipus myth as used by Freud has been widely critiqued for its limited applicability and others have re-worked it, focussing on other aspects but useful as this is - more perspectives will never match the infinite possibilities of unique individual experience. The problem of using the archetypes and their correlate myths and mythic figures is that we just end up in another “ism”, in this case polytheism, and an inherent tendency towards dogma. The same is true of any theorising as any theory is based on a repeating observable pattern. The problem lies in the repetition, if we are to truly honour the infinite possibility and diversity of the collective unconscious and the uniqueness of individual experience and character, no theory will do. Even Archetypal Psychology fails us at the margins, whilst it offers up many Gods, even a pantheon of Gods, it falls short of the infinite variety of possibility. Alchemy is a useful guide as it lacks precision in its description of processes and even the order they come in. This prevents rigid knowing and premature naming. The rush to naming an experience confines it, lops off the edges, making it into something we believe we can handle, move around, cope with, or control rather than letting it have its own uniqueness, life and vivacity. We have to recognise that naming is a defining activity carried out by the Ego in order to have control over something. The name though is never the thing itself just a label for the purposes of communication and an attempt, like theorising to bring order to the world. What is needed as Jung declared is an openness to the unconscious, an ongoing openness that allows things to be and have their own life.

Omission of half of the woodcuts

Jung's emphasis on the male-female dyad in The Psychology of the Transference highlighted a naivety on his part by his dismissal of a second series of pictures in the Rosarium ending in a masculine figure, the Emperor, which he described as a concession to women's psychology. This could have been due to a variety of reasons, possibly the context he was working in; a male dominated scientific discipline within a patriarchal Christian society. Jung may simply have lacked the complete set of pictures from the Rosarium; in his book he only refers to one picture from this second series describing it as a “variant” of one in the first set.


Alchemical texts were rare and often incomplete due to their age and the need to keep them secret, not just to protect the uninitiated from misusing the content but because the practitioners often suffered persecution due to the supposedly heretical nature of the practice. Possibly Jung's personal development and dominant thinking fuction at the time of writing 
The Psychology of the Transference may have not been sufficient to recognise and integrate the implications of this second set of pictures. The second set is very similar to the first set although the sequence is altered slightly; significantly however in the equivalent conjunction image the female is depicted holding her winged counterpart's penis and whilst it is impossible to tell if she is helping to penetrate her, or withdraw, she is definitely in control. The first set can be seen as the penetration of the female by the masculine so that this spiritual insight can provide a higher, more spiritual relationship to her own unconscious. The feminine is transformed by this in that it is now awakened, recognised and flowers. The second set is a subsequent working of the feminine unconscious wisdom on the male consciousness wherein the feminine assumes a more active role and the masculine is transformed. For want of a better way of describing the outcome of this process perhaps the term "a more embodied consciousness" might be useful.

Another way of describing this could be to see the first series as the setting up of a relationship between the ego and the unconscious and the second as the achievement of an ongoing and inseparable union of the ego and the unconscious. Put more crudely the first could be seen as getting in touch with your soul, the second as living an ensoulled life, a life in Soul.

I suspect Jung referred to these stages as the apprenticeship and masterpiece dealing with the Shadow and the Anima respectively. One possibility is that the first series may actually refer more to Jung's anagogic transference and the second to the synthetic transference - after all the first cycle culminates in the Hermaphrodite standing on the Moon floating above the ground, out of contact with Mother Earth, unlike at the end of the second cycle where the Hermaphrodite stands squarely on the ground.

Following the second set of pictures are a further three woodcuts depicting a third (or fourth) stage of the process that illustrates the fixing and living of the state achieved in the world. The transformed feminine consciousness continues to relate with the transformed masculine consciousness furthering the unification of Spirit, Soul and Body. The world becomes soul infused, animated to the individual; and the imagination grounded in the body, divorced from egocentric motives, becomes the guide to living (or perhaps more appropriately dying) in the world.

Consequently Jung not only built in an inherent bias towards male psychology (to the detriment of female psychology) into his theory of co-transference, he also overlooked that both processes are actually relevant to both sexes, and are part of one larger process. The second phase of this larger process with its depiction of the feminine dominant cycle and the transformation of the masculine solar forces, and development of a more embodied consciousness brings in the chthonic dimension so readily split off and repressed by the Spiritual Christian dogma. I can only surmise Jung's reasons for so readily dismissing this second cycle, especially given his abhorrence of any mass dogma, however the influence of his own Christian upbringing cannot be ruled out. He did later see alchemy as a balancing factor to Christianity's attempted resolution of the problem of the Chthonic that resulted in transcendence. It was not Isaac Newton's ‘Theory of Evolution' that scared the Christian Church, it was that he demonstrated that nature is harsh, chaotic and cruel, that it is a dog eat dog world and it is only the fittest that survive. This was the threat that Isaac Newton, an alchemist, confronted them with. Despite this, and thanks to the insistence of the Christian Church, ascent and transcendence (rather than uniting with and dying to) are now the favoured responses of the patriarchal Western culture to problems (opposition). What is missing is the more matriarchal, feminine, earthly response from below, of uniting with, of getting down and dirty, of working with the more base, bodily, primitive and unformed aspects to ultimately transform, and be transformed by, the problem. It is for this reason that later Jung, in his autobiography Memories, Dreams and Reflections, was against the setting up of Jungian training schools and the dogma this would inevitably install (to train become a Jungian seriously misses the point). He saw that this work could not be gained intellectually, learnt from books, but that the true learning ground lay in the Asylums, Brothels and Prisons where humanity's chthonic "Devil inspired" behaviour had been banished by the Patriarchal Christian moral order.


In the face of therapeutic failure other analysts and schools have sought to revise the theory and practice of Transference, most notably with the development of what is known as Field theory, referring to the space between the therapist and client. Working with this particular area between therapist and client has come to be known by various names by different therapists; the ‘Transitional' or ‘The potential space' (Winnicott), the ‘Analytic Object' (Green) the ‘Intra-subjective Field' (Stolorow and other Self Psychologists), the ‘Analytic Third' (Ogden) and 'The Subtle-Body' (Schwartz-Salant). Other names include the ‘Field, the ‘Between, the ‘Third Area'. 

6. Projective Identification. The relationship between the client's unconscious and the therapist's pre-conscious.

Key to the development of Field theory has been the wider recognition and use of projective identification, the term given to the therapist's experience of the inductive field emanating from the client's projection. Projection by the client is not "onto" the therapist but into them. This can be experienced in everyday life when certain people, who simply by their presence, lift our spirits, drain us of energy (psychic vampires), make us feel edgy etc. Other more somatic examples would include sympathy pains, the synchronisation of women's menstrual cycles as well as some synchronous events. In the therapeutic situation the therapist can find themselves being induced into various feelings they were not experiencing prior to contact with the client. These feelings may make the therapist feel or even behave like one or other of the client's parents. In this way it is possible to see how certain individuals can appear to repeat the same cycles of behaviour by inducing different people to ‘act into' the same historic dynamic. Projective identification, once the therapist has dis-identified (i.e. become conscious of what they were identified with) has been seen as a useful source of information about what the client is transferring onto the therapist. This information can be used for reductive interpretation or the provision of a reparative or re-parenting experience that would allow the client to come to terms with their problem. In time the client internalises the therapist's attitude and can terminate the therapy when they no longer need the therapist to provide this experience.

Analysts who recognised the impossibility of emptying their unconscious as Freud prescribed and consequently that they were liable to pollute the field between them and the client, developed a different way of working with transference material. By owning their experience and their feelings they would present their understanding to the field in a way that would allow the client to choose whether or not to take on, or use, the therapist's interpretation or experiences. The arrows marked 6 in the diagram above indicate the projective identification form of communication. The use of projective identification attempts to fill in the gap between the more directly recognisable transference (arrow 3) and the inaccessible Jungian co-transference (arrow 5). The therapist's ability to use the client's unconscious communications depends on their sensitivity to their own subconscious subjective intra-psychic processes - imagination, feelings and somatic - arrow 2(T).

By dropping their assumed objectivity and authority the therapist treats the client as a responsible adult rather than a supplicant patient to be treated. The development of Field theory and the move away from hard-line Freudian principles has brought analytic therapy closer to the Humanistic schools of therapy, such as Gestalt and Person Centred Therapy, founded by Carl Rogers, the roots of which are to be found in Otto Rank's work. Field theory thus paved the way for the Integrative approach to psychotherapy where the therapist is trained in the spectrum of therapies from the Freudian Psychoanalytic at one end to the Person Centred at the other. The therapist through tailoring the Field technique can adopt the relevant approach required by the client depending on their particular issue and stage of personal development.

What the Field theorists saw was that their technique allowed the therapist to include more of themselves in the relationship. Their feelings, bodily/somatic reactions, thinking and imagination, in complete contrast to Freudian practice, could be made available to the client and could provide the missing qualities or presence the client needs. Often the transformative moment in a therapy comes when the client feels met by the therapist, and this occurs when the therapist is able to convey their understanding of the client's distress or dilemma in a way the client has been unable to express. The information provided by the therapist's feelings, imagination or somatic responses to the client can provide an insight into the client's experience beyond what the clients can convey in words or by any other means. The successful reflection and articulation of the client's experience can end the client's sense of isolation whilst respecting and acknowledging their otherness. Buber described this genuine meeting between persons as an I-Thou relationship.

The term projective identification is often used synonymously with counter-transference and/or co-transference implying that both can be made conscious at will which denies Jung's recognition of the autonomous nature of the unconscious. I do not see projective identification as part of counter-transference (arrow 4) or co-transference (arrow 5). Projective identification is more akin to transference (arrow 3) that Jung described as the “mild transferences... that (made) far less claim upon one as a person”. What the Field theorists seem to have discovered that the other psychological functions - intuition/imagination, sensation and feeling can also be used to discern the transference. This leads to two critical errors. Firstly, these functions intuition/imagination, sensation and feeling, lack the objectivity of the thinking function and are therefore likely to generate more counter-transference errors. Secondly, therapists have confused their understanding of their more subjective subconscious responses to clients as an insight into the co-transference or the unconscious. In diagram 6 above I have coloured lines (arrows 6) blue to reflect this. The subjective nature of these means of perceiving, imagination/intuition, sensation and feeling does not mean that the information received is valueless, they can be essential to forming an I-Thou relationship but they are not a magic pill to prevent counter-transference or provide insight into, the by definition, inaccessible unconscious co-transference.

For the sake of accuracy the term projective identification should be used to describe being unconscious of and effected by the transference in the form of being identified with the projection, and the term projective dis-identification applied when what was previously unconsciously projected has become conscious.

The projective identification approach runs the risk of becoming a ‘wild analysis' where the therapist just says anything to avoid the client's (or their own) anxiety states. Firstly, as already noted, the risk of counter-transference is heightened by the subjective nature of the information. Secondly, the source, archetypal or personal to the therapist, and hence the content of the reparative experience provided by the therapist was generally not questioned - as long as it was not a replaying of the original traumatic experience. This lack of discretion though leaves the client vulnerable to inculcating the therapists internal dynamics rather than admitting, or opening to a new dynamic peculiar to their individual uniqueness. In effect the client is fitted to the psychotherapist's Procrustean couch. The therapist behaving in such a way risks providing a short cut in the client's individuation process that would only later prove to be a dead end, when (and if) the client realises what they have taken on from the therapist is not truly theirs. Nathan Schwartz-Salant speaks saliently on this point when he states “the imaginal perceptions that the analyst may have will be reliable only if he or she processes them from both developmental [personal] and archetypal points of view.” Schwartz-Salant p191.The Mystery of Human Relationship.

The present fascination with Field theory has marginalised both Freud's and Jung's profound contributions to the subject. The unconscious itself seems to have lost its sovereignty and been transformed into what I think is better described as the preconscious, something that can be accessed at will if we have the means. Freud “ distinguish(es) two kinds of unconscious - one which is easily, under frequently occurring circumstances, transformed into something conscious, and another with which this transformation is difficult and takes place only subject to a considerable expenditure of effort or possibly never at all. [...] We call the unconscious which is only latent, and thus easily becomes conscious the “preconscious”, and retain the term “unconscious” for the other”. Freud, New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis (1932). Even in 1932 recognised projective identification, acknowledging there were means of transforming this to consciousness but he does not confuse this with the protracted or sometimes impossible task of accessing the unconscious.

Field theory and projective identification have helped to fill out transference theory offering greater understanding of the therapeutic relationship. I think that an understanding of transference requires a thorough understanding and respect for the work of Freud, Jung and the Field Theorists.



In my clinical experience the personal or historical transference does come first, only in that it is what is visible and we can therefore focus. The client comes with their problems and they are personal. We can talk about their history and significant relationships in their lives that might be causing their present problems. The archetypal, or as I would prefer to say the potential, is there all along, it is just that we don't experience its denseness or perceive its subtlety until later.

As clients talk of their issues and a relationship forms between us, I am subtly affected by them, being drawn into their psychic orbit so to speak. I find myself relating to them in a particular way. Once I am aware of the particular mode or attitude I am relating to them in, it is often easy to link this to their experience of someone in their past. Determining whether this is my own personal response to their material (2T) (i.e. does what they are talking about spark off responses in me related to my own history or dynamics) or their transference (3) is difficult and where I can trust the client's autonomy I will share my experiences and understanding with the client in a way that they can choose to take on or dismiss. In this way and throughout my work I am monitoring my own intra-psychic responses to the client, letting them inform the observations and interpretations I share with the client.

Sometimes my relating to the client takes the form of attempting to avoid repeating what has happened to them in the past. This may sound easy but in practice the inductive effect of the client's psyche within the analytic space can be quite a force to contend with. To point out their unconscious controlling behaviour through reductive analysis would leave them nowhere to stand or repeat the original negative experience. If I successfully avoid replaying their past I am in effect forced into a way of being that the client unconsciously needs - either the opposite of their original experience or some form of neutral non-harmful stance. For some clients this may well be sufficient to allow them to lead a more normal life and for some that may be enough, but it is not transformation as Jung described it. The co-transference is probably still working itself out in the background.

The only way forward is to remain open to the unconscious, helping the client to suffer the transformative processes they are undergoing and trusting that things will work themselves through. The appropriate attitude of the therapist as described by Jung is an openness to what lies outside of the personal consciousness of both the client and therapist. The therapist has to wait or to borrow a metaphor from alchemy - tend the fire beneath the vessel and monitor the pressure. The therapist needs to attend to his own cleanliness, his own unconscious as well as that of the client in a more passive, receptive mode compared to the activity of the earlier stages of the therapy. We work with the transference, we work in the co-transference.

The tension in such situations is not to be under-estimated. The temptation to offer help in the form of clever interpretations to ease this tension is great. Zen master Hakuin describes how he once gave in to this temptation when watching a Cicada struggling to detach its wing from its cocoon, he tried to help by pulling gently on the cocoon only to rip the cicada's fragile wing in the attempt. One colleague described the therapist's job as being paid to wait. Premature interpretations may relieve the tension, but they can cripple the client's newly evolving psychic structure. The client may leave feeling better but authentic transformation will have been aborted. In such situations the client will have been stretched or cropped to fit the therapist's Procrustean couch. They will leave reformed but not transformed.

When a client is faced with the choice of whether to grow by leaping into the unknown or to shrink further into their familiar lives, it is not for the therapist to decide which course they should take. Both options are likely to look like death to the client and the consequence of their choice defines who they are (or who they have always been but not known it!). If we are to confront our clients with such decisions we must surely face them ourselves otherwise how can we expect our clients to. If our clients cannot sense our willingness to stand between the opposites, to both suffer and endure the transformation this brings, then they will not be willing to either. Hamlet knew this dilemma “To grunt and sweat under a weary life, But that the dread of something after death, The undiscover'd country from whose bourn No traveller returns, puzzles the will And makes us rather bear those ills we have Than fly to others that we know not of?” Shakepeare Hamlet Act 3 Scene 1

Hamlet knew that his soul was being weighed. He knew that to confront his Uncle/Step-Fathers son was to risk death. He did not know what the outcome would be; he was hamstrung by the opposites, either to suffer his present life or risk death and honour his Father (and confront his Mother). He did not know where his scheme would take him but in the act he made himself a man we all know today. Many see Hamlet's outcome as a tragedy and that he should have sought some other working through of the situation, but life is not that easy. He chose to act, and through his actions successfully revealed the truth about his Father's murder. Admittedly, that this ended in physical death was unfortunate but the price of not acting would have been to deny his Father, to betray his soul and condemn himself to a soulless life before death. Death comes to us all and Hamlet died with his soul.

In my experience dreams yield the most valuable clues as to what is happening in the co-transference while it is progressing. Sometimes we may catch the odd Freudian slip, or see something in our peripheral vision so to speak but never enough for full understanding. It is, after all, a process continuing in the unconscious, not yet ready to reveal itself. This is where knowledge of the woodcuts and alchemy, or even any other system that recognises the process of transformation (rather than transcendence) comes in so useful. Dream images of coitus, death, putrefying, rotting, separating, refining etc. all may point to the unconscious process occurring in the client. With dreams, we know who's they are. If the client reports them, then it is clearly the client's psychic process, it may well be a process shared with the therapist but it is certainly going on in the client. In the diagram this is reflected by the movement along arrows 5 - 2(C) - 1 and provides an objectivity not afforded by projective identification. Similarly the therapists own dreams may provide an insight in to the co-transference process especially when they include a particular client (shown by the arrows 5 - 2(T)) however great care must be exercised before sharing such insights with a client, or letting them inform the work as they are after all quite obviously the therapist's dream not the client's.

The co-transference when it does finally reveal itself, comes and hits me with a large whack over the head some nine months or so down the line. I say nine months as a typical time period, as this is my experience. It is not a matter of hours as implied by some therapists when they reflect on their experience. Its not a few weeks either, the soul does not move that quickly. Nine months has a neat parallel with human gestation and there may be something in that, I don't know. It comes when I've fallen into some great pit I would rather have avoided and I realise it is what the pair of us have been working at all this time, which tends to be allied to, but not what, we thought we were working at. Sometimes it can be a simple statement the client makes about their past. Invariably the remark is something they have said before but was forgotten as it did not seem to have much relevance at the time. When the co-transference comes though, it comes like a tidal wave, an “aha” experience, the experience of enlightenment. I have heard the sound of co-transference resolving or revealing itself described as the audible sound of porcelain breaking in the background or of a penny dropping. I experience it more as the sound of a penny dropping followed by the clanging of Big Ben, the clashing of cymbals all accompanied by my internally shouted cursing of “How could I have never seen that!”. The revelation carries its own beauty as the truth is so obvious it could not previously be seen. I am often left with a sense of awe at how the unconscious has conspired with the client's past to produce and reveal who they are in front of me today. The experience does not necessarily happen with the client. It may occur during periods of quiet reflection, or whenever some personal clarity is gained about some heretofore unconscious element of my own psyche. Here, as is commonly described, our clients confront us with our very own unresolved issues, not due to any lack of analysis on our part; it is just the way it is. “We must suppose as a matter of course that the doctor is better able to make the constellated contents conscious, otherwise it would only lead to mutual imprisonment in the same state of unconsciousness. The greatest difficulty is that contents are often activated in the doctor which might normally remain latent.” Jung p12 Psychology of the Transference.

Jung goes on; almost tongue in cheek, to say that the doctor may be so ‘normal' that he is unlikely to be caught in such a way, only to allude to the likelihood of this being untrue at a deeper level. In this Jung was effectively trying to say it is okay to be unconscious as long as you are better able to make those contents conscious than the client - hence why arrow 2(T) is drawn larger than arrow 2(C) in Cross Diagram 5.

Following the revelation of co-transference, my urge to arrive at the next session with that particular client armed with my newly gained insight is usually met by the client telling me how they have realised the self same thing before I even have a chance to open my mouth. The inductive effect we are both caught up in transforms mutual unconsciousness into mutual consciousness. I'm not saying that all the other work, including working on recognising the transference is irrelevant, its what leads to this moment, its what develops the relationship between therapist and client, provides the heat and builds the container (or vessel) for the transformational work to happen within.

There can be a subtle difference in the nature of acceptance I experience in relation to a client before and after the co-transference has been recognised. In the earlier stages of the work I notice what I would call more of a “Yes, Yes, Yes” response to clients where in effect I am saying to clients “yes, I can accept that of you because I recognise it in me (or others)”. Later in the work, especially after the recognition of the co-transference a “No” arises but in the form of “No, I can accept that of you, even though it is not me”. (Which is different to the subtle and probably unconscious “No, I can't accept that of you because of my own neurotic unconsciousness” or the more blatant "No, I can't accept that of you because I judge it psychotic".) The “No” really is a “Yes” though, a Yes that recognises the client's otherness or individual uniqueness. Bollas in his book The Freudian Moment distinguishes between projective identification (yes, yes, yes) and perceptive identification (no, I can accept that). I would posit that initially the client is unable to show or may not even know themselves, and present their conditioned socialised self. It takes a transformational process to liberate their (for want of a better word) “true” self. At the risk of causing offence I think the “Yes” might be described in this context as the love of the Mother and “No” as the love of the Father. The former is a universal acceptance, the latter an I-Thou acceptance that recognises an individual's uniqueness or character. Bollas too decries the analysts tendency to jump in prematurely “...under the aegis of the relational, the co-constructive, of “playing”, or “a feeling”, or “analysis of the transference”..... Such early interventions are the stuff of projective identification when the analyst feels he knows what is going on right away, or if not, assumes that knowing what he feels, or thinks, or ... well, whatever!... is licence enough to say anything.” Bollas p.67 The Freudian Moment. The nearest analogy I can think of is that of stone carving. At first faced by the un-carved block of stone the recognition of something human within is possible but the individual characteristics have yet to emerge. Initially the work involves removing the excess stone but later the focus is on the more intricate work that brings forth the individual's character. Just as some stone carvers (or Buddhists) would say, sometimes it is possible to catch a glimpse of the finished figure at the beginning of the work, in the early sessions. The block of stone knows what it wants to be, our job as masons or therapists is to reveal what is trapped within.

Effectiveness in the work, as Jung highlighted, comes down to the analysts continued openness to their unconscious. Effectiveness depends more on how the therapist is with their wounds than how wounded they are. In effect we are always becoming therapists, there is no discrete finishing line between being qualified and unqualified, other than the awarding of a certificate (and all the deferment to external authority and the unresolved transference issues this implies). “... even the best preparation will not suffice to teach him everything about the unconscious. A complete “emptying” of the unconscious is out of the question, if only because it's creative powers are continually producing new formations.” Jung p13 The Psychology of the Transference

This perspective sees individuation as an ongoing life-long journey rather than some landmark to be reached. Individuation is a verb not a noun.

“The doctor knows - or at least he should know - that he did not choose this career by chance; and the psychotherapist in particular should clearly understand that psychic infections, however superfluous they seem to him, are in fact the predestined concomitants of his work, and thus fully in accord with the instinctive disposition of his own life. This realisation also gives him the right attitude to his patient. The patient then means something to him personally, and this provides the most favourable basis for the treatment.” Jung p.13 The Psychology of the Transference

This has profound implications for the effectiveness of a therapist. Statistics point to the greater effectiveness of trainee therapists and para-professionals compared to qualified experienced therapists. This may be due to the trainees openness to the new, the unknown, the unconscious, compared to the experienced therapist who may well have grown old, stale and rigid in their work, relying more on tried and tested techniques applied to their clients rather than true engagement. “ Each new case requires thorough treatment and is pioneer work, and every trace of routine then proves to be a blind alley.” Jung p.14 The Psychology of the Transference



A client has kindly agreed to let me share an example of transference, counter-transference and co-transference.

He came to see me as part of his therapy training, although he had wanted to see me for some time prior to me moving my practice to Frome. He described as a successful outcome to our work ,would be to have a centre of gravity. For months we had worked mostly with his dreams and his difficulties in his present job. We looked at his relationship to his Father and in the course of our work he married his partner. The work lacked the usual urgency of therapeutic work which is typical of trainee therapy (the trainee is there because their course has told them to be - not because they are experiencing psychological difficulties) and I often found myself trying to encourage and motivate the client to make the changes our dreamwork together implied. Running alongside this was my growing frustration at his persistent late arrival for sessions accompanied by totally plausible reasons. I analysed my reactions to this and my own attitude to punctuality before arriving at a sense of being disrespected. I could not see any experience in his history that would lead to an issue with time-keeping or disrespecting others so I chose to confront the issue, and shared my experience when his time-keeping had caused a problem at his work. He was very upset by my challenge, he described how hard he was working at things and for the first time my heart really opened to him. I'd totally missed him, I'd not got how hard he was working at all, and this was the first time that he effectively conveyed this. The revelation though, was that he needed to be working at things in a completely different way. From dreamwork we had already spotted he was singing from somebody else's song-sheet. That his Father was a policeman, an enforcer of the law, had dropped me into a negative historical transference of enforcing the rules, of expecting him to turn up on time. What he needed was to work hard at finding or writing his own song-sheet, of living outside of the rule book as laid down by another, to go beyond his Father. Any attempts to do this though by working at it, only took him back down the same well trodden habitual path, away from himself, out of himself. What we agreed was that he needed to work hard at not working hard. Here as often occurs when the co-transference resolves, a personally designed and often paradoxical soul practice appears (similar to a spiritual practice), wherein the client is faced with the challenge of confronting habitually unconscious patterns in their day to day life and allowing more soul into their lives. This kind of paradoxical practical koan is the key to bridging (and honouring) the personal and archetypal (or the historical and potential) without disrespecting or repressing either and thereby living a spiritually ensoulled life in the world.

The client totally understood the challenge of working hard at not working hard and final confirmation came in a dream he brought near the end of our work. In the dream, following a plane crash in the wilderness he enjoys watching the sun rise and the shadows reducing (implying increasing consciousness) and the scenery changing. The survivors are in two groups living at either end of the fuselage (the opposites) and are conducting group therapy sessions morning and evening. A woman comes over from the other end of the fuselage where the cutlery etc is all neat and orderly, and says “the transference is more visible in the morning sessions than the evening ones”. He moves over to the other group, from where the woman came, and sees himself being social and inauthentic and is surprised and ashamed by this.

The shock of seeing himself behaving inauthentically was quite palpable and his aversion to order (the neat cutlery etc) was also apparent. We struggled to understand what was meant by the morning and evening sessions. I wondered if it referred to our early sessions compared to our later ones and asked him how he would describe his experience of them. He said that when he first came to therapy he was keen to work on his spiritual development whereas now he was more grounded, more centred. His spiritual development was outer focussed whereas the awareness and transformation of the historical transference in the form of his Father and the external rule book (depicted as someone else's songsheet) opened him to the potential transference in the form of an inner connection to his own psyche, imagination and body, and his own authority if only he could unhook himself from trying so hard. His own authority had always been there, his difficulty had been accessing it, admitting it, letting it in.

With the benefit of hindsight I could berate myself for not seeing the threads more clearly, but as ever, they only became apparent later. During the work there are many threads, many cul-de-sacs but we don't get to know that, until we have been down them. Truly, understanding only comes later. And what was my part in this co-transference? What was my learning? Well to be honest it was something of trusting the process, of trusting in not knowing and that no-one else would know. Much the same as him.



Hopefully this paper has both clarified your understanding of transference, counter-transference, co-transference and projective identification. If you are a client I hope it has awakened you to the potential harm therapy can cause to you if your therapist is trying to fit you to a Procrustean couch. If you are a therapist I hope that it has highlighted the difference between the various forms of projection occurring in your practice room. I hope it has awoken you to the concept of co-tranference and mystified you as to how to deal with it other than the need for you to remain open to, and engage with, the unconscious wherever it lies - in your client, in you or between the pair of you. I hope it helps both clients and therapists bring more soul to the world.

I suspect that if more people could recognise, engage with, take on and work with the implications of 'embodied' consciousness, then the catastrophic effects for many of the world's population brought about by the dominant blind patriarchal, capitalist, consumerist, scientific, transcendent so called modern society we live in might be avoided. Only by truly opening ourselves to and immersing ourselves in the opposites will genuine transformation take place.

In a future paper I hope to give a fuller exposition of the full set of alchemical woodcuts in the Rosarium Philosophorum from a psychotherapeutic perspective.



Alexander. R. (1995): “Folie a Deux.” Free Association Books. ISBN1-85343-316-0
Bollas. C. (2007): The Freudian Moment. Karnac Books. ISBN 978-1-85575-575-8
Edinger. E.F. (1995): The Mysterium Lectures. Open Court. ISBN 0-919123-66-X
Edinger. E.F. (1985): Anatomy of the Psyche. Open court. ISBN 0-8126-9009-5
Edinger. E.F. (1984) The Mystery of the Coniunctio. Inner City Books. ISBN 0-919123-67-8
Fabricus. J. (1976): Alchemy. Aquarian Press. ISBN 0-85030-832-1
Hillman. J. (1997): The Soul's Code. Warner Books. ISBN 0446673714
Hillman. J (1985): Anima: An Anatomy of a Personified Notion. Spring Publications. ISBN 0-88214-316-6
Jacoby. M. (1984): The Analytic Encounter. ISBN 0-919123-14-7
Johnson R.A. (1993): Transformation. Harper Collins. ISBN 0-06-250542-2
Johnson R.A. (1983): The Psychology of Romantic Love. Arkana. ISBN 0-14-019045-7
Jung. C.G. (1946): The Psychology of the Transference. Routledge.ISBN 0-415-15132-5
Jung. C.G. (1961): Memories, Dreams and Reflections. Flamingo. ISBN 0-00-654027-9
Jung. C.G. (1981): The Practice of Psychotherapy CW Vol. 16 2 nd Ed. Unwin. ISBN 0-7100-1645-X
Kahn. M. (1991): Between Therapist and Client. W.H. Freeman and Company. ISBN 0-7167-2194-5
Sands. A. (2000): Falling for Therapy. Macmillan Press. ISBN 0-333-80430-9
Schwartz-Salant. N.(1995) : Jung on Alchemy. Routledge. ISBN 0-691-01097-8
Schwartz-Salant. N. (1998): The Mystery of Human Relationship. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-15389-8
Wiener. J. (2009): The Therapeutic Relationship. ISBN 978-1-60344-147-6

Appendix 1

On page 59 of The Psychology of Transference Jung drew the following diagram to illustrate all the various relationships between two individuals, Adept and Soror, or King and Queen, or Therapist (male) and Client (female). I include below his descriptions of these relationships. My additional annotation is included in square brackets [ ]. 



Fig. 1

a) An uncomplicated personal relationship

b) A relationship of the man to his anima and of the woman to her animus.

c) A relationship of anima to animus and vice versa.

d) A relationship of the woman's animus to the man (which happens when the woman is identical [identified] with her animus) [transference], and of the man's anima to the woman (which happens when the man is identical [identified] with his anima) [counter-transference].



[1]Procrustes was a son of Poseidon with a stronghold on Mount Korydallos , on the sacred way between Athens and  Eleusis. There, he had an iron bed in which he invited every passer-by to spend the night, and where he set to work on them with his smith's hammer, to stretch them to fit. In later tellings, if the guest proved too tall, Procrustes would amputate the excess length; nobody ever fit the bed exactly because secretly Procrustes had two beds. Procrustes continued his reign of terror until he was captured by Theseus, travelling to Athens along the sacred way, who "fitted" Procrustes to his own bed. He killed Damastes, surnamed Procrustes, by compelling him to make his own body fit his bed, as he had been wont to do with those of strangers. In contemporary usage a Procrustean bed is an arbitrary standard to which exact conformity is forced.

[2]I use the term ego here rather than conscious. The term ego is used to describe what a person identifies themselves to be and hence is synonymous with their conscious (if we include their subconscious as well). In this sense the unconscious is seen as all that is not ego. In reality the two are not so discrete and such an arrangement perpetuates the usual monotheistic egocentric goal of therapy. A psycho-spiritual perspective recognises the need for a sufficiently strong ego in order to function in the world but with sufficiently permeable boundaries open to the unconscious, its contents and complexes, and the experience of ‘other'.

[3] This process bears parallels to that of the caterpillar as it transforms into a butterfly. First in answer to some calling it prepares a cocoon that becomes a tomb and dies to its life as a caterpillar. As it pupates (with elements of rotting and putrefaction) its tomb becomes a womb that it eventually finds too confining and has to break out of, appearing to the world reborn as a butterfly. My clients find the “tombing and wombing” of the caterpillar- butterfly analogy soothing, especially when they are experiencing of phases of the process, such as putrefaction and rotting, they would rather avoid.

[4] This is where the symbol of the Dove comes in, representative of the Holy Ghost, or as Jung hypothesises Noah's dove (representing land (i.e. consciousness) from beyond the flooded waters (unconscious flooding)) it represents what is beyond, that something from above, the Spirit is part of this process. The dove is there as a reminder of the ineffable nature of what we are dealing with. Another symbolic understanding of the Dove's presence could be that something of a divine influence is required. The occurrence of transference and counter-transference, like that of falling in love is not something that can be demanded, conjured up, it comes by grace. Admittedly there are circumstances that can encourage it, but its arrival is beyond our control. The transference can neither be forced, nor demanded. Again indicating the humility required in this work.

[5] Deriving from, pertaining to or reflecting the moral or idealistic striving of the unconscious.

[6] Interestingly defined as the opposite of analytic. This definition highlights the virtues of Roberto Assagioli's development of Psychosynthesis following his disillusionment (similar to Jung's) with Freudian analysis.



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