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Borderline Personality Disorder: Erotic Transference

Ahh, the Erotic Transference!  The question is do we want to have sex with our therapist because of a deep-seated oedipal complex, primary attachment gone tragically awry, a pre-verbal object relationship that cannot be unified or do we simply want to shag an attractive, empathic person who sets our genitals on fire?

Much psychological literature is written by Sheldon Cooper types (The Big Bang Theory) who are socially autistic or have Asperger’s syndrome and are desperately trying to quantify the unquantifiable by using terms such as “erotic transference” instead of “lust or love” because by using wholly scientific terms it distances themselves from their own primal and lustful urges.  That is why Amy Farrah Fowler (Sheldon’s girlfriend) cannot understand these sinful longings she gets when she is around men.  It greatly distresses and frustrates her.

Admitting you have sexual feelings for your therapist to your therapist can create shame and disgust. We are all sexual beings, it’s how we relate beneath the superficial veneer of expected manners and mores of society. 

Civilization as we know it would break down if we all gave in to our primal urges, so we stifle them down until we get into an intimate relationship with someone. Unfortunately that someone can be a professional business person in the form of a clinical psychologist rather than a hot guy/girl at a nightclub where both parties know that the end result of the night in question can end up with a roll in the hay.  That is not an expected outcome of the therapeutic relationship, yet the feelings can be there –  from both sides of the couch, the other side of which is known as erotic counter-transference.

Just because you want to have sex does not mean you should have sex, but does acknowledging these feelings help the situation any?  Is it the man or woman of the therapist that turns you on, or is it the warm intimate association of sharing secrets in a cozy, isolated office?

If you saw your therapist at the beach in a pair of baggy bathers or sitting at the pokies in the local casino, or face down in the frozen chip department at the local supermarket would that not shatter your illusion that they are some sort of Greek God sent down from Mount Olympus just to save you from yourself?

Many if not most therapists are very uncomfortable with their client’s “erotic transference” and find it difficult to talk to them about.  This is understandable.  People with Borderline Personality Disorder with serious boundary issues and greatly heightened emotions and high sensitivity tend to fall in love easily with anyone who shows them small tender mercies.  I know this equation so intimately.

My therapist gave me space and time to explore these feelings and never made me feel ashamed of them.  I just had to own them knowing she did not feel the same way.  She made that crystal clear in a sensitive, caring manner.  Thank God she did.  I am a better person for her boundaries and ability to enable me to take responsibility for my feelings and deal with them without involving her.  It was a long and messy process but one that clarified our relationship, gave it a framework and created guidelines for healing and moving on so I could live my life fully.

Dealing with this is something that desperately needs to be addressed in the training process of future therapists.

Picture:  clipart

Borderline Personality Disorder: Erotic Transference

Sonia Neale

Sonia Neale was recently awarded the Inaugural Barbara Hocking SANE Australia Fellowship to study and research Borderline Personality Disorder overseas in the USA, Canada, UK and Ireland. Her previous Psych Central blog was called Therapy Unplugged. She is the author of two books, The Bad Mother’s Revenge and Death by Teenager, both published by ABC Books/Harper Collins. She lives in Western Australia, is married with three adult children, has studied psychoanalytic psychotherapy, has a Certificate IV in Mental Health and is studying for a Psychology/Counselling degree. She currently works as a peer support worker in the mental health field.

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APA Reference
Neale, S. (2011). Borderline Personality Disorder: Erotic Transference. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2020, from


Last updated: 4 Dec 2011
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