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Case Reports
, 50 (1), 99-134

Developments in Cognitive Neuroscience: II. Implications for Theories of Transference

Case Reports

Developments in Cognitive Neuroscience: II. Implications for Theories of Transference

Drew Westen et al. J Am Psychoanal Assoc.


An integration of psychoanalytic theory with contemporary developments in cognitive neuroscience offers a useful perspective on long-standing controversies about the nature of transference, and a better understanding of the precise mechanisms by which transferential processes occur. Contemporary psychoanalytic views of transference are reviewed, and the many processes that constitute transference are described. Two issues that have emerged in different guises for several decades-the role of the analyst in eliciting transference, and the nature of "real" and "transferential" components of the therapeutic relationship-are reconsidered in the light of concepts such as connectionist networks. Although a useful analytic stance is one that allows the patient's enduring dynamics to dominate the analytic field, it is suggested, anonymity is neither a cognitive possibility nor the driving force behind most transference reactions, and the distinction between "real" and "transferential" perceptions is one of therapeutic interest, not of mechanism. Certain features of the analytic situation make some dynamics more likely than others to enter the treatment relationship, notably those related to authority, intimacy and attachment, and sexuality. Transference reactions are best understood as constructed from a combination of the patient's enduring dispositions to react in particular ways under particular conditions; features of the analytic situation and of the analyst; and interactions between patient and analyst. These reactions do not unfold ineluctably from the patient's mind in the consulting room, nor are they cognitive constructions of the patient-analyst dyad or co-constructions of relatively equal partners exerting their influence on the analytic field.

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