"Psychotherapy takes place in the overlap of two areas of playing, that of the patient and that of the therapist. Psychotherapy has to do with two people playing together. The corollary of this is that where playing is not possible then the work done by the therapist is directed towards bringing the patient from a state of not being able to play into a state of being able to play. (from "Playing: Its Theoretical Status in the Clinical Situation," 1971)"

"The place where cultural experience is located is in the potential space between the individual and the environment (originally the object). The same can be said of playing. Cultural experience begins with creative living first manifested as play." (from "Playing: Its Theoretical Status in the Clinical Situation," 1971)

"...every failed analysis is a failure not of the patient but of the analyst." (from "Clinical Varieties of Transference," 1955-56)

About Winnicott

D. W. Winnicott (1896-1971) began his career as a pediatrician and used his experience with children to develop his innovative ideas. Winnicott has made great and lasting contributions to psychoanalytic theory, particularly in the tradition of Object Relations Theory, derived from Melanie Klein's theories. Like Fairbairn, Winnicott conceptualized the psyche of the child as developing in relation to a real, influential parent. For a child to develop a healthy, genuine self, as opposed to a false self, Winnicott felt, the mother must be a "good-enough mother" who relates to the child with "primary maternal preoccupation." Anticipating the insights of Kohut and self psychology, Winnicott felt that a good-enough mother allows herself to be used by the infant so that he or she may develop a healthy sense of omnipotence which will naturally be frustrated as the child matures. Winnicott's theory is especially innovative regarding his conceptualization of the psychic space between the mother and infant, neither wholly psychological or physical, which he termed the "holding environment" and which allows for the child's transition to being more autonomous. This concept of the "holding environment" led Winnicott to develop his famous theory of the "transitional object." Winnicott felt that a failure of the mother -- the not-good-enough mother -- to provide a "holding environment" would result in a false self disorder, the kind of disorders which he saw in his practice. Winnicott's theory of "false self disorders" is uncannily similar to Laing's description of the schizoid personality in The Divided Self. Winnicott also felt that the therapist's task is to provide such a "holding environment" for the client so that the client might have the opportunity to meet neglected ego needs and allow the true self of the client to emerge.

Quotations from Winnicott

"It is sometimes assumed that in health the individual is always integrated, as well as living in his own body, and able to feel that the world is real. There is, however, much sanity that has a symptomatic quality, being charged with fear or denial of madness, fear or denial of the innate capacity of every human being to become unintegrated, depersonalized, and to feel that the world is unreal." (from "Primitive Emotional Development," 1945)

"If we are to become able to be the analysts of psychotic patients we must have reached down to very primitve things in ourselves." (from "Hate in the Transference," 1947)

"I suggest that the mother hates the baby before the baby hates the mother, and before the baby can know his mother hates him." (from "Hate in the Transference," 1947)

"It is in the space between inner and outer world, which is also the space between people--the transitional space--that intimate relationships and creativity occur." (from "Transitional Objects and Transitional Phenomena," 1951)

"When symbolism is employed the infant is already clearly distinguishing between fantasy and fact, between inner objects and external objects, between primary creativity and perception." (from "Transitional Objects and Transitional Phenomenon," 1951)

"The good-enough mother...starts off with an almost complete adaptation to her infant's needs, and as time proceeds she adapts less and less completely, gradually, according to the infant's growing ability to deal with her failure..." (from "Transitional Objects and Transitional Phenomena," 1951)

"One has to include in one's theory of the development of a human being the idea that it is normal and healthy for the individual to be able to defend the self against specific environmental failure by a freezing of the failure situation. Along with this goes an unconscious assumption (which can become a conscious hope) that opporunity will occur at a later date for a renewed experience in which the failure situation will be able to be unfrozen and reexperienced, with the individual in a regressed state, in an environment that is making adequate adaptation. The theory is here being put forward of regression as part of a healing process, in fact, a normal phenomenon that can be properly studies in the healthy person." (from "Metapsychological and Clinical Aspects of Regression within the Psychoanalytic Setup," 1954)

"In the cases on which my work is based there has been what I call a true self hidden, proteceted by a false self. This false self is no doubt an aspect of the true self. It hides and protects it, and it reacts to the adaptation failures and develops a pattern corresponding to the pattern of environmental failure. In this way the true self is not involved in the reacting, and so preserves a continuity of being. However, this hidden true self suffers an impoverishment that derives from lack of experience." (from "Clinical Varieties of Transference," 1955-56)

"The patient makes use of the analyst's failures. Failures there must be, and indeed there is no attempt to give perfect adaptation..." (from "Clinical Varieties of Transference," 1955-56)

"Maternal failures produce phases of reaction to impingement and these reactions interrupt the 'going on being' of the infant. An excess of this reacting produces not frustration but a threat of annihilation. This in my view is a very real primitive anxiety, long antedating any anxiety taht includes the word death in its description." (from "Primary Maternal Preoccupation," 1956)

"The first ego organization comes from the experience of threats of annihilation which do not lead to annihilation and from which, repeatedly, there is recovery." (from "Primary Maternal Preoccupation," 1956)

"With the care that it receives from its mother each infant is able to have a personal existence, and so begins to build up what might be called a continuity of being. On the basis of this continuity of being the inherited potential gradually develops into an individual infant. If maternal care is not good enough then the infant does not really come into existence, since there is no continuity of being; instead the personality becomes built on the basis of reactions to environmental impingement." (from "The Theory of the Parent-Infant Relationship," 1960)

"...the true self does not become a living reality except as a result of the mother's repeated success in meeting the infant's spontaneous gesture or sensory hallucination." (from "Ego Distortion in Terms of True and False Self," 1960)

"The true self comes from the aliveness of the body tissues and the working of body functions, including the heart's action and breathing. It is closely linked with the idea of the primacy process, and is, at the beginning, essentially not reactive to external stimuli, but primary." (from "Ego Distortion in Terms of True and False Self," 1960)

"...it is only in recent years that I have become able to wait and wait for the natural evolution of the transference arising out of the patient's growing trust in the psychoanalytic technique and setting, and to avoid breaking up this natural process by making interpretations. It will be noticed that I am talking about the making of interpretations and not about interpretations as such. It appals me to think how much deep change I have prevented or delayed in patients in a certain classification category by my personal need to interpret. If only we can wait, the patient arrives at understanding creatively and with immense joy, and I now enjoy this joy more than I used to enjoy the sense of having been clever. I think I interpret mainly to let the patient know the limits of my understanding. The principle is that it is the patient and only the patient who has the answers." (from "The Use of an Object and Relating Through Indentifications," 1969)

"...there are many patients who need us to be able to give them a capacity to use us." (from "The Use of an Object and Relating Through Identifications," 1969)

"The potential space between baby and mother, between child and family, between individual and society or the world, depends on experience which loeads to trust. It can be looked upon as sacred to the individual in that it is here that the individual experiences creative living." (from "The Location of Cultural Experience," 1967)

"In individual emotional development the precursor of the mirror is the mother's face....What does the baby see when he or she looks at the mother's face? I am suggesting that, ordinarily, what the baby sees is himself or herself. In other words the mother is looking at the baby and what she looks like is related to what she sees there." (from "Mirror-Role of Mother and Family in Child Development," 1967)

D. W. Winnicott Page
Winnicott at The American Journal of Psychiatry
Lifschitz on Winnicott
Winnicott and Malan's Contribution to Psychoanalytic Theory
Winnicott Bibliography
"The Paranoid-Schizoid and Depressive Positions in the Psychogenesis of the Self" by Brent Dean Robbins
"A Brief History of Psychoanalysis" by Brent Dean Robbins
"Winnicott's Potential Spaces" by Michael Szollosy
"An Introduction to the Psychoanalytic Play Technique..." by Chris Mawson
"Gender, Power and Crib Geography: transitional spaces and potential places" by S. Aitken & T. Herman
"On the Use of Psychoanalytic Concepts in Organisational Social Science" by Lisl Klein
"Seeing and Thinking: For an Understanding of Visual Culture" by Paolo Teobaldelli
"Place, Space and Object Relations" by Juliet Fowler-Smith
"The Birth Scene: Historical Perspectives" by J. Rhodes
"Fathers and Sons" by M. Diamond
"Unbearable Ecstasy, Reverence and Awe, and the Perpetuation of an "'Aesthetic Conflict'" by  J. Mitrani
"Psychoanalytic Theory: Development after Freud" by Matt Jarvis
Communication: The Social Matrix of Supervision of Psychotherapy (dissertation) by Brad McCormick
Children Drawing: Play and Creativity
Self Psychology.org
The Object Relations Home Page

Recommended Books for Purchase

Playing and Reality
by D.W. Winnicott, Clare Winnicott
Through Paediatrics to Psycho-Analysis : Collected Papers
by D.W. Winnicott
Home Is Where We Start from : Essays by a Psychoanalyst
by D.W. Winnicott
Babies and Their Mothers
by D.W. Winnicott
The Child, the Family, and the Outside World
by D.W. Winnicott, Marshall H. Klaus (Introduction)
The Family and Individual Development
by D.W. Winnicott
Holding and Interpretation : Fragment of an Analysis
by D.W. Winnicott
The Piggle; An Account of the Psychoanalytic Treatment of a Little Girl
by D.W. Winnicott
Talking to Parents
by D.W. Winnicott, T. Berry Brazelton (Introduction)
Thinking about Children
by D.W. Winnicott
Psycho-Analytic Explorations
by D.W. Winnicott
Human Nature
by D. W. Winnicott
Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment : Studies in the Theory of Emotional Development
by D.W. Winnicott
The Language of Winnicott : A Dictionary and Guide to Understanding His Work
by Jan Abram, Harry Karnac
by Adam Phillips
On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored : Psychoanalytic Essays on the Unexamined Life
by Adam Phillips
Boundary & Space : An Introduction to the Work of D.W. Winnicott
by Madeleine Davis, David Wallbridge (Contributor)
D.W. Winnicott : A Biographical Portrait
by Brett Kahr
The Provision of Primary Experience : Winnicottian Work With Children and Adolescents
by Barbara Dockar-Drysdale
Reshaping the Psychoanalytic Domain : The Work of Melanie Klein, W.R.D. Fairbain, and D.W. Winnicott
by Judith M. Hughes
The Psychoanalytic Mystic
by Michael Eigen


Copyright 1999, Brent Dean Robbins

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