Object Relations- D.W. Winnicott

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Short Definition of Obj Relations Winnicott

D. W. Winnicott's perspective of human development highlights the quality of an individual's relationships and how the caregiver influences development. This perspective is part of the rich and diverse field of object relations that "explores the process whereby people come to experience themselves as separate and independent from others, while at the same time needing profound attachment to others".

A Winnicottian assessment examines developmental progression along a continuum of absolute dependence to independence. Placement on this continuum is determined through the evaluation of the relative strengths and vulnerabilities of a series of interrelated capacities.

Winnicottian Capacities

Winnicott emphasized capacities, rather than stages, to describe phenomena belonging to the first three years of life. Winnicott saw psychoanalytic treatment as providing the physical and human conditions that resemble the maternal holding environment to support the development of the true self

Object relations techniques include...

(1) creation of a therapeutic holding environment
(2) the use of developmentally attuned techniques
(3) provision of new object experiences within the therapeutic relationship.

Winnicott's best known contributions to psychodynamic theory

include the "good enough" mother, the concept of the "holding environment," "the false-self phenomenon," "facilitating environments," and "transitional objects"

Winnicott's SEVEN capacities

1. ER 2. DI 3. PR/R/CC 4. SA/CA 5. OR/OU 6. TP 7.FS/TS

1. Absence of Ego Relatedness to Ego Relatedness (ER)

Ego relatedness is the relationship between two people—the type of relationship that exists between an infant and the ego support of the mother (e.g. the infant gazing into the face of the caregiver with the reflective mirroring establishing the infant's sense of self, "when I look I am seen, and so I exist.")

Winnicott theorized that ego relatedness develops out of repeated experiences of

"holding, handling, and object presenting" and the mirroring that accompanies them

In an optimal holding environment, the number of "impingements,"

...such as cold bathwater, loud noises, intense caregiver affects, etc. are kept to a minimum

These "impingements" can interrupt the infant's sense of going-on-being and the maturational process that begins in ego relatedness.

2. Dependence to Independence (DI)

Winnicott described the child's journey from dependence to independence in three phases: (1) absolute dependence, (2) relative dependence, and (3) toward independence

Absolute dependence

is the earliest phase of the infant's emotional development where the mother is predominately devoted to the infant in "primary maternal preoccupation" and the infant is in fantasied dual unity with the mother

Relative dependence occurs when

the child begins to be aware of his dependence on the caregiver and then feels anxiety as the mother reduces adaptation to the child's needs, when the illusion of omnipotence is broken—begins "me and not me"

Lastly, the toddler develops a true independence

of the caregiver with a separate and personal existence that Winnicott (1963) called "toward independence."

3. Pre-Ruth to Ruthless to Capacity for Concern (PR-R-CC)

Winnicott postulated an early "ruthless" and aggressive object relationship of pre-concern between the infant and the mother. Pre-Ruthlessness is objectless and ruthlessness is directed toward an object (the caregiver)

The infant conjures up the object (the caregiver), uses the object for his own pleasure and, then destroys the object. This experience requires a caregiver who can surrenders and can survive being used this way, aggressively.

From these experiences, the child becomes aware of the "other" who survives his aggression. This process creates a sense of externality outside of the child's omnipotent control; a real other person that feels and hurts

For Winnicott, the journey between pre-ruth (objectless) to ruthless (directed toward an object) is...

the most vital aspect in emotional development, in which the object becomes placed outside of the infant and empathy develops with the capacity for concern

Adriana is primarily in the ruthless stage because

she lacks empathy for others, wants to aggressively control others and her aggression is primarily directed towards objects (her parents, her husband, and her son.

4. Separation Anxiety to Capacity to be Alone (SA-CA)

Winnicott looked at the positive aspects around the capacity to be alone that he believed develop in the presence of another. Winnicott explains that the ability to enjoy solitude comes from repeated early experiences of being alone "in the presence of" a caregiver.

As the infant develops, a mental representation of the object becomes internalized so that the actual object or caregiver is not needed. When this happens, through good-enough mothering, the foundation of the infant's psychic structure is built from a "reliable, comforting internal holding environment"

5. Object Relating to Object Use (OR-OU)

Winnicott (1971) believed that infants first develop the capacity for object relating and then object use through a facilitating environment.

For example, the baby is presented with an object, such as the bottle, and that begins to shape how the baby will relate to external objects, through a process called object presenting. The mother creates an "illusion" of omnipotent control for the baby; when she sees the baby beginning to get hungry, she presents the bottle.

If the mother continues to provide this type of object relating for the baby followed by

...a period of adaptation, a capacity for object use will emerge in which the baby begins to slowly understand that the object is not under his or her omnipotent control and is a separate other

Successful object relating means feeling "real" and that the world is real with a perception of the whole other person

6. Lack of Transitional Phenomena to Use of Transitional Phenomena (TP)

Winnicott (1953) used the terms transitional object and transitional phenomena to denote an intermediate area of existence between subjective omnipotence and objective reality.

Young children often use transitional objects, such as a blanket or a teddy bear, to hold onto the internal representation of the caregiver when not in their presence

7. False Self to True Self (FS-TS)

• The "true self" is a personal sense of being a live and feeling real. The true self can be seen in "spontaneous gestures," such as the baby pretending to feed the mother or when the baby can imagine what it is like to be in another's shoes.
• However, the true self is generally hidden and protected from outside impingements by the "false self"
• The false self is often compliant or rageful and is built up as a reaction to external impingements and over time can become a defensive façade

Mahler Stages:

1. Autistic Phase-objectless and self-less
2. Symbiosis: no differentiation, exist in one orbit
3. Separation and Individuation- assumes individual characteristics and adopts self as an entity
a. Differentiation- beginning separation out of symbiosis, crawling, etc.
b. Practicing- illusion of being accompanied by the object
c. Rapprochement- cycles of separation and attachment
4. On the Way to Object Constancy- only happens if separation and individuation goes well, good one is still partly bad, bad one is still partly good. Positive inner representations of object are readily available internally.

Long-Term Goals

Short Term Goals

Interventions

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