How Transference Can Stunt Development

There is an interesting system which we rely on during our childhood that may stunt our personal development in later years. The system is called transference. The system operates by the transference of problems onto people with higher competency. This system develops during the preoperational stage (roughly age 2-7) of development, which is largely characterized by exploration. The system develops because children often encounter problems which are beyond their competency. When a child encounters a problem beyond their competency they immediately look to their parent or guardian to see if the problem is beyond their competency.

For instance, a child may encounter a spider in their house, they scream and jump away and run to their parent for help. If the parent screams and jumps up on the counter the situation spirals into chaos and emotional turmoil, but if the parent calmly catches the spider and releases it outside the child will calmly watch and celebrate their competent parent who has confronted the problem.

The spider represents any number of problems we might encounter. For instance, existential angst can be an issue for some, and people who put on a confident facade about some dogma can act as a transference object for our angst. We can be tricked into thinking that because they believe they know the true way, that the dogma is the true way. We are tricked into thinking they are more confident because they do not appear to struggle with the problem we are having.

Transference is the reason why we deify people who are extremely confident, we see the world’s successful athletes, CEOs and intellectuals as super human. I remember watching one of the best squash players in the world tie their shoes and thinking “Wow! I can’t believe they have to tie their shoes just like me! I’m kinda like them!” We are surprised to see people we transfer our problems onto struggle with the problems we have.

There are a couple of issues with the transference issue that may stunt our personal development.

1. A strong transference system creates a habit of passing off issues to other people. This transference can obviously limit our own capacity for growth when we think someone else will always take care of my issues. Transference is also the way children become spoiled brats, expecting someone else to deal with all their problems.

2. Transference can toss and turn you all different directions when trying to achieve growth. If you take the common goal-setting approach to life, and you set a finite goal that others have attained, when you attempt to learn from others to achieve this goal you will find a myriad of opinions and pathways. My own experience has been with squash, I wanted to be the best in the world, and I got completely disconcerted when I tried to mimic everyone who had been world #1 before. One day I was playing like Jonathan Power, the next like David Palmer, the next like Peter Nicol, and the next like Jansher Khan. Little did I know that every person who made it to world #1 did so by cultivating and developing their own strengths. No 2 successful individuals are the same, everyone has their own strengths, their own personality, their own culture, their own beliefs, their own aesthetic judgements, their own style which is in constant evolution. True success is someone who cultivates who they are to the fullest capacity, and revels in that success and process, continually renewing and improving themselves.

Hustle it up!

1 thought on “How Transference Can Stunt Development”

  1. Transference is the reason we think our parents are superheroes when we’re young I guess. Very great post, love!

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