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So let’s pick up where we left off last time. We were talking about the different kinds of defenses. Basically, when facing feelings in therapy we can resist them in two ways, by using a defense or enacting a past relationship, the transference. That’s why writers refer to defense resistance or transference resistance.
What do we mean by a transference resistance. A patient enacts a past relationship with you to avoid the rise of feelings. Let’s compare two ways of avoiding feelings. A patient is exploring anger toward her verbally abusive husband. You ask, “What is the feeling toward him when he verbally abuses you?” She may resist the feeling by using the defense of rationalization: “I think the reason he does that is because he had a hard day at work.” Or she may resist the feeling by enacting a relationship from her past. After you ask your question, she looks away, crosses her arms, distances from you, and says, “I’m not sure that’s a question I can answer. Can you give me a list of feelings? Maybe then I can figure out what you are asking.” Instead of using a verbal defense, she uses many non-verbal defenses. She distances from you. She pulls away. She acts helpless and passive, expecting you to become more helpful and active. Instead of using one defense, her defenses operate together to create a pathological relationship: the transference. Instead of just pushing away a feeling, she pushes you away. Now her problem is not just a defense, but an entire way of relating to you and other people.