Some of us worry deep down whether
coming alongside people who are experiencing intense grief may not
cause us to “catch” the grieving person’s heaviness – or at least to
feel end up feeling weighed down. Don’t laugh, don’t despise, and
above all, don’t be surprised. It is no idle myth that some husbands
have been known to experience “sympathy” pangs when their wives are
pregnant or in labour!
Neither is it unusual for a carer to
start to take on the other person’s peculiarities of speech or
gestures, or even some of their physical symptoms. In the case of
married couples we are, after all, one flesh. If we find ourselves
experiencing too strong a degree of identification, we may need to
be set free from the power of this physical or emotional
transference, for if we leave such things unchecked, they may come
to seriously affect our whole personality.
Transference represents the shift of
emotions from one person or object to another. It is a common sign
that we are beginning to relate to people not as they really are,
but as if they were some other person altogether – or to take on
“Flesh gives birth to flesh, but
the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3:6). If we find
ourselves adopting someone else’s outlook on life uncritically, we
may end up performing injudicious actions on their behalf. Such is
the effect that both cults and dominant personalities can have on
us. When we start looking to people to fulfil us in ways that in
reality only God can do, we are asking too much of them, and may be
heading into dangerous waters!
Reflect and Pray
Lord, set my soul and spirit free
from any transference that has drawn me
too closely into someone else’s orbit.
Where I have pulled someone else into mine,
forgive me and release them.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.