Though Eysenck (1986), writing from an experimental psychologist’s point of view, discounts virtually the whole of Freudian psychology as being a pseudo—science, he leaves intact the pivotal phenomenon of transference. Transference, then, is a phenomenon which can be endorsed by both experiential and experimental epistemologies.
Rycroft (1972), defines transference as “the process by which the patient displaces (transfers energy from one image to another) feelings, ideas etc. which derive from previous figures (‘objects’) in his life and by which he projects onto his analyst object—representations acquired by earlier introjections...”
Freud’s own view, expressed in the Encyclopaedia Britannica of 1944, was: “By transference is meant a striking peculiarity of neurotics. They develop toward their physician emotional relations, both of an affectionate and hostile character, which are not based upon the actual situation but are derived from their relation toward their parents (the Oedipus complex). Transference is a proof of the fact that adults have not overcome their former childish dependence; it coincides with the force which has been named “suggestion”, and it is only by learning to make use of it that the physician is enabled to induce the patient to overcome his internal resistances and do away with his repressions. Thus, psychoanalytic treatment acts as a second education of the adult, as a correction to his education as a child.”
In the early days of psychoanalysis, transference was regarded as a regrettable phenomenon which interfered with the recovery of repressed memories and disturbed the patient’s objectivity. By 1912, however, Freud was well on the way to the view expressed above and transference was becoming seen as essential to analysis: “finally”, he wrote, “every conflict has to be fought out in the sphere of transference”. Transference was a resistance, but it was also the living neurosis: transference was to be nurtured and dissolved - not by gratifying the transference wish, but by not gratifying it and by interpreting it.
No doubt the phenomenon was exacerbated by the use of the couch facilitating regression and by the disembodiment of the analyst behind the couch diminishing the pull of reality. The patient was not seen, let alone touched. Touch would provide gratification and destroy analytic neutrality and objectivity. The analyst was to be a blank screen onto which the patient could transfer and project.
This said, subsequently there have been psychoanalysts in England, from the fifties onwards(Balint, Winnicott, Little, Milner, amongst others) who have accentuated warmth and acceptance and other emotionally-based responses. Such therapists occasionally used ‘token care’, allowing the patient to take home small objects they had become attached to, to bridge weekends and holidays. Simple feeding could be offered — milk, water, a biscuit; cushions and blankets made available - physical contact occasionally permitted - in order to respond in terms of the mother—child relationship and to give help to someone too regressed or wounded to make use of caring offered in a less concrete form.
Basically, on repeating the infantile neuroses in the transference, the patient also repeats his Oedipus complex with the analyst and attempts to relive these fantasies and render them conscious, overcoming resistances to doing so, and reintegrating with his ego what the defences kept split off from it.
Countertransference — the analyst’s positive and negative reactions to the patient — was also initially seen as interference. In the early fifties, Paula Heimann introduced the then revolutionary idea that the countertransference was not just the transference of the analyst towards the patient but also an instrument of research into the patient’s unconscious, indicating to the analyst what occurs in the patient in his relation to the analyst.
One of the greatest advances in psychoanalytic thinking in the second half of the century is this realisation that the analyst’s feelings about the patient are communications and sources of information. Previously, all strong feelings towards the patient were seen as the analyst being neurotic. By looking at the countertransference, it was possible to state, for example, that in a successful analysis, the analyst reacts to and eventually relinquishes the patient as his Oedipal love object.
The countertransference, positive and negative, latent and manifest, can be explored in the therapist’s therapy, in supervision and in supervision workshops. The sometimes seemingly arcane intricacies and convolutions of these processes can also be studies in the theoretical journals and in the specialist texts which seek to explicate them, for example, Racker(1968), Lacan (1979), Casement (1985), and Kohon (1986), amongst others.
Although the exploration can be made by the therapist alone, via a process which Casement (1985) has christened ‘the internal supervisor’, this process may not be sufficient. A transference is largely unconscious. As Stattman points out (1987), “It takes extensive work to convey the realization that a person’s behaviour is full of projections about other persons, other times, other experiences. There is a lack of and a block to awareness and the forms of resistance to realize that one is reacting in a transference type behaviour.” He points out that it may be very difficult “to change this behaviour once it is recognized. How is it energized so effectively? It is clearly not a question of intellect or motivation since many clients (and therapists) invest so much time in therapy and life with full awareness of the transference behaviour and with the frustration to be unable to change it significantly. The transference neurosis is more highly energized than the purely psychological understanding of it and the will to change it.”
Bion (1975) takes a purist view. Countertransference is the transference relationship the analyst has to the patient without knowing he has it. “You will hear analysts say, ‘I don’t like that patient but I can make use of my countertransference.’ He cannot make use of his counter-transference. He may be able to make use of the fact he dislikes the patient, but that is not countertransference. There is only one thing to do with countertransference and that is to have it analysed. One cannot make use of one’s countertransference in the consulting room, that is a contradiction in terms. To use the term in that way means that one would have to invent a new term to do the work which used to be done by the word countertransference. It is one’s unconscious feelings about the patient, and since they are unconscious there is nothing we can do about it. If the countertransference is operating in the analytic session, the analysand is unlucky and so is the analyst. The time to have dealt with it was in the past, in the analyst’s own analysis. We can only hope that it does not impede us too much and that we have had enough analysis to keep the number of unconscious operations to the minimum.”
The sense of similarity between past and present which occurs in transference can be initiated by either patient or therapist. The past may spill into the present by an attribution of the patient and by the therapist behaving in a way which triggers the unconscious set.
Consider two intersecting circles. If one circle is the set of present experience and the other of past experience, any overlap can belong to either set and may represent a similarity between the past and present of the patient or of the therapist — or of both. Consciously, whatever the similarity, past and present can be distinguished as different. There being no sense of time in the unconscious, the overlap is unconsciously equally a part of the present or of the past. This (mis)perception of similarity as sameness is the phenomenon of transference: the past being experienced as if it were happening in the present.
Equally, there may be a similar overlap between the experience of ‘self’ and ‘other’. It is not altogether clear at all times which is ‘you’ which is ‘me’ and which is ‘us’ in a two person relationship. This is because the communications may be projective, introjective or both. They can also transcend projective features and be neither, though rarely, if at all, within traditional psychoanalysis.
Transference and countertransference, both negative and positive, are manifestations of a general process. Only some infantile libidinal wishes reach psychic maturity and are directed towards reality as part of the conscious self. Other parts of the libidinal wishes remain separate, either satisfied on the level of fantasy or remaining unconscious. If the person’s need for love was not satisfied in reality, the cathexis will work through stereotypes and imaginary schemata: all encounters will to a lesser or greater degree potentially satisfy the wish. So the transference of parental prototypes seen in analysis, also occur outside it. It is clearer and open to analysis in therapy, but it appears to be a universal capacity of the human mind and plays some part in each person’s relation to the human environment. It is not a total transfer. But each present—day relationship can reawaken, to some extent, unfulfilled wishes from the past, libidinal and aggressive. As Freud succinctly put it, “the tendency to transfer in neurotics, so called, is only an exceptional intensification of a universal characteristic.”
Looking at the characteristic developmentally, we see that, early on, children concern themselves with only the satisfaction of their instincts: with which objects will evoke the satisfaction of the excitable parts of the body — particularly mouth, anus and genitals. Later, attention goes above all to those objects in the outer world which, however tentatively, remind the person of their dearest experiences.
Knowledge of the outside world starts from the person’s own body. The formation of symbols consists of a projection onto external space, which thus comes to be, on one level, an extension of the body. Freud and Jung have demonstrated the infinite symbols which stand for a small number of paradigmatic things symbolised.
Klein’s theories in the twenties and thirties linked symbol formation to the anxiety felt from the fears of retaliation from the past objects (breasts, penis, etc.) about which the child had destructive fantasies and which push him to find equivalents for these objects, this symbolic process of substitution gradually extending itself into the outside world. The primary objects undergo a process of displacement so the relation between person and outside world is coloured by psychological prototypes. In this way, symbolization is similar to transference.
If the transference phenomena are so fundamental, why are they so underplayed in humanistic approaches to the person? Partly, because of ignorance, transference is mentioned rarely in trainings in this tradition. When it is, it is mentioned with disparagement as though it were a disorder caused by psychoanalytically—trained therapists, to the client’s lasting disadvantage. There is something in it; but it also throws out the baby with the bathwater.
In a recent book on person—centred (Rogerian) counselling/therapy, Mearns and Thorne (1988) make not one reference to transference nor to projection. Interestingly, the founder of this approach to therapy, Carl Rogers, in his classic, ‘Client Centred Therapy’ (1951), devoted twenty pages to a discussion of transference.
Rogers cites recorded cases of person—centred therapy which indicate that few strong transference attitudes ever occur, but that such attitudes occur in some degree in the majority of cases. And that in most cases attitudes of a reality nature rather than a transference nature occur. For Freud, “an analysis without transference is an impossibility”. For Rogers, and many humanistic therapists, therapy without deep transference relationships is not just a possibility, but, as they see it, the norm.
Though transference attitudes do exist in non—directive, person— centred therapies, how might it be that it does not develop nor is required by the therapy? Basically, the person—centred therapist’s reaction to transference is the same as to any other attitude of the client. He endeavours to understand and accept it. Thereby, in theory, and often in practice, the client accepts that the feelings are within him and not in the therapist. Just as the psychoanalyst puts aside the self of everyday interaction and becomes the interpreting projective screen, so does the person—centred therapist put aside the everyday self and becomes only understanding and accepting. Since the therapist is not distant and not interpretive, since he is accepting and non-judgmental, there is not much to hang the projections on. In a few moments, a client can go from a transference attitude: “I feel humiliated because you think I’m sordid” to the notion: “I am passing judgement on myself and trying to blame you for it”.
The goal with this approach is to invite a deeper and more accepting relationship with the self. In the process, much transference evaporates. It is not sublimated, displaced nor re—educated. It disappears because experience is re-perceived in a way which renders transference meaningless. The client is seen by himself as perceiver and evaluator and is not encouraged to believe that another has a more effective understanding of his own self than he himself possesses.
For humanistic psychology, the exclusive reliance on transference in psychoanalysis has denoted a narrow and unbalanced relationship with the therapist as a parental authority and the patient as a dependent child. In such circumstances, might is right, and the power is not easily challenge without becoming locked into further transference interpretations. Such power can break the patient.
Though originally trained in the tradition I have been describing, it seems to me that the humanists have polarized the issues too strongly; reacting naturally to the excesses of some psychoanalysis, they have appeared to believe that ignoring a phenomenon makes it go away. Perhaps it doesn’t. Perhaps it grows in the shadows.
Equally, the exclusivity of ‘transference’ as a tool, as used in psychoanalysis, has been overstated. As Rowan (1983) has underlined in his guide to humanistic therapy, most therapies have to work in the here—and-now to be effective, but that there is a variety of ways of making the absent present. The Freudians interpret the transference. Rogers, Pens, Janov, Moreno, amongst others, were against interpretation. In lieu of interpreting transference, Rogers would empathize with the feelings being expressed; Perls would get the client to talk to the person ‘directly’ rather than talking about the person.(1) Janov let the client go back and re—experience the trauma and re-live it; Moreno would role play and counter role play the problem. And in the framing of material in any of these methods, even Rogerian, there is interpretation. All discourse is interpretation. It is not the exclusive province of the Freudians. They merely do it up—front.
From a narrow methodological point of view, I think it is safe to say that using transference is an option for working through deeper unconscious processes. There are, however, different options or forms of work and important aspects of process may be worked out by the client using, for example, the Rogerian form or by using an explicitly intrapsychic form which may reduce the salience of transference as a tool. Whether it leads to a satisfactory therapy will depend on one’s criterion which is generally smuggled in to the methodology itself, via the theoretical assumptions forming the basis of the therapeutic approach.
Thus, Reich’s view, though differently based from Rogers’, shows some structural overlaps. Working from an energetic and functional position there is great meaning for the patient in, and a strong identification with, his emerging experiences, including historical material. Whereas traditional psychoanalysis is more inter-psychic (therapist interpreting client) much post—Reichian work gives space for intra—psychic activity (the therapist at the patient’s side) which may partially displace interpersonal issues of trust and transference by an intrapersonal sense of the events—within—oneself and their meaning to oneself and one’s personal responsibility for one’s process. The past is included in the present within the body and this is not a regression. In Reich’s words, “we are dealing here with actual, present-day functioning of the organism and not with historical events.”
Biodynamic therapy is amongst the simplest and yet most sophisticated available. In my own view, the Gerda Boyesen Biodynamic Method, along with Boadella’s Biosynthesis and Keleman’s Somatic-Emotional Approach,
form the best bases for any developments in therapy in the last decade of this millenium. Representing a confluence of humanistic and Freudian approaches, integrating aspects of Eastern with Western notions of energetic work, and putting the body’s life energy at the centre of the picture, Gerda Boyesen’s post and para—Reichian work epitomizes the best avenue for post-Freudian therapy and the one most likely to integrate with the biological and physical science in the nascent general scientific paradigms of the new millenium.
Transference is seen somewhat differently by each of the major psychoanalytic movements. ‘Das Vokabular der Psychoanalyse’ states that there is no real consensus within the various approaches and that due to different usages it is difficult to define. This is the view of most contemporary writers who thereby provide differing accounts based oh differing emphases and assumptions. In a nutshell, whereas Freud refers to ‘transference’ in the earlier part of the century as ‘eine echte liebe”, the recently departed Lacan, writing in the latter part of the century, refers to it as ”having a soft spot for someone”.
The matter is not always much clearer in the somatic, energetic therapies and there is a need for a more lucid and historically contextualised literature. But some of what exists seems fruitful, progressive and of practical use and I shall refer to it here.
One of the clearest illustrative accounts is Boadella’s (1982) which discusses the way the two energy systems of the client and the therapist interact as Positive Transference (client’s mask to therapist’s mask); Positive Countertransference (therapist’s mask to client’s mask); Negative Transference (client’s shadow to therapist’s mask; client’s shadow to therapist’s shadow; and client’s shadow to therapist’s core—self); Negative Countertransference (therapist’s shadow to client’s mask; therapist’s shadow to client’s shadow; therapist’s shadow to client’s core).
To these Boadella adds three more basic positions: Client Open/Therapist Closed (client’s core to therapist’s mask and client’s core to therapist’s shadow); Therapist Open/Client Closed (therapist’s core to client’s mask and therapist’s core to client’s shadow); Resonance (therapist and client each open, core—self to core—self.)
This is a clarifying schema illustratively explored by Boadella in the article. There are two points in it I want to underline here, each of which may be traced back to Reich. First, having pointed out that latent negative transference(2) may manifest when people kick and scream their rage, Boadella states that rather than interpret the negative transference, or alternatively take the Rogerian line of disregarding it as ‘only negative transference’, he sets up a situation where it can be viewed as possibly a transference, and leaves it open to subsequent events to throw light on whether it is or not and its significance. This is not dissimilar from Gerda Boyesen’s (1907) practical approach with openly negative transference/reality issues. Similarly, it could be adopted with early positive transference which may be reactive and specious. Putting it in the modal domain offers a perfect synthesis between the extreme psychoanalytic and humanistic traditions.
Second, the concept of ‘resonance’. Writing of this elsewhere, Boadella (1988) says: “The therapist’s person may be too impersonal or too personal. The impersonal therapist tries to be objective, keeps-his or her feelings hidden, remains a blank screen, or practises a specific technique. The over-personal therapist is too subjective, makes a symbiotic relationship with the client, acts out personal needs in the session, and is unable to handle both the transference and the countertransference. Between these two extremes, there is room for the sharing of deep human emotions in a warm and human way. In Biosynthesis (as other body therapies) the body of’ the therapist is an important tool, the most basic one. It is the therapist’s body which will resonate to many of the subtle tensions and emotional states in the client. Reich called this process ‘vegetative identification’. It means to feel in your own body a sense of the client’s struggle, rhythm and quality of pulsation.”
It is at this level of resonance that Buber’s ‘I—thou’ obtains. This is, perhaps, Freud’s ‘echte liebe’, but it is beyond and outside the interference of the transference complexities. It is a love which supports the other’s exploration (or ‘flowing out’) — basically, as Boadella identifies, the process of moving a person from anxiety towards pleasure, from contraction to expansion, from confusion to clarity, from transferential interference to resonance. Thus, resonance is the energetic counterpart to Rogers’ humanistic, extra-transferential concept of ‘unconditional positive regard’.
The psychoanalysts do not go beyond transference. The ‘love’ is in the transference. For the Rogerians, the core is there waiting to be contacted from the first day. For the biodynamic therapist it is wise to recognize that the mask and the shadow may also be there on the first day and need some acknowledgement, both on the side of the therapist and the client.
Certainly when using massage methods — as opposed to vegetotherapeutic manipulation — Gerda Boyesen (1987), in an interview with Michael Heller, makes it clear that one cannot massage where there is a latent negative transference: “how can you be massaged by somebody you hate? You will contract, the psychoperistalsis won’t work.”
Although Gerda Boyesen recognizes and stresses the substantive similarities between psychoanalysis and biodynamic work, the processual differences have distinctive implications for transference: “if you are on the patient’s side and you lead the patient into all the conflicts and emotions and abreactions towards the mother and father occur spontaneously, there won’t be so much transference, because the therapist is on the patient’s side, helping and guiding”, (i.e. not taking the parent’s place and not interpreting). “Transfer is also strengthened if you work deeply without dissolving it. But if you can manage this art of provoking and dissolving, not over-provoking and not bringing too much unconscious towards the borders of the ego, then there won’t be so much transference”.(3)
Gerda Boyesen notes also that a therapist’s personality may attract transference while others have one which is not so easy to transfer onto. Of herself, she says, “When I do not want transference, I often become the Gerda Boyesen I do not show to my psychoanalytic patients: a sort of feminine, chatty person who usually destroys transference.” She goes on to say, “There are other cases where I have destroyed it without wanting to... Such a situation is dangerous, not only because I destroy a transfer, but mostly because I also destroy the psychotherapeutic bond between the patient and myself, the impulse that makes us want to go on exploring together... and that is very serious... I know that by becoming too trivial I can destroy a serious treatment with a deep transference to me. When this happens it is not therapeutic but accidental.”
Ebba Boyesen (1987) distinguishes between typical transfer and energetic, organic, and even ideological transfers. Energetic transfers would entail energy passing from one body to another or psychic energy passing from one mind to another. “When I contact a long, striated muscle, I can always see how its tonus is intensified by a resistance which causes an energetic transference to occur between the arm and my hands, or between the person and myself.”
Regarding organic transference, ”Consider for example a patient in deep organic regression. The patient may feel his/her need of the mother intensely and feel the presence of her body with incredible precision. Nevertheless, while the patient perceives all this, the therapist may remain in contact with his/her own feelings, without having to react as in most types of transfer”.
Cognizant of the complexities of the psychoanalytical transference issues, and those of the therapist’s countertransference, Ebba Boyesen recognizes the danger of getting into a hall of mirrors. “Even if it can be proved that a certain level of transference is inevitable, taking it into serious account is only indispensible in some cases, while in other cases it prevents the establishment of the kind of relation between patient and therapist that the patient really needs.”
This awareness that approach and patient have to be related was clearly in Reich’s (1945) mind when he said it would be an error for the therapist always to be the ‘tabula rasa’, that such an approach might deter patients from coming “out of their shell” and that the therapist may have to change his approach both between clients and within sets of treatments with the same client.
Ebba Boyesen (1987) appositely speaks of “therapy-created transference”. If the patient’s need for bonding and, subsequently, love has not been satisfied in reality, he will be led to approach each new encounter either as though the possibility will be painful or as though the new object should fulfil the wish and the longing. Parental images are likely to materialise in relation to the new object. But the analyst refuses to satisfy them in order to analyse what happened.(4) But what of the patient’s need to be met at the deep level which allows vasamotoric completion and the subsequent development of self—regulation?
When my client makes me a gift of an Easter egg, it may be an invitation to ‘father’ to have a child with her; it might relate to some archetypal transference to do with fertility and life and the goddess, Eostre; it may be a celebration of the resurrection — of her core; it might be the passing over of a store of joyful energy. By and large, the traditional psychoanalyst will reject it, a priori. The Biodynamic therapist will consider as to whether receipt will heal the wound a little and be conducive to resonance. What is such a gift? It is what it feels like.
The organic transfers and their pulsatory evolution create different levels of bonding, from the simbiotic contact of foetus and uterus through mouth-breast to genital—genital and body—to—body generalized social contact. The developmental level by which the patient functions largely determines the nature of the transference. By welcoming it and trusting the bond healing energy as it transfers and by not exacerbating or distorting it by distance—making manoeuvres, there is a chance of moving beyond transfer and to re—establish the pulsatory continuum and to learn anew to love and be loved.
As yet, the most sustained and fecund account of somatic—emotional transference is, in my view, that of Keleman (1987). His exploration of the muscular, emotional and attitudinal postures of client and therapist as they connect is unsurpassed. Only in his work is there a fully explicated account of the somatic countertransference. A therapist oblivious of his own responses — neural, emotional, muscular, tends to project them as what is going on in the client. Whereas by being aware of them and working through the transference/reality issues in connection with them, some light may be thrown on what is happening in therapist, client and therapeutic relationship. This is a process which benefits from skilled supervision and one which was explored in a workshop with Graham Davies and Clover Southwell at the Gerda Boyesen Institute, London, in the summer of 1989.
In common with other body therapists, Keleman recognizes that the energetic dynamic underlying transference is the growth process itself. Because aspects of this process are pre—linguistic, they are embedded too deeply to be explored by mere verbal therapy, by mere rational process and even, possibly, consciously - given that some levels of transference are pre—conscious.
In this paper, I have reviewed some of the relevant literature and indicated a range of ways in which ‘transference’ may be viewed, and how these views have evolved over the century in Freudian and post—Freudian usage, humanistic non—usage, and somatic—energetic therapy’s elaboration of the concepts from Reich onwards.
By distinguishing between levels of the person, it has become possible to distinguish broadly between on the one hand, traditional, defensive, therapy-exaggerated neurotic transference, with its diagnostic possibilities and on the other, a deeper energetic transference with healing possibilities, often spoken of by the earlier psychoanalysts but rarely realisable within and because of their paradoxical methodology.
The Gerda Boyesen methods which work gently and in small steps, supporting and befriending the protective resistance, melting rather than breaking or reinforcing, and by stimulating and focusing the internal as well as the interpersonal process, reduce: traditional transference. What is promoted is the deeper energetic transference of core-bonding - the transfer of energy outwards~ In this process, issues are not merely psychologized — what happened with daddy and what it might mean — but the emphasis is placed on freeing and experiencing and expressing the libidinous energy and thereby gradually developing the capacity to make contact with reciprocating souls, minds and bodies, including one’s own, in a context of organic self—regulation, cosmic sensibility and attendant well—being. Carried out in this way, therapy becomes a continual process of mutual development of both patient and therapist.
1 Gerda Boyesen (1987) describes her use of Gestalt in assessing a transference/reality situation and the use of Gestalt for working with transferred feelings,(pp172—3).
2 For Reich (1945, esp. Ch.VI), it was imperative to get the Latent Negative Transfer out of the way early on. This could be disguised as a reaction formation of positive transference with hate at its root. To bring about a genuine positive transference, the latent negative transference, (a key aspect of the transference as resistance) had to be made patent from the start, principally by pointing it out, sometimes by mimicry. Rycroft (1971), cites Nic Waal’s account of this process in which the latter says that Reich detected at once his false kindness and yes—saying — a terrible revelation to Waal which he survived because he “loved the truth” and throughout, Reich had “a loving voice” “He sat beside me and made me look at him. He accepted me and crushed only my vanity and falseness.” Waal acknowledges that in having his latent aggression drawn, he understood “that true honesty and love both in a therapist and in parents is sometimes the courage to be seemingly cruel when it is necessary”. Waal went on to voice some professional misgivings about the universal effectiveness of Reich approach to this process which in some cases led to damage.
3 To this I would add that in any effective therapeutic work, the client is put in touch with his own core and encouraged to love and accept this deep part of himself, by being loved and accepted. This rehabilitation of the id and the intrapsychic aspects of vegetative work, produce a healthy and rehabilitating ‘narcissism’ (sometimes transitionally extreme, where there has been deprivation on a grand scale). Narcissism, of course, is the very condition which Freud said made psychoanalysis impossible because of the lack of transference obtainable.
4 Savitz (1990), in a paper which inadvertently describes the possible destructiveness of’ such a process, ironically coins the phrase, ‘the paradox of analysis’ by which he means that ”the content affirms what the form denies”. In experimental psychology, we have ascertained that this discongruence between verbal and non—verbal behaviour is perceived by the recipient as indicating insincerity! Of Biodynamic therapy we might say, content affirms what the form admits.
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Article written by Rus Gandy
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