Transference and Counter-transference

I’ve just been writing a few lines about the above subjects in response to some training questions. I’m not going to repeat what I wrote here but “it makes you think, doesn’t it?”. In this case what it makes me think about is, the way, we react to people:

  • Based not on what they are, but on who they remind us of,
  • Based on the role we’ve put them in,
  • Based on the way we think they are acting towards us, or the way we expect them to act.

The terminology used to describe these phenomena can be confusing, and downright strange, but there is no doubt in my mind that they partly explain some behaviour I have seen in myself and others.

My name is “Prawo Jazdy”?

I keep on meaning to fill in this blog, and then I forget, but I just couldn’t resist commenting on this news story from the BBC:

OK, it’s harmless, and amusing, but it also prompted some more serious thoughts.

The first, oblique one, was the scene at the end of the film “Spartacus” where all the captured slaves shout out, one after another “I’m Spartacus!” in order to show solidarity with the real Spartacus.

The second, is that although it is tempting to poke fun at the Garda, we should remember that Policemen are not recruited on the basis of linguistic ability. The words really don’t look like anything recognisable in English or Irish, so if you have two people who don’t speak a common language trying to communicate using something written down, then misunderstandings will occur. And to make matters worse, in this case the Garda aren’t really that interested in the details of the driver, and the driver isn’t really that interested in being identified.

The problem is made worse, because people from Western Europe have a sort of word-blindness for things written in Eastern European languages (even if they are written in Roman script).

Third, this got me thinking: with the global nature of communication (where are you, dear reader?), we have to be careful about the assumptions we may make when reading what someone else has written. “Driving License” becomes “Prawo Jazdy” and goodness only knows what it becomes if it is written in Cyrillic (Russian Script – see how twitchy one can get!) or, even more extreme, something Asian, like Chinese.

There is an English saying “It’s all Greek to me”, meaning “It makes no sense to me”. This is all very well, but just look at it from the point of view of a “Greek”!

And it’s nice when something goes right

Yesterday I had a slow, and rather shaky start to the day. “Groan. I don’t want to do this…”
Then I had to rush to get some stuff into the state I wanted it to be in.
And then, it all worked out as I had hoped it would. In fact it worked even better. That’s very satisfying. I guess it emphasises how optimism is a healthier emotion to feel than pessimism. Both tend to be self-fulfilling. Life is full of ups and downs, but if you can work through the “downs”, then sometimes the reward is there in the end.

Minor Miracles

It’s always nice when something goes right. Take a moment to enjoy it.

In my case I have been doing some research on the career of a missionary 150 years ago in Fiji. Just think about that for a moment…

With a little help from the Fijian High Commission in London and a couple (I’m now not sure if they are in Fiji or Australia) I’ve located a letter by the man himself, published in an Australian newspaper (and apparently “The Times”) 135 years ago. I have the text of the letter. Isn’t that amazing!

Here’s the letter from Nettleton (the missionary) (I’m the anonomous editor):

Letter from Joseph Nettleton to Sydney Morning Herarld 1873

(The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954) Sat 13 Sep 1873,
Quoting from the London Times)

Ownership, irritation and dissociation

Do you take pride in what you do, in the things you make? I do. This sort of pride is sometimes described as: “feeling ownership”, feeling that something is mine, even feeling that something that I have made is “part of me”. This feeling is generally considered to be a good thing. It increases job satisfaction and motivation.
However, as with everything like this, there can be a down-side. What happens if someone criticises your work? My day-job at present involves creating design documentation for changes to an existing computer system. That means that I have to produce and take responsibility for a mixture of documents, some new (I created them) and some old (I updated them, or even some which I haven’t touched). I’ve just received a bunch of comments and, for just a moment, the “feeling of ownership” meant that these comments felt like an assault on me!
This is a common enough situation, the question is: what to do about it? In my case, the answer was to take a short walk and “dissociate”. Imagine the problem; all these comments, from different angles.

  • From the point of view of the person who made the comment – well intentioned, no thought of attacking me.
  • From the point of view of an interested third party – the objective is to produce the best possible product.

Then I imagined myself updating someone else’s work. I’ve separated myself from the emotional attachment (which was getting in the way). By-the-way, I’ve also divided the work into easy chunks, so I can concentrate on getting each “chunk” done, rather than worrying about how big it is (I’ve delegated that task to another part of me!). It has worked, and so must I! I’m off to get on with dealing with a boring but necessary task.

For those of you who are interested, I’m going to update this with some references to the relevant theories later. For now “transactional analysis” will have to do: