19 thoughts on “Borderline Personality Disorder: Erotic Transference

  • December 4, 2011 at 8:52 am

    Wonderful as ever- I came across your blogs when I was looking for a reason why on earth I fancied the pants off my therapist who is quite geeky/nerdy and although I don’t have a type as I fall into the category of falling for any male who shows a bit of kindness I was very confused by my attraction to him.
    Although I still miss the sessions I had with him I try and focus on how irritating he would most likely be -positive defence arguments that we held in the office just made me think how irritating it would be to have an argument with someone like him your blogs about the attraction you and others have held have been insightful and helpful in my lone healing process- I say lone as no one is formally aware – my therapy finished as it was time limited on NHS funding without him being told and have not discussed it with other therapist as it turned out they knew him.

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  • December 4, 2011 at 9:21 am

    I’m surprised that someone with a degree in psychoanalytic psychotherapy would give such short shrift to the concept of an “erotic transference.” I’m a practicing psychoanalyst and it’s a phenomenon I know well. My clients — both men and women — have often developed sexual feelings for me. I’ve never been disgusted or made uncomfortable by it, but I never take it at face value, as just a natural phenomenon for sexual beings. More often, it’s a defense — a way of avoiding the needy, dependent feelings that arise in therapy and placing us more on terms of “equals”. In my training, and in the training of anyone I’ve known with a psychoanalytic orientation, this issue is always addressed.

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  • December 4, 2011 at 11:09 am

    Dear Joseph Burgo, If you read my biography at the bottom of every blog you will read I do not have a degree I have a certificate and I do not practice any form of psychotherapy. I have had many emails from readers who have said their feelings made them feel disgusted and ashamed. You give the typical textbook explanation that it is a “defence” or what Freud would call “resistance”. According to my clinical psychologist in Western Australia this is not addressed very well at all in training. My blogs are based on my thoughts and feelings about various phenomena in the therapy session. If you would like to read my many other blogs on the subject of “erotic transference” you will see that I do not give it short thrift.

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  • December 4, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    Oh boy…two of the blogs I follow, yours and Dr. Burgo…and you guys don’t agree. Yikes.

    If it matters any, I am glad for anybody that is willing to address the issue on a blog because there are so many of us out there that are limping along trying to understand what just happened to us when we got slammed with these feelings about our therapist.

    It is nice that your blog, Sonia, serves from the standpoint of having been in therapy for this condition for 15+ years, so we get to hear about it from a patient perspective in great detail. Dr. Burgo’s is helpful from the standpoint of seeing what clinicians have to say on the matter…especially since it seems so difficult to find candid clinician commentary about it on the otherwise wide open Internet.

    Please keep getting the word out about what it’s all about – from all perspectives….and those of us really wanting to figure it out will embrace all sides of the coin.

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  • December 5, 2011 at 12:27 am

    It’s ok to be able to disagree on issues. I do see Dr. Burgo’s perspective and I went to his website and have added it to my favourites. If you have feelings (warm, tender, sexual) for your boss does it mean you are defending yourself against the type of work you do? Or are you “resisting” work by having these feelings. As Freud said, “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” Sometimes we complicate feelings and sometimes feelings are complicated and sometimes there is not just one answer or perspective but several conflicting ones. If we just worked with what the majority of boffins agreed on there would be no new findings anywhere. Always question everything.

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  • December 5, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    I would really like to hear about Erotic Transference from other practicing therapists from all modes of treatment, not just psychodynamic.

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  • December 5, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    I’m so glad to see discussion on this topic is still alive and well. Having suffered through the pain and shame of ‘erotic transferance’ie fancying the pants of my pdoc, I would love to hear from more therapists and patients on how they worked through it. Pdoc and I have been unable to and have swept the issue under the carpet – I find when we discuss it, it makes me obsess about him even more than usual. He alludes to fact he feels same way about me, thou he is far too professional to do more than hug – this also throws me for a loop, though I crave his affection. HELP! Comments appreciated.

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  • December 8, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    I notice that nobody wants to be “typical” or “textbook”, even though by definition most of us are.

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  • December 9, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    Dr. Burgo –

    You’re the kind of doctor that makes me want to kill myself.

    I’m completely serious.

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  • January 28, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    I have a question. I have borderline personality disorder and a history of wanting to seduce authority figures, but usually too shy to do so unless they make the first move. I really want to have sex with my therapist and I dont know if it is just transference because he was my teacher years before and I thought he was cute back then.

    Everytime I leave my sessions with him I am very aroused to the point where I have had to go hime and..please myself… its driving me crazy. It doesnt help that he takes a more modern approach and is actually a tad flirty..

    Should I tell him how I feel?

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  • January 29, 2012 at 5:26 am

    Dear Toinya, It depends. Some therapists terminate on the spot when erotic transference makes its debut and others work through it with the client. I understand your feelings and I suspect you are not alone in your post therapy actions. Maybe you could talk to him about your feelings with authority figures without mentioning how you feel or what you do about these. You are smart in recognising it for what it is though. I would be interested in hearing what others think. Regards Sonia

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  • January 29, 2012 at 9:42 am

    Sonia,

    I gave a letter to my therapist disclosing how I
    always fall in love with my therapists (all female). I knew it was a very real issue. When I was in school I fell in love with at least one female teacher every year. I didn’t know why, but my feelings were intense. I knew I had to address it somehow. By giving the letter to my current T. I hoped and prayed that she would be able to talk about it with me, because I was in love with her as well. She told me I was brave for “telling” her
    and that now I had “painted myself into a corner.”
    My question is… how the HELL do i get out of this god-forsaken corner?? I am really lucky to have the T. I have because she is open and compassionate with talking about my feelings for her. She is incredibly smart and extremely funny as you are. But I feel so stuck in my emotions. I
    do experience erotic transference but would never ever want it to become a reality. Nor would she ever compromise her ethics, which I am eternally grateful for. Geez… I got enough problems to deal with. But how do I “turn – off” my feelings for her. It is incredibly painful… she says it makes her sad that it IS so painful for me. Please
    help!! I WANT OUT OF THE CORNER!!

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  • January 29, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your blogs as I was actively seeking information about erotic transference or get down to the nitty gritty of just fancying the pants off your Pdoc. I have been in therapy for 4 years with the same Pdoc and I must admit my attraction ebbs and flows depending on what is going on in my life. When parts of my life become more critical I become more attached and start having sexual feelings. When things calm down I just see him as an amazing friend. I allow my dreams to give me insight to balance what is happening in the therapeutic relationship. So for instance if I perceive there is counter transference I see in my dreams that he is sitting behind a desk and guiding me still with kindness and consideration but creating a natural barrier that shows me this is a professional relationship.
    This sometimes work.

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  • January 29, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    Dear Tina,
    You are very brave to tell her and you know and acknowledge your feelings and your therapist has taken this well. That bodes well. I too have a history of crushes on female teachers whom I adored. They were always good looking, intelligent and could regulate their emotions. My therapist fell into that category as well. I used her as a role model to get my own life back on track. I learned to handle my intense emotions and de-escalate my reaction to situations. I made my life work through her guidance. She taught me I was as good as she was, as good as all the women I had fallen in love with, and I learned that it was ok to be me, not to be a carbon copy of someone else, to have my own original thoughts and authenticity, and the most important lesson of all – boundaries. It’s ok to have intense feelings, that they come from a place of longing, but to guide them towards other passions, for me my work in mental health, my writing, my garden, my marriage and my kids.

    So I used what she taught me and took the focus off her and onto me. It took time, years for me to do this. I could not turn off my feelings for her so I redirected them towards other things. I understood where they came from, why they happened and how to use them to my best advantage.

    This takes effort and is sometimes very difficult. Sometimes very easy. And then the process got easier until it became a habit. Changing one’s personality traits is time consuming but the effort is worth it.

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    • April 21, 2012 at 5:43 pm

      Thank you, this is very helpful and gives me hope. I have read quite a bit about transference, but until now haven’t come across any practical ideas as to how one might ‘get out the corner’ as Tina puts it. Transference has at times left me feeling powerless and overwhelmed. I’ve only admitted to looking up to my therapist, but despite lots of covering up on my part, i’m sure he senses there’s way more to it than that! At the moment I’m in a quandry as to whether or not I should just (without going into detail that might creep him out) bring the whole thing out into the open. I doubt my therapist would rejected me as a client, but do you think it is necessary to basically communicate the full picture of one’s transference in order to get completely unstuck and move beyond it? I’m rather hoping you’ll say no!

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  • January 29, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    Pandora, that is most insightful. I have a recurring dream (not often now though) where I am in my therapist’s house and I feel so guilty and awkward and she acts as though nothing is out of place and gives me a tea towel and asks me to do the dishes. In reality she is accepting of who I am even when I am intrusive and isn’t afraid.

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  • February 7, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Hi Sonia,

    I went to therapy today and my T. mentioned the term limerence. Have you heard of it? It is a term coined by Dorothy Tennov describing being “in love”
    with a person (the limerent other or object LO) It does not mean having a sexual attraction to the other person but it is an unconscious, involuntary longing for the LO. It is an intense longing where hope and uncertainty of having a relationship coincide and the uncertainty and fear of rejection intensifies limerence. It has
    not yet been entered into the DSM as a diagnosis
    of a mental illness as of yet, but it DOES describe my relationship with my therapist. I thought you would be interested in looking it up
    if you haven’t heard of it. I found it incredibly
    enlightening to say the least. It is not unrequited love but a “state of being” in love with another person. I hope I have described it accurately, I am just learning about it now. I think it directly relates to your blog and hope that it shines some more light on what me and others are experiencing with our therapists.
    I hope you are doing well and look forward to hearing about what you think of this new psychological phenomenon known as limerence.

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    • February 15, 2012 at 8:25 am

      Limerence is a term coined c. 1977 by the psychologist Dorothy Tennov to describe an involuntary state of mind which seems to result from a romantic attraction to another person combined with an overwhelming, obsessive need to have one’s feelings reciprocated. The concept grew out of Tennov’s mid-1960s work, when she interviewed over 500 people on the topic of love, and was first published in her 1979 book Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love.</em
      Oh, that sounds so much like what transference feels like. Thank you for this.

      Reply
  • February 27, 2013 at 11:30 pm

    In my experience, you’ll know when to have the “transference talk” with your therapist, simply because you’re stuck and you HAVE to talk about it. It gets to be kind of a roadblock. Your conscious or unconscious communication are making it obvious. When you radiate attraction, an ethical therapist is supposed to keep any countertransference toward that under wraps, and it’s good to address and work through. That’s what my T and I do to keep on the right track. I have to laugh when I read advice like, “if your therapist responds inappropriately run away–fast.” Once you get to the point of being a seductive patient, you are way beyond turning down any moves from the therapist. I’m probably going to thank my therapist for keeping me safe (some day)!

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