The One Kind of Transference That Really Matters
Human life and a person’s self is very much defined by relationships and the way we relate to others. Transference, in psychology, often is thought of as taking a parent-child relationship and transferring it to another situation that might not be appropriate. Psychoanalysis, for instance, operates primarily through the processes of transference and counter-transference. The fact of the matter is that every important relationship we have becomes a sort of emotional, cognitive, and behavioral template for new relationships. When we meet someone, our mind already starts looking for patterns and we start relating to that new person using an older relationship pattern that has the most in common with the new one. When we start using that pattern, however, we also start to make assumptions, often quite unwarranted and out of place, that can lead us react to past relationships, instead of interacting with the unique person before us. There is empirical data and experiments that demonstrate that transference is a reality in day-to-day life and directly linked to perceptual and memory systems in the brain. What does this finding mean to a Christian?
I think the obvious answer is that Christians should strive to make their relationship with Christ the over-riding relationship pattern or the source of immediate transference. This can hardly take place if Christ is relegated to a few hours on Sunday or even a quiet time of prayer every evening. One’s relationship with Christ has to be vital. One way to help make our relationship with Christ the most salient relationship in our lives is to read the Gospel in such a way that we place ourselves in the place of all the sick and lost that Christ encountered, that we hear Christ parables as parables told directly to us, and that the events of Christ’s passion become events that we live more than we live anything else in our lives. Another way is to prepare for communion with our beloved through the Holy Mysteries with our thoughts, with our feelings, and with our actions. The pre-communion prayers need to be a real conversation with Christ. They need to define our relationship with Him, a relationship of awe, of love, and of gratitude for His great mercy towards us. And finally, we need to have Christ as a moment-by-moment companion in life through praying as often as we can, “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me.”
Transference is a process that is largely unconscious. It happens without our realizing it. But how very blessed we will be if the only transference that can save becomes a part of our lives. It’s not important if we know it or not; what matters is that it be quietly present in the background of all our encounters with every human soul throughout the course of our lives. Then, the words of this Gospel will apply to us: “Lord, when saw we thee hungry, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? Or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”