It happened some time ago.
Someone had some unresolved issues from their past that were still very much alive and kicking in their heart. Because they weren’t dealing with their heart or the person they were truly angry at, from time to time, they would explode all over innocent people who just happened to cross their path.
On this fateful day, the recipient of their explosion was my brother, Jamie. Even though he did nothing to provoke the attack or the false accusations that he received, (in fact, in my opinion, he went above and beyond the call of duty to be respectful, kind, and supportive of this person), a hurting person still transferred all of their unresolved emotion onto him.
Let me tell you, I was ANGRY!!! Like a she-bear protecting her family, I wanted to tear the other person limb from limb, scratch their eyes out and let them know EXACTLY what the real problem and what they could do with their issues. I mean, it’s one thing if you hurt me, but it’s a whole other matter if you go after my family! Watch out world, I was ready to fight!!!
Fortunately, my brother had a clearer head about the issue. Rather than fight back he simply said, “Hey, I’m a big guy, I can take it. I know I don’t deserve what I just got, so just let it go.” In the end, cooler heads prevailed and we decided to forgive and move forward.
Of course, I still talked to God about it.
And that’s fair---lots of people in the Bible choose to avoid revenge, but still said, “God, YOU deal with them.”
Unfortunately, (or maybe fortunately) once again, God was less concerned in that moment about dealing with THEM and more concerned about dealing with an issue in my heart that I didn’t even see was a problem. Still, as I was praying, the Holy Spirit pointed out that our friend wasn’t the only one struggling with transference issues. The truth is that they’d crept into my heart as well, and were interfering with a totally unrelated area of my life.
As soon as the Holy Spirit put His spotlight on the issue, I knew it was true. The problem was there.
In my mind, I could see two faces. First, I could see the person who had hurt me so badly. I remembered the things they’d done to betray my trust and the ways they’d caused me so much hurt and pain.
Then I saw another face: this time it was the face of someone who held the same title and position of authority yet had a completely different heart. Unfortunately, even though I knew the second person was very different than the first, because I was so afraid of being hurt, betrayed, and rejected as I was before, I found myself keeping a very safe distance from the second person. When I had to interact with them, I was afraid. Even though people told me they could be trusted, subconsciously, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, and again bring hurt and pain.
Just like the person who hurt my brother, I was guilty of transference: The redirection of attitudes and emotions towards a substitute. Transferring feelings you have towards someone else onto another person, instead of of the original person.
In that moment, God used the incident with my brother to point out this unhealthy portion of my heart, and begin the healing process of helping me to stop letting transference control my life.
Being honest, the first thing I felt was shock. I truly didn’t realize this was happening.
Then I felt true remorse, because having seen up close and personal how painful it was when it was directed toward my brother, I felt truly bad that I was doing this to someone else.
Of course, remorse only goes so far….the next thing I had to do was repent and ask God to forgive me for both still holding anger and resentment toward the person who hurt me and for transferring those emotions toward someone who had only done good to my brother and I.
Then I asked God to truly help me to change. The truth is that having been on the receiving end of transference, made me realize that I really didn’t want to do that to another person. It isn’t fair, it isn’t right, and it isn’t healthy.
That day was a turning point for me. Over the next few weeks, the Holy Spirit was extraordinarily faithful as He walked me through the process of overcoming my transference issues and actually beginning to trust the new people in my life and embrace a very healthy, positive situation. Having seen the difference that overcoming transference has made in my own life, I thought I’d share with you a few of the tips I’ve learned so that you can experience victory and freedom, too.
So here goes..
1. To overcome transference, you need to ask God to help you forgive the people who hurt you and damaged your soul.
In my life, forgiveness has rarely been something that is once and done. It’s always been more of a process. It’s almost like unpeeling an onion, there’s always another layer. Often when our hearts have been deeply damaged, we can’t deal with all of the pain at one time and stamp on a blanket “I forgive you.” Instead, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to continually uncover new areas of our hearts, revealing new layers of pain, and being willing to over and over again apply forgiveness.
The reason that many of us struggle with transference issues is that we haven’t allowed the Holy Spirit to heal ALL of the issues of our hearts. We’re content to address the surface issues and leave the rest buried. Of course, this only works for so long before the hidden issues start surfacing and causing problems…often at the most inappropriate times and toward innocent people.
How do we overcome this?
Don’t be content with surface healing. Keep working through your issues with God until you are COMPLETELY healed. It may take more time and effort, but take it from someone who knows, in the end, it is completely worth it.
2. To overcome transference, you need to consciously approach each person as an individual.
One of the ways that the Holy Spirit helped me deal with my transference issue was to help me one by one compare the qualities of the person who hurt me with the other person in my life. I wasn’t far into the list until I began to realize that they were two COMPLETELY different individuals---actually doing things in polar opposite ways.
As I worked through this process, I began to see that the game my mind was playing was absolutely insane. I was literally comparing apples and oranges---maybe even apples and trees---they were so different. Yet, as long as I allowed my fears to be in control, all I could see was the one thing they had in common. When I started really comparing their qualities, attributes, and behaviors I saw that they were radically different. This helped me overcome my fears.
3. To overcome transference, you need to overcome prejudice and preconceived ideas
How do you feel when someone makes a statement like, ‘All women are bad drivers’?
Excuse me, but not ALL women are bad drivers. Some are; some are not. I’m pretty sure that Danica Patrick would take you to task with that statement.
The truth is that making broad assumptions like this is just wrong. Actually, it’s more than wrong, it’s prejudice. Yet, so many times when we’ve been deeply hurt by someone of a particular demographic, our natural tendency is to lump everyone into that demographic into the same category and say they are all bad.
Being completely honest, this was part of my problem. For me to overcome, I had to realize that not all people in that demographic had the same issues as the person who caused me pain. I had to face the fact that I’d developed a certain prejudice and make a conscious effort to overcome.
4. To overcome transference, you need to allow people the opportunity to earn your trust.
Right up front, I’ll admit that I struggle with trust. It doesn’t come easy to me at all. Because of what I’ve experienced in my life, I doubt if I will ever be the type of person who blindly trusts people right off the bat.
Still, I’m learning that if I want to have a happy, healthy life, I need to allow people the opportunity to prove that they are trustworthy.
That means I have to let my guard down a little. When people prove they can be trusted, then I need to let my guard down a lot. One of the things that the Holy Spirit showed me in this particular instance is that the second person, like my brother, really had gone above and beyond the call in proving that they could be trusted. Now it was time for me to let down my walls and start trusting them---realizing that no one is perfect, but they were trustworthy.
Honestly, this is one of the biggest problems with transference. When we don’t choose to overcome it, it ends up robbing us of so many good things in life. While we’re hiding behind our walls so that no one can hurt us again, we’re actually keeping ourselves in prison. We’re missing out on laughter, love, and really life.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to spend my life being the prisoner of someone who hurt me years ago.
I really don’t want to take my unresolved pain out on innocent people that God wants to use to heal my heart and bring restoration to my life.
I want to be free. I want to walk in victory. I want to get the most out of every moment, every second, every hour of every day.
This can’t happen until I start overcoming my issues rather than transferring them. So I do what is necessary to overcome.
Today, I want to challenge you to make the same choice.
If you read this article and think, “Oh no, I’m struggling with that, too”, then I challenge you to start taking every step needed to overcome.
Honestly, recognizing it’s there is a HUGE step forward. (Daylight is the greatest enemy to this problem---it’s better off hidden, but able to be conquered in the light.)
Once you see it, start doing something about it.
Ask God to forgive you and show you the source of the problem.
Then start doing whatever it takes to heal from the original hurt. Whether it be prayer, counseling, journaling, or talking to a trusted advisor, DO IT! Don’t let that pain control you any longer, but serve it an eviction notice from your heart today.
Then start working toward overcoming in your relationships.
Ask the Holy Spirit to show you any prejudice or preconceived ideas.
Start judging each person on their own merits.
Finally, take that big leap of faith and start learning to trust.
Yes, I know it’s hard (Oh, do I know). In the end, is there the possibility you could get hurt again?
But there’s also the possibility that you won’t get hurt again.
There’s the possibility that you may connect with some truly trustworthy, godly individuals who will build you up and help you find your plan, your place, and your purpose in life.
Maybe instead of always being afraid, you might actually have some fun.
The truth is that it’s up to you and I….we can go through our whole lives hurting and hurting people or we can do what is necessary to heal.
Sometimes healing involves putting pressure on an injured part so that it can regain strength and function.
Even though it hurts, in the end, the healing is worth it because you get your life back.
Isn’t that the goal….getting our lives back from the person who caused us pain?
Getting back in the game and once again wholeheartedly serving God, loving others, and enjoying our lives?
If that’s your goal, then I hope you’ll join me and start overcoming.
Together, we’ll be the women God has called us to be doing what He has called us to do.
Are you with me?