Sigmund Freud: Transference and Love


I have not yet told you, Ladies and Gentlemen, of the most important of the observations which confirm our hypothesis of the sexual instinctual forces operating in neuroses. In every psycho-analytic treatment of a neurotic patient the strange phenomenon that is known as ‘transference’ makes its appearance. The patient, that is to say, directs towards the physician a degree of affectionate feeling (mingled, often enough, with hostility) which is based on no real relation between them and which—as is shown by every detail of its emergence—can only be traced back to old wishful phantasies of the patient’s which have become unconscious. Thus the part of the patient’s emotional life which he can no longer recall to memory is re-experienced by him in his relation to the physician; and it is only this re-experiencing in the ‘transference’ that convinces him of the existence and of the power of these unconscious sexual impulses. His symptoms, to take an analogy from chemistry, are precipitates of earlier experiences in the sphere of love (in the widest sense of the word), and it is only in the raised temperature of his experience of the transference that they can be resolved and reduced to other psychical products. In this reaction the physician, if I may borrow an apt phrase from Ferenczi1 plays the part of a catalytic ferment, which temporarily attracts to itself the affects liberated in the process.

Freud, S. (1910). “Five Lectures on Psychoanalysis.” The Standard Edition, Volume XI, pp. 50-51.