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Goldman, D. (1998). Surviving as Scientist and Dreamer: Winnicott and “The Use of an Object”. Contemp. Psychoanal., 34(3):359-367.

(1998). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 34(3):359-367

Surviving as Scientist and Dreamer: Winnicott and “The Use of an Object”

Dodi Goldman, Ph.D.

On november 12, 1968, Winnicott presented “The Use of an Object and Relating Through Identifications” to the New York Psychoanalytic Society. This paper was to be his last. After receiving a very frosty response from three venerable analysts, Winnicott returned to his hotel room and had a massive coronary. Undergoing treatment in the cardiac care unit at Lenox Hill Hospital, he was quite close to death for some time. Upon discharge, he was so weak he needed two nurses to accompany him on the flight home. Back in London, he remarked to a younger colleague, “The American analysts will kill me one day” (Kahr, 1996). Never fully recovering, he died at 4:00 A.M. on January 26, 1971. He spent his final evening with his second wife Clare, watching a comic film on television about old cars, called Good Old Summertime. When the film ended, he murmured to Clare, “What a happy-making film.” These were apparently his last words. Clare fell asleep, and when she awoke, found her husband dead, seated on the floor, his head snuggled on his armchair (Kahr, 1996). In “The Use of an Object,” Winnicott's personal struggle to survive converged with his ideas about survival.

The closer Winnicott came to the end of his life, the more he prepared for death and thought about survival. Death—the ultimate insult to one's omnipotence—had to be faced as a piece of reality. He penned his unpublished autobiographical fragments, entitled “Not Less than Everything,” beginning with a paradoxical wish: “Oh God! May I be alive when I die” (C.

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