Infatuation and transference

I was just reading about infatuation on Wikipedia (everyone should know why by now) and found this:

In transference
In psychoanalysis, a sign that the method is taking hold is ‘the initial infatuation to be observed at the beginning of treatment’,[16] the beginning of transference. The patient, in Freud’s words, ‘develops a special interest in the person of the doctor…never tires in his home of praising the doctor and of extolling ever new qualities in him’.[17] What occurs, ‘it is usually maintained…is a sort of false love, a shadow of love’, replicating in its course the infatuations of ‘what is called true love’.[18]

Freudian theory holds that when a person enters psychoanalysis, they will develop strong feelings toward the therapist, usually in the form of a powerful crush, but it can take other forms too. It happened to me with one of my therapists many years ago. I had to quit because it became so intense. He kept telling me it was normal and to work through it (he was a Freudian psychoanalyst) but I just couldn’t deal with it anymore.

I think what happened to me these past few weeks was really a form of transference, even though the person in question is someone I never met. I looked up to him as an authority on mental health and found (well, still find) his writings therapeutic and powerfully written. This man is also a person who I’ve been told has this spell-like effect on many women (and probably some men too) who have been victims of narcissistic abuse and look to him as an authority. But he is also a narcissist and he proved to me today he’s exactly what he says he is. My idealization of him came crashing down to reality. I had hoped he was “different.” He wasn’t.

I don’t think transference is really beneficial to the therapist-patient relationship. I think it’s a distraction that keeps the patient from focusing on themselves. I noticed during the time I’ve had this ridiculous infatuation I haven’t been focusing on ME as much as I should be. I think developing a “pleasant diversion” (at least pleasant until your fantasies are shattered by hard, cold reality) in one’s mind by forming an obsession over another person might be a way to not have to focus on painful emotions that might be coming up.

Infatuation has also been called “limerence” in Dorothy Tennov’s excellent 1979 book, “Love and Limerence,” which I highly recommend (and have provided the link if anyone wants to order a copy). Tennov gives the best description of the experience I’ve ever read. I don’t know why that word hasn’t really caught on because it’s a good one. In later chapters, she also writes about the phenomenon of transference in psychotherapy.

Infatuation is not love. Many people confuse the two, and it can feel like “love” to those entering a new relationship and finding themselves obsessed with the other person. It can lead to real love over time. But infatuation is shortlived unless it’s continually fed and has little to do with genuine love. You can be infatuated over someone you don’t even know–such as a celebrity, and how can that be love?

Infatuation involves increased levels of dopamine in the brain similar to a cocaine or opioid high, which is why it feels so good and why it must be “fed” to be kept alive. When it can’t be fed anymore, the infatuated person, like a person withdrawing from drugs, may “crash” or experience depression. I wonder if people with addictive personalities are more likely to develop this condition.


Real love isn’t drug addiction or a “condition.” It involves commitment, genuine caring about the other person, willingness to compromise and sometimes sacrifice, and mutual understanding. Genuine love must include true friendship and mutual give and take. It also requires an ability to empathize with another person you care about. Real love may or may not include infatuation. They are two different things, although one can lead to the other. A mother’s love for her child certainly doesn’t involve infatuation, but it’s love in one of its highest forms.

Infatuation includes none of these things, only an unrealistic idealization and obsession with another person. The idealized image the infatuated person has of their object of obsession may or may not be accurate at all. Most likely it isn’t. That’s why crushes tend to be shortlived. Tennov calls limerence/infatuation “cognitive obsession,” and that pretty much sums up what it is. Sure, it can be a lot of fun (like a drug high), and an interesting diversion if not taken to extremes, but it’s not “love.”

I’ve always wondered too why crushes are so embarrassing for people to talk about, since they’re so common and normal. I hesitated a LOT about discussing this on a public blog, especially knowing the person in question is most likely going to see all this, but you know what? I don’t care, because I’m not going to lie about anything in this blog. It’s my therapy, and I made a commitment to never lie about anything, so there you go.

19 thoughts on “Infatuation and transference

  1. I always wondered why crushes are so hard to talk about. When I was with my former husbands I got crushes on others so easily. I was always crushing on someone else and I knew it was wrong. I prayed to make myself stop and I couldn’t, no matter what.

    Now with this husband I have now, I have no crushes on others. I never even think of others or want others.

    I think for me it was a part of my life needed to be fulfilled and now it has. I appreciate your openness on this. I hope you meet the right man, I really do, I’ll be celebrating for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s wonderful, Joan, that you have a husband and a satisfying enough marriage you don’t need to develop crushes on outside people.

      Oddly enough, I am not “looking.” I’ve written before that just coming out of a very long and destructive relationship with a malignant narcissist (I’ve been NC almost a year), I really don’t want to jump into that particular ocean again, at least not right now.

      I develop crushes easily. I am almost always crushing on someone. Except when I’m extremely depressed. When I’m not depressed and feeling better about myself is when it happens. I get crushes on people who are inaccessible and find them quite pleasant tbh. I don’t expect anything to come from them and it’s just a mind diversion, like a drug. My Aspieness does make it harder for me to engage with real life men.

      But sure, I’d be willing to enter another relationship at the right time. If it happens that would be wonderful, but if it doesn’t, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it or die of a broken heart. I have my other passions to keep me busy. 🙂


      • The fact I’m beginning to think about it though, might mean I’m almost ready to start dating. But the prospect of dating after so many years and at this age simply terrifies me. I’m also afraid I’ll be charmed by another narcissist. But at least I know what red flags to look for. There’s an Aspie group here in Asheville I might look into.


        • I understand that coming out of an abusive marriage we will feel that way. Its so scary. But you have to consider how much growth you have obtained. And if you had to ask yourself if you would put up with abuse again. You gained so much knowledge I would have to say it would be impossible for you to put up with it. You will trust your instincts.

          Furthermore, if you have any doubts about the man you are dating just flow with it and trust it. All that good stuff about you can attract the right guy, so flow with that too. I know I talk weird cause I take part of a relationship group online, and this is how we talk lol.

          Liked by 1 person

          • You’re right, and I probably would be much better now at identifying a narcissist before things became serious. I’m not quite ready yet though, but I’m getting there. I feel like I have to work more on myself before I jump into any relationship.


    • I’m a happily married woman and I still get crushes from time to time. It’s very rare, but I think it comes from being a broken person. The crushes are less intense and don’t typically last long. I don’t give them much attention or power and they typically go away in time.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I guess if you mix with any narc for long enough you’ll see the traits sooner or later. Although I fear the cause of his anger was not you personally but his recognition of another narc. I could be wrong? Are they competitive of each other?


  3. I’m 100% in love with my analyst… I get it isn’t like the love I have for my husband. But I would argue it is love and who knows what “real” love is anyway? Sorry to hear you had such a bad experience with that narc. Great blog BTW.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The only narc I had a bad experience with was the ones who raised me and the one I was married to — I have not had any bad experiences with any narcs in the narcissistic abuse community. Not yet anyway. What happened with Sam was educational for me and I learned a lot from it, but it was hardly a bad experience. Maybe you’re talking about the disgruntled blogger who wrote a post all about what a horrible, evil narc I was! That was sort of a bad experience but it’s all taken care of now.

      Anyway, it’s normal to feel “in love” with your therapist, or counselor, or anyone you are looking up to to help you deal with emotional issues, even if it’s just an author you really admire. It’s all transference and it’s normal.
      I’m glad you like my blog and I hope you decide to stick around.


  4. Pingback: Is It Love Or Infatuation? How To Spot The Important Differences | Real People Dating

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