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Idealizing Transference

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Idealizing Transference?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Idealizing Transference

Idealizing the Teacher

While both mirroring and idealizing transference intensify when a student begins working on identification with the ego self-identity—the shell, for normal personality structures the idealizing transference usually predominates at the beginning. Students with narcissistic structures tend to manifest the mirroring transference early in the process. The student who is dealing with narcissism tends to relate to his teacher and to significant others in his life like a child does when it is developmentally normal to need an idealized self-object: “Since all bliss and power now reside in the idealized object, the child feels empty and powerless when he is separated from it and he attempts, therefore, to maintain a continuous union with it.” (Kohut, 1971, p. 37) The student believes, at least unconsciously but often consciously, that his teacher possesses perfection and greatness. This perception is based not on reality but on his own narcissistic needs. He does not question this image of his teacher, believing it to be true, and feels blessed and fortunate to have such an extraordinary teacher. He cannot help but adore his teacher, believing him to be the best thing that has ever appeared on the earth. His mind might be somewhat incredulous of the intensity of his love and admiration, but his feelings are completely convincing.

Idealizing Transference Seen as a Defense Against Underlying Emptiness

We find, then, that the state of lack of support is the psychological recognition of an existential emptiness, a deficient state experienced phenomenologically as nothingness, or vacuity. Retracing our steps, we can see that the breakdown of the idealizing transference produces a state of deficient emptiness, with a sense of lack of support. It is our experience that fully experiencing this emptiness is necessary to resolve the need for idealized self-objects. Self psychology and object relations theory explain this emptiness as the absence or loss of a psychic structure, or as a consequence of the loss of a certain object relation. We find this explanation only partly accurate. It is true that when a certain object relation (in this case the idealizing transference) or a psychic structure (in this case the structure related to ideals or to the superego) is lost, this emptiness usually arises. However, this does not mean that the emptiness is necessarily the absence of this object relation or of the psychic structure. An alternative explanation would be that the loss of the object relation and/or psychic structure merely reveals an underlying emptiness. Our perception is that the idealizing transference functions to support the sense of self, but does so by veiling this underlying emptiness. Thus, the idealizing transference is a defense against this underlying emptiness.

Purpose of Idealization

Our view parallels that of the Jungian analyst, Schwartz-Salant, who thinks that idealization can have a primarily defensive purpose, blocking painful or threatening feelings, "...or else it can represent the healthy mobilization of the positive Self in the form of projection: one's own better or potential qualities are transferred to another and experienced as a characteristic of that person."

The Idealizing Transference is the Primary Object Relation that the Self Utilizes for Support

As we begin to understand this perspective, we may learn that one’s helplessness is based on a delusion: the belief that there is something we need to do in order to be ourselves and the resulting conviction that we can know what it is. This is one of the basic delusions of the ego life of the self. It is inherent in narcissism that we will attempt to do things to support our sense of identity. So the self is always engaged in inner activities of remembering, imaging, identifying, repressing, projecting, idealizing, and various self-manipulations to shore up our insecure sense of identity. We observe this in the inner psychological activity of the bipolar self, the tension arc of Kohut, and its underlying ego activity, which is actually needed to support the normal identity. The issue of real support emerges clearly only after we have penetrated the various external manifestations of this ego activity, and have experienced essential presence directly and immediately. The experience of essential presence functions naturally to expose these psychological activities. And since the idealizing transference is the primary object relation that the self utilizes for support, it becomes the most important area to explore in order to uncover the true state of support and the accompanying wisdom of nondoing.

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