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(p. 379) On ‘Separation Anxiety’: By John Bowlby 

(p. 379) On ‘Separation Anxiety’: By John Bowlby
(p. 379) On ‘Separation Anxiety’: By John Bowlby

Donald W. Winnicott

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date: 27 September 2020

In this essay, Winnicott discusses Bowlby’s work ‘Separation Anxiety’ by referring to Freud’s 1926 views on anxiety where Freud enumerates five types of anxiety: birth trauma, signal, persecutory, depressive, primary. He then describes the situations appropriate to development of primary anxiety, fright, and expectant anxiety. For Winnicott in early infancy the infant is not yet differentiated from external reality. The sequence, protest, despair, denial that Bowlby outlines is acceptable, in Winnicott’s view, to analysts. He proposes that if we take into account the fantasy personal to the small child, we already understand much about this sequence, especially when we use the concept of the death of the internal representation of the object, and denial of this deadness. Bowlby’s paper takes us towards primary anxiety and towards the very special vulnerability that, he (Bowlby) postulates, belongs after 28 weeks of life. Winnicott wonders if Bowlby offers something new to analysis in the form of the clinging and following instincts he describes in young children, and which make this behaviour biologically present in all animals. Winnicott still believes, after reading Bowlby’s very rich paper, that it is the psychoanalysis of patients of all kinds and ages that will continue to be the basis of psychoanalytic research as opposed to studies like Bowlby’s derived largely from ethology.

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