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(p. 159) Transitional Objects and Transitional Phenomena: A Study of the First Not-Me Possession1 

(p. 159) Transitional Objects and Transitional Phenomena: A Study of the First Not-Me Possession1
Chapter:
(p. 159) Transitional Objects and Transitional Phenomena: A Study of the First Not-Me Possession1
Author(s):

Donald W. Winnicott

DOI:
10.1093/med:psych/9780190271367.003.0034
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date: 21 January 2021

This paper describes the interstices between illusion and reality and their importance in emotional development. Some soft object or equivalent is often found and used by an infant, and becomes what Winnicott calls a transitional object. Transitional objects involve the nature of the object, the infant’s capacity to recognize the object as ‘not-me’, to create, think up, devise, originate, produce ‘an object’ and to initiate an affectionate type of object relationship with it, based on the earliest one with the mother or carer. When basic symbolism is employed the infant is already distinguishing between fantasy and fact, between inner objects and external objects, between primary creativity and perception. The transitional object is not an internal object (a mental concept)—it is a possession. The infant can employ a transitional object when the internal object is alive and real and good enough. But this internal object depends on the existence and aliveness and behaviour of the external object (breast, mother figure, general environmental care). The transitional object is never under magical control like the internal object, nor is it outside control as the real mother is. Transitional objects belong to the realm of illusion, which is at the basis of initiation of experience. An infant’s transitional object ordinarily becomes gradually decathected as cultural interests develop.

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