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Winnicott, D.W. (1958). The Capacity to be Alone. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 39:416-420.

(1958). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 39:416-420

The Capacity to be Alone

D. W. Winnicott

I wish to make an examination of the capacity of the individual to be alone, acting on the assumption that this capacity is one of the most important signs of maturity in emotional development.

In almost all our psycho-analytic treatments there come times when the ability to be alone is important to the patient. Clinically this may be represented by a silent phase or a silent session, and this silence, far from being evidence of resistance, turns out to be an achievement on the part of the patient. Perhaps it is here that the patient has been able to be alone for the first time. It is to this aspect of the transference in which the patient is alone in the analytic session that I wish to draw attention.

It is probably true to say that in psycho-analytical literature more has been written on the fear of being alone or the wish to be alone than on the ability to be alone; also a considerable amount of work has been done on the withdrawn state, a defensive organization implying an expectation of persecution. It would seem to me that a discussion on the positive aspects of the capacity to be alone is overdue. In the literature there may be specific attempts to state the capacity to be alone, but I am not aware of these. I wish to make reference to Freud's concept of the anaclitic relationship, ('On Narcissism', 1914).

Three- and Two-Body Relationships

Rickman introduced us to the idea of thinking in terms of three-body and two-body relationships. We often refer to the Oedipus

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