Countertransference is a term we use in therapy to identify when a therapist is redirecting his own feelings onto the client. Ethically, therapist must remain aware of their countertransference as to not become emotionally entangled with a client. Countertransference can be triggered a few ways.
What the client looks like (this includes physical characteristics, or how the client communicates nonverbally), the experience the client is talking about (let's say the client is processing a loss, and the therapist is grieving a loss of her own). Or thirdly, countertransference can take on the form of a bodily reaction. Meaning the therapist can feel the feelings of the client when in close contact. The idea of countertransference is that something about the client or the clients experience is triggering the therapist's own unresolved issues causing the therapist to lose objectivity and awareness in his interactions.
So what does all of this mean to you? Well, countertransference is something we all experience in every interaction we have in every relationship we have. Its not just in the counseling relationships, but it's happening in all relationships wether we acknowledge it or nor. Being aware of your countertransference will help you to interact in ways that promote peace and balance rather than mindlessly continuing in the path of our destructive unresolved issues.
Let me give you more examples. Have you ever met someone who really reminded you of someone from your past? You probably placed labels on them and assumed they were certain ways that aligned with the person from your past, only to realize with time who they really were. Or maybe you never got to know them because you immediately wrote them off as something bad like the person from your past.
Have you ever found it really hard to be happy for friends when they get something you've been longing for, even when you know it was well deserved? Your mistrust in the sequence of your life is robbing you from interacting in a healthy way, which would be to offer happiness and a high five to your friend. Instead you respond by boosting about yourself or by minimizing their accomplishment.
Countertransference takes a very strong presence in the life of those who lack awareness.
Many times in life we miss an opportunity or close a door on ourselves because of our countertransference. We say no when we really want to say yes because those issues from our past are polluting our current reality.
I feel strongly that by becoming aware of countertransference we can remain in control of our emotions and interact in ways that promote happiness and integrity. It's really to good to be kept secret and only used in the therapist client relationship. So go ahead, next time you're interacting with your partner of your friend, try to listen in and be aware of your motives behind your interactions. Are you coming from a pure and loving place, or are your past hurts and disappointments polluting what you say and do?