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Sayers, J. (2004). Intersubjective Winnicott. Am. Imago, 61(4):519-525.

(2004). American Imago, 61(4):519-525

F. Robert Rodman: A Memorial Tribute

Intersubjective Winnicott

Janet Sayers

“To write the lives of the great in a way that separates them from their works necessarily ends by above all stressing their pettiness, because it is in their work that they have put the best of themselves.”

—Simone Weil, in a review of Karl Marx by Otto Ruhle

Without any obfuscating stress on Winnicott's pettiness, the California psychoanalyst, F. Robert Rodman, unambiguously conveys Winnicott's greatness. Winnicott was, of course, one of the major architects of the transformation of psychoanalysis into a theory and practice much more attuned than it had been in Freud's time to the intersubjective factors shaping our psychology. Winnicott also emphasized the ways in which we protect ourselves against the risk of being submerged in another, claiming that what he called the True Self “never communicates with the world of perceived objects, and … knows that it must never be communicated with or be influenced by external reality” (1963, 187).

Respecting Winnicott's emphasis on “the urgent need to communicate and the still more urgent need not to be found” (1963, 185), Rodman concentrates on Winnicott's public achievement. Anyone reading this book solely for details of his life will be disappointed. Not that the details are not there. These include Winicott's complaining to Marion Milner that he had been “weaned early because his mother could not stand her own excitement during breast feeding” (Rodman 2003, 14).

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