The Subtle Power of Somatic Transference and CountertransferenceFeb 28, 2023
“Survivors who don’t stand up for themselves often develop physical and emotional illnesses. Many become depressed because they feel so hopeless and helpless about being able to change their lives. They turn their anger inward and become prone to headaches, muscle tension, nervous conditions and insomnia.”
― Beverly Engel,
The Nice Girl Syndrome: Stop Being Manipulated and Abused -- And Start Standing Up for Yourself
Have you ever had a feeling in your body when interacting with someone, without knowing why? That feeling could be an example of somatic transference or countertransference. Even though we may not be aware of it, our interactions with others often involve hidden psychological dynamics that are playing out at the somatic level. In this blog post, we'll take a closer look at the concept of somatic transference and countertransference and how they can impact our relationships with others.
What is Somatic Transference?
Somatic transference is defined as the unconscious transfer of emotions, memories, and physical sensations from one person to another. It can be seen as a form of communication between two people where one person's inner experience is mirrored or reflected in the other person's body or behavior. This type of transfer often occurs without awareness on either side but can be especially powerful when both people are conscious and aware.
For example, if someone has had experiences in the past where they were treated harshly by authority figures, they may unconsciously transfer those feelings onto a therapist or coach who is attempting to help them work through their issues. As a result, the client may feel tense or defensive around the practitioner even though there has been no direct provocation from them.
What is Somatic Countertransference?
Somatic countertransference occurs when a therapist or practitioner unconsciously mirrors back to the client what they are experiencing internally at any given moment. This type of response is usually based on the practitioner’s own unresolved experiences and emotions that have been unconsciously activated by their interactions with their clients. For instance, if something triggers an old wound for the therapist while working with a client, they may respond emotionally rather than objectively which can lead to misunderstandings between them as well as unhelpful patterns of interaction in therapy sessions.
The Challenge and Opportunity Posed by Somatic Transference/Countertransference
The challenge posed by somatic transference/countertransference lies in recognizing it and understanding its imFont topact on our interactions with others - both positive and negative - so that we can address it effectively and use it to further deepen our understanding of ourselves and others. On one hand, practitioners need to be aware of their own internal responses to clients so that they don’t become ensnared in their own emotional reactions rather than focusing on helping the client work through their issues objectively. On the other hand, recognizing these types of transfers also presents an opportunity for practitioners to gain insight into how their clients are feeling without verbal communication as well as open up new avenues for healing for both parties involved.
Somatic transference/countertransference can be thought of as “communication by impact”; it allows us to communicate our underlying feelings beyond words directly through our bodies in order to bridge gaps between us and understand each other better. By being mindful of this phenomenon during interactions with others, we can become more self-aware as well as learn more about those around us which will ultimately lead to deeper connections being formed across all levels—physical, mental, emotional, spiritual—and create space for true healing to take place within ourselves and within our relationships with others.
Photo credit: Anderson Rian @Unsplash
Sign up for our Newsletter
Keep up with our latest offerings and events. Stay connected with community.
No spam. Ever.