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(p. 319) The Impulse to Steal 

(p. 319) The Impulse to Steal
Chapter:
(p. 319) The Impulse to Steal
Author(s):

Donald W. Winnicott

DOI:
10.1093/med:psych/9780190271350.003.0061
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date: 23 January 2018

In this essay, Winnicott describes three degrees of stealing. The infant who quite ordinarily and healthily steals from his mother is basking in the illusion that he created whatever interests him. The young child who quite commonly does a bit of compulsive stealing from mother’s handbag is reacting to a jerk forward in the painful process of disillusionment. The thief an ill person is most of the time hopeless about the world and its relation to himself, but periodically feels a wave of hope. This takes the form of an attempt to get behind the disillusionment process. The infant self, with memories of unchallenged subjectivity, comes to life, and for a brief spell inhabits the child’s person. As a result this person child, adolescent, or adult acts possessed by an aspect of his infant self, compelled to steal to make contact with society. Revenge feelings in the victim can certainly not be ignored, and any attempt to be sentimental about delinquent children defeats its own aim by raising the tension of general antagonism towards criminals.

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