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Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud

Well Known Figures in Psychoanalysis

Psychoanalysis Ireland


Well Known Figures in Psychoanalysis

Donald W. Winnicott (1896-1971)

D. W. Winnicott 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.

Selected Works:
Playing and Reality (1982)
Further Reading:
Home is Where We Start From (1990)
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