The ancient Chinese said that yin creates yang, up creates down, and left creates right.
In modern psychotherapy, there is a concept called positive transference, which is the projection of positive or idealized attributes onto another person. We commonly project such notions onto our favorite writers, speakers, entertainers, teachers, doctors, and authority figures. This creates an unreal perception of who they really are.
Oftentimes, our personal relationships are based upon positive transference. Infatuation with a new dating partner is often founded upon this idealized state. It’s not uncommon for positive transference to create a relationship that even leads to marriage.
Now enters the principle of yin creates yang. Unrealistic expectations of one’s spouse inevitably lead to disappointment. The pendulum naturally swings in the negative direction to the same degree to which it was originally positive. This can lead to the destruction of relationships, be they with teachers, friends, or spouses. How often have we heard someone say, “What did I ever see in that person? What could I have been thinking?” This is a prime example of positive transference that has turned into negative transference.
Unfortunately, many of us become addicted to the notion of the idealized spouse. Instead of trying to overcome the illusion of positive transference, we go through serial relationships, thinking we have found our ideal mate, until the pendulum swings and we move on to the next infatuation. The problem is that the infatuated Eros state is so intoxicating, so euphoric. It’s almost like addiction to a drug. People who think the positive transference relationship will continue on in perpetuity, are left disappointed and heartbroken. The obvious question then is: How do we break free of such infatuation? How do we move past it? See beyond it? Find true love rather than infatuated love?
The first step is to realize that we’re all human. There is no knight in shining armor. There is no perfect love goddess. Though the infatuation stage is natural, it’s important to move past that state. What is needed is time—time to get to know another person and see how they act in different situations, including under stress. It is important to see the person for who they really are, certainly before we commit our life to them. Seeing who they are is not to diminish them, but rather to truly love them with all of their difficulties and idiosyncrasies. Enduring relationships are founded upon that premise.
Sadly, few people are able to acknowledge it or even know when they are in positive transference. If and when they realize it, perhaps after the fact, they can somehow feel embarrassed or humiliated to have even gone there. The reality is it’s a natural state that we would do well to acknowledge. Though positive transference is a fact of life that will always exist, it can be stabilized if, simultaneously, there is a sober, mature, and rational perspective. We owe this not only to ourselves, but also to the people who are a part of our lives. It does not help the people who are important to us when they inevitably can’t live up to our expectations. Likewise, it does no good for us to try to live up to someone else’s expectations of us. In the same vein, marriages that endure the test of time are gone into realistically, not idealistically. To truly love another person is to honor and embrace their humanity.
Dr. Michael Mamas is the founder of The Center of Rational Spirituality, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the betterment of humanity through the integration of ancient spiritual wisdom with modern rational thought. From personal issues to global trends, Michael Mamas helps individuals and organizations develop a deeper understanding and more comprehensive outlook by providing a 'bridge' between the abstract and concrete, the Eastern and Western, and the ancient and modern. Michael Mamas has been teaching for over 35 years and writes on a variety of subjects on his blog, MichaelMamas.net.