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Gabel, S. (2020). D.W. Winnicott and Religion: The Intermediate Area of Experiencing as a Dissociative Phenomenon. Brit. J. Psychother., 36(1):4-21.

(2020). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 36(1):4-21

Clinical and Theoretical Practice

D.W. Winnicott and Religion: The Intermediate Area of Experiencing as a Dissociative Phenomenon

Stewart Gabel, M.A., M.D.

Winnicott's concept of an 'area of intermediate experiencing’ is a very important component of his understanding of religious and cultural practices. It is nonetheless a term that seems to have created considerable confusion and uncertainty among analysts and others. In this paper, I suggest, through a discussion of Winnicott's own work, a review of dissociative phenomena and a selection of illustrations, that the intermediate area of experiencing can be understood best when considered within the framework of a normal, voluntary dissociative or near-dissociative process that is characteristic of many religious experiences generally. This approach suggests that religious practices and expressions need not be understood primarily on the basis of factual truth as Freud would have done. They also need to be considered on the basis of their meaning or value for the individual or society, as Winnicott suggests. Religious practices and expressions often can be understood as dissociative or near-dissociative processes that have their own unique properties and characteristics that are separate from but related to the more usual expressions of logical, goal-directed mental activity that are so valued in modern societies.

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