Today I learned a new word – Transference.

The medical definition of Transference : the redirection of feelings and desires and especially of those unconsciously retained from childhood toward a new object (according to

My experience of Transference is slightly different from this definition but this idea isn’t foreign to me.

My mom and dad were not from wealthy family, they’ve seen hardships and lived in it as they grew up in mainland China. So when it came time for them to start their own family in Hong Kong, they wanted to provide what they could only dream of and they didn’t dream big. My dad was accepted into University when he was young. However, he was unable to finish his degree due to a few circumstances.

As my brothers and I were growing up, he pined for us to perform well at school, to be accepted into Universities and graduate with “respectable” degrees. However, my dad never told us his hopes and dreams for us, directly.

From my viewpoint, we did well. My oldest brother, Francis, got an university degree then Peter got a college diploma and I got a Bachelor of Science (Engineering) degree. In the end when my dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer, he shared his dream with my niece who was about 8 at the time. He wishes and wants her to become a medical doctor or a lawyer, to make him proud as none of his children, including myself, were able to fulfill his dream.

How did I feel when I first heard of this? Anger. Guilt. Sadness.

10 years after his death, against my own wishes, I got my Professional Engineer designation to fulfill the wishes of those around me. My family, my friends, my colleagues – they all meant well and wanted me to be recognized, professionally. There are many more instances in my life when I simply, consciously or subconsciously, accomplished something to fulfill another person’s imposition.

It took me a while to overcome this lifetime of living for others. Also, I seeked professional help.

Now, I see how important it is for me to truly honor myself and my wishes. It is a very difficult life to lead if each day, my intention is to make those around me happy. To make others a priority is tiresome. There will always be a person who was not satisfied, despite my extreme best effort.

In the beginning of this realization, I swung to other end of the spectrum and others saw me as selfish and inconsiderate. But there comes a point in time when I simply cannot always be the giver, especially when that’s all I have done. When the jar is empty, there is nothing left to give. So I had to learn how to take.

Just like a pendulum, progressively, I swung back and forth between the ‘giving’ end and the ‘taking’ end. Currently I am working on finding the happy middle. It takes a lot of effort but it’s worth the effort.

From now on, I wish the only thing I do is transfer my love for travel to you! =)


2 thoughts on “Transference

  1. I’ve found it to be a fine line to walk with others on what is transference and what is not, and also when to bring it up with another person. It’s important to ensure that we don’t use transference as much as we don’t fall victim to it.

    I studied it from a counselling perspective, and it was one of the things we were warned about: clients transference to us (the counsellors), and to watch for it in family counselling sessions. It’s crazy!

    Closely related is when another person projects their stuff onto another person. This I encounter frequently right now, and its been a challenge for me deciphering when to call people out verses just accepting it as projection and not taking it too serious. 🙂


    • Thank you for pointing this out and sharing your personal experience, Serafina. As I am not professionally trained to recognize the difference, it’s a great challenge for me. Being present with awareness is becoming more important for me. Life is quite an interesting journey =)


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