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(p. 447) Transitional Objects and Transitional Phenomena 

(p. 447) Transitional Objects and Transitional Phenomena
(p. 447) Transitional Objects and Transitional Phenomena

Donald W. Winnicott

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date: 24 October 2021

In these notes, distributed prior to the first presentation of this paper, Winnicott introduces his concepts of the transitional object and transitional phenomena. Winnicott starts by examining the first ‘not-me’ possession of the infant, and the wide variations in the infant’s relationship to this possession. Winnicott defines a transitional object as hallucination taken for granted because of the immaturity of the infant, and ‘transition’ to be a transition from one kind of experience to another. The phenomena occur at times of anxiety, at which time an object becomes vitally important for the infant for use in its defence. Sometimes there is no transitional object except the mother herself. Winnicott summarizes the qualities of the object: among other things, that the infant assumes rights over it, that it is cuddled and mutilated, that it must never change, and that its fate is to be gradually decathected. Winnicott discusses these phenomena in relation to tension around the gratification of instincts, the pleasure-pain principle, introjection and projection, symbol formation, and the depressive position. He states that only if there are good internal objects can the infant use transitional objects, which are intermediate between internal and external. He provides several clinical examples and a list of his references, including quotations.

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