Transference is a psychological phenomenon in which you redirect past feelings, fears, and wishes created by an earlier situation, on to a new person. You react to the person based on their resemblance to someone from your past, and your feelings about the person may or may not be an accurate assessment of them. Transference was first identified by Sigmund Freud, but has become a broadly accepted psychological process.
Meeting Someone New… or Old?
When you meet a new person and something they say or do reminds you of a person or situation from your past that negatively affected you, if transference occurs, you might be inclined to make assumptions about this person. Perhaps you think that the person has harmful motivations or will negatively affect you in the way you’ve been affected in the past.This causes you to react in ways that may not fit the current situation, even though you believe you’re reacting to the new person or situation.
If you then make your feelings about the new person known to them and others, misunderstandings can occur. The new person may think you are judging them unfairly or prematurely. They may choose not to further interact with you or even react harshly towards you. Meanwhile, their negative reaction to your feelings causes you to believe your initial assessment of them was correct! As a result, even if you were on good terms with the person before, you both may begin to harbor hostile feelings towards the other.
In other words, your transference just ruined a possible good friendship or relationship, and you didn’t even realize it.
The best way to stop transference in its tracks it to bring your feelings into awareness and consciously suspend judgment until you have more information. Even if you feel that your first feelings are fitting — and you will — do not outwardly (or inwardly) react to them.
Instead, ask yourself where your feelings are coming from. What caused them and why did you respond to these causes the way you did? Have you felt this way before and why? Self-inquiry may lead you to realize that your feelings have less to do with the current situation and more to do with your past emotions, and save a relationship from ruin.