July 10, 2003

Transitional Space

The Stone that Saturn vomited up after having devoured it in place of his son Jupiter, has been placed on the Helicon as a souvenir for the mortals.

Music from 'Atalanta fugiens' emblem 12

Donald W. Winnicott published Transitional Objects and Transitional Phenomena in 1951. Transitional space is a condensation of Winnicott's ideas of potential space and transitional phenomena. Potential space is the overlapping space between two individuals, neither subject nor object but some of both. In this space we find transitional objects and transitional phenomena.

Winnicott, writing at mid-last-century, is the major transitional figure in the development of psychoanalytic theory. A pediatrician and child psychiatrist with high-risk trauma survivors, Winnicott had no use for a death instinct or Klein's projective introjection of a bad (envious, greedy) baby, and instead saw the mirroring interchange of imaginative play in the transitional space between mother and child as the basis of creativity.

Winnicott laid the groundwork for the narcissistic and borderline personality and self-psychology theorists who populated the 1970's and 80's.


Memes: Mirroring. Good-enough mother. Potential space. Transitional phenomena and objects. True and false self. Maturational process. Facilitating environment. Environmental mother. Optimal adaptive failure. Playing and Reality. Squiggles.

Advice for therapists: Keep alive. Keep well. Keep awake.   The Aims of Psychoanalytic Treatment (1962).

"Where Freud saw psychoanalysis as a way of freeing people from illusions, Winnicott emphasized the freedom to create and enjoy illusions. Whereas classical technique centered on the value of interpretations, Winnicott pointed to the value of not interpreting. Where classical theory had explored the infantile fear of being alone, Winnicott spoke of the mature capacity to be alone. Regression, rather than being pathological in that it provides a surfeit of infantile gratification, becomes, in Winnicott's hands, a process of healing through a search for missing experiences. Psychosomatic illness was not a withdrawal of interest from the outside world, as classical theory claimed, but an attempt to rediscover one's own body. Within psychoanalysis, Winnicott represented a shift in emphasis from patterns of gratification, frustration, and sublimation to how meaningful and authentic is a person's experience and expression of himself. As he once remarked to Harry Guntrip: "We disagree with Freud. He was for curing symptoms. We are concerned with whole living and loving persons." As a result, Winnicott shifted the focus from the way in which people negotiate the family triangle to how individuals gradually acquire personhood as they separate themselves out from, while remaining connected to, mother's embrace. Put differently: it is the developing person's relationship to the instinct rather than the development of the instinct within the person that most concerned Winnicott. That is why his work constitutes a turning point."
D.W. Winnicott by Robert Prince
Dodi Goldman: D.W. Winnicott's "Mirror-Role of Mother a nd Family in Child Development"

"Klein's biographer reports that until he wrote 'Transitional Objects and Transitional Phenomena' in 1951, Winnicott considered himself a Kleinian. He wrote it for inclusion in the classical collection of Kleinianism, New Directions in Psycho-Analysis (1955). She wanted him to revise it so as to incorporate her ideas more clearly, and he refused. As far as Klein was concerned, that was the end of their relationship, although he remained committed to certain of her ideas, particularly the depressive position, while disagreeing about the death instinct, the paranoid-schizoid position and innate envy (Grosskurth, 1985, pp. 397-8; cf. pp. 399-400). "
Robert M Young: Potential Space: Transitional Phenomena

Winnicott.net: A place for the scientific exchange of D. W. Winnicott's theory
Review: Belief and Imagination: Explorations in Psychoanalysis by Ronald Britton
Sharon Dolin: "Bitter and Delicious Relations": The Transitional Object in Williams's Poetry

Posted by psyche at July 10, 2003 08:35 PM

Yes I would like to know the definition of the meaning of Transitional object Thanks

Posted by: Tracey Welch at June 3, 2005 05:03 PM