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(p. 83) Letter to Renata Gaddini 

(p. 83) Letter to Renata Gaddini
(p. 83) Letter to Renata Gaddini

Donald W. Winnicott

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Subscriber: null; date: 13 December 2019

Originally published in ‘The Gaddini-Winnicott correspondence’. Psychoanalysis and History, 2003, 5, 13–14.
Renata Gaddini (1919–2013) was an Italian psychoanalyst and Professor of Psychopathology of Development at the University of Rome, La Sapienza.

26 June 1964

Dear Renata,

Naturally I am glad that you get something out of reading The Child and the Family. (By the way, it has come out as a Pelican book which makes it more accessible.) You ask, how were my talks received by the general public and by mothers in particular? I would say that there has been no general response although of course it might happen that the Pelican produces evidence of a public interest in them by being cheap. The actual talks I expect were heard by very few people and certainly they produced no fan mail. It seems to me really true that mothers on the whole are not wanting to read about being mothers, and I think this is a good thing. Naturally they like the Spock kind of book which gives information in a very readable form and allays their anxieties which are based on ignorance of facts. A great number of professional people and colleagues have told me that they like these talks, but then they are usually in the process of handing them on to some mother to read who probably does not herself want to read them. I said in the book, and I believe it to be very true, that it is a good idea to write as if writing to mothers while at the same time one thinks of the reading public as being composed chiefly of persons who are at least once removed from actual parenthood. I think grand-mothers, for instance, like them, and they usually say that they wish they had had them when they were younger.

I am writing all this down in rather painful detail because it may be that what mothers themselves want, if they want anything at all, is a simple instruction in regard to procedure.

(p. 84) I have left out one thing, which is the value of these talks to myself.

Thinking them out did a great deal to me and possibly if you give a series on the Italian television you will find that one of the most important things is the development of your own thought.

I hope that you will enjoy broadcasting to mother and child care workers. I doubt whether the same talks are always suited for the two kinds of listener or viewer. I like the idea that talking to mothers on TV may be a good way of talking indirectly to doctors, because doctors simply hate being talked to directly and I doubt whether they would listen in to instruction given to them straight by a colleague. The way you can surprise them is by showing them what a lot mothers and fathers know about being parents, which may encourage doctors to stick to their own job of dealing with the part that the parents cannot themselves do, which has to do with the professional side.

I would think it much more profitable to have parents and child care workers sitting round a table as you suggest, asking questions and discussing these questions, than to have experts, although there is one element about your suggestion of experts which is interesting and that is that coming from different parts of the world they might be able to bring colourful examples of varying practice.

When you come to think of me, as you do at the end of your penultimate paragraph, I am not at all certain that I am the right person to be involved in this sort of thing. I am now very much more concerned with the treatment of older people and the light that this throws on infantile, emotional development than I am with direct practice with parents and their infants. In other words there are now a lot of colleagues of mine who are very much more in touch with the clinical problems of earliest infancy than I am, and I am only too pleased to leave this aspect of paediatrics to them. I get on with the bit that I am interested in at the moment.

I would be very glad to be kept in touch with the developments in your thinking on this problem and no doubt you will write me again.

I have very reluctantly turned down a nice invitation to Rome sponsored by John Rosen and others (Philadelphia) because the Conference is planned for September and during that month Clare and I will be in Finland.

Thank you for the photograph which you sent along with the typescript of my talk.i I am in the process of re-editing this and will let you have it shortly.

Every good wish to you all from us both.

Yours very sincerely

D. W. Winnicott


Editorial Note i Probably ‘The Neonate and His Mother’ [CW 7:1:4], given at a symposium in Rome earlier in the year.