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Winnicott Studies

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The Squiggle Foundation's aims are to study and disseminate the work of Winnicott, with a particular emphasis on application.

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Maternal Ambivalence

ePub

Rozsika Parker

Thanks mainly to one paper, “Hate in the Counter-Transference”, D.W. Winnicott is associated more than any other psychoanalytic theorist with ideas concerning the impact of maternal ambivalence on the development of personality. While it is true that Winnicott did acknowledge the significance of maternal ambivalence for the emotional growth of a child, his work lacks a full elaboration of the production and purposes of maternal ambivalence from the point of view of a mother. Nevertheless, aspects of Winnicott’s work can be re-framed and re-aligned to illuminate the maternal perspective. In this paper, based upon my forthcoming book on maternal ambivalence, I discuss both how Winnicott’s work has the potential to deepen our understanding of maternal ambivalence and also why his thinking in relation to the subject laboured under specific constraints.

One major constraint applies generally to psychoanalysis as a discipline. Feminists have, in my view, rightly criticised psychoanalysis for looking at life from the point of view of the child to the detriment of our understanding of maternal development. For example, Jane Flax has noted that, within object relations theory, the extent to which any mother has developmental sequences unique and internal to her is largely ignored (Flax, 1990). Instead, mother and child are presented as misleadingly isomorphic. In fact, as she points out, there are differing developmental processes specific to each of them as well as the mutuality and interaction between them on which contemporary psychoanalysis has focused. The mother experiences processes of separation, union and reciprocity just as the child does—but the psychological meanings of these moments are particular to her. Of course, within developmental psychology mothers are minutely observed and described in detail but in their role as origin and environment in a theory of childhood. As the feminist academic Susan Suleiman puts it, “Mothers don’t write, they are written” (Suleiman, 1985, p. 356). My intention is to write the mother emphasising her position as a changing and developing subject.

 

There Is No Such Thing as a Mother

ePub

Lucy King

The Good-Enough Mother is seen here as representing an ideal of care and as an extremely demanding role to fulfil. Furthermore, despite Winnicott’s work being very much focused on mothering, it is rather little concerned with mothers themselves. Other members of the family, in particular siblings, are also almost entirely absent from Winnicott’s scenario. In addition, it is suggested that Winnicott’s therapeutic stance can be seen as his model for maternal care, rather than the other way round.

* * *

Donald Winnicott is widely thought of as championing mothers. He placed enormous emphasis on the importance of the early mother-infant relationship and as an analyst was prepared to stand in the place of the mother in providing a holding or facilitating environment for his patients.

Freud, in contrast, saw the analytic work as resting on the bedrock of the Oedipal conflicts and described the earlier mother-infant interaction as “so grey with age and shadowy and almost impossible to revivify—that it was as if it had succumbed to an especially inexorable repression” (Freud, 1931, p.373).

 

The Good-enough Mother and the Use of the Object in Women

ePub

Christina Wieland

There exists an extensive literature about the mother-daughter relationship and its deep influence on women’s internal world and gender identity (Chodorow, 1978, Dinnerstein 1976, Rich 1976, Eichenbaum and Orbach 1983a, 1983b, Herman 1989 among others). Feminine character traits such as relatedness, interest in people rather than tilings, loose boundaries, ability to mother, tendency to defer to others, lack of self-assertion are, among others, attributed to this first relationship. Over-identification between mother and daughter, prolonged symbiosis and lack of separation from mother as well as mother’s psychology within a patriarchal culture have been quoted as reasons for these feminine traits. Here, however, I shall concentrate on something else. Here I shall concentrate on the way women find it difficult to “use objects” and to play. This difficulty in women is connected, as I shall try to show, to their difficulty in accepting their own aggression and is traced to the early relation with mother. That this is connected, and in what way, with a prolonged symbiosis will, I hope, become obvious by the end of this paper. The stress, however, will be on the dynamics that govern the early mother-daughter relationship and on the way they affect mother’s ability to “carry the baby over from relating to usage” 1. A failure of the mother in this area will result in prolonged symbiosis and not the other way round.

 

Mothers, Mirrors and Masks

ePub

Val Richards

In this paper, with the support of concepts drawn from Jung and W.B. Yeats and from theories of theatrical representation, I want to highlight an implicit modification of D.W. Winnicott’s True Self/False Self dichotomy. This modification centres on my introduction of the Mask as a potentially favourable and essential part of the personality, which spans both conscious and unconscious, both internal and external; as not alone the self, yet contributing to the self s composition. By referring also to Winnicott’s review of Jung’s autobiographical Memories, Dreams and Reflections and to work with a particular patient of my own, I shall propose a distinction between forced or fake masks and free masks.

A direct realisation of the Mask’s integrative function is imaginatively grasped in the following exchange:

“Put off that mask of burning gold
With emerald eyes.”
“Oh no, my dear, you make so bold
To find if hearts be wild and wise
And yet not cold”.

“I would but find what’s there to find,
Love or deceit.”
“It was the mask engaged your mind
And after set your heart to beat.
Not what’s behind.”

 

The Poetics of Intimacy: A review of Christopher Bollas's "Being a Character: Psychoanalysis and Self Experience"

ePub

James S. Grotstein, M.D.

This latest work by Christopher Bollas continues his essayist approach to the harvest of his long clinical experience as a psychoanalyst. The first part of the title, Being a Character, seems to imply that he is trying to highlight one’s self or uniqueness, an aim which becomes even more apparent in the second part of the title, Psychoanalysis and Self Experience. While reading this highly interesting work, I had the feeling that the author was approaching the psychoanalytic and the ontological situations from the perspective of an artist, who, in order to portray the unconscious image within him, must unconsciously select the chance (aleatory) object available in his external world to be the pigment for the portraiture of this image. Once selected and deployed, the object pigment reconstructs the texture of his inner experience, and an emerging self becomes revealed.

Put another way, the epiphany of our “unthought known” selves is dependent upon whom we select from the objects offered to us from the fateful marketplace of cosmic lottery—except in analysis. Bollas states, “As we inhabit this world of ours, we amble about in the field of pregnant objects that contribute to the dense psychic textures that constitute self-experience” (p.3) Still later, he states, “The objects of our world are potential forms of transformation” (p.4)

 

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