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Bollas, C. (1979). The Transformational Object. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 60:97-107.

(1979). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 60:97-107

The Transformational Object

Christopher Bollas

We know that because of the considerable prematurity of human birth, the infant depends on the mother for survival, and in serving as a supplementary ego (Heimann, 1956) or a facilitating environment (Winnicott, 1963b) the mother both sustains the infant's life and transmits to the infant, through her own particular idiom of mothering, an aesthetic of being that becomes a feature of the infant's self. The mother's way of holding the infant, of responding, of selecting objects, of perceiving the infant's internal needs, constitutes the 'culture' she creates for herself and her infant, a private culture that can only be inhabited by the two—mother and child—composed of a language of highly idiomatic syntaxes of gestures, sound, pattern and mood that insures its privacy, and emphasizes the sequestered ambience of this first relation. In his unparalleled work on the motherchild relation, Winnicott (1960) stresses what we might call its stillness: the mother provides a continuity of being, she 'holds' the infant in an environment of her making that facilitates his growth. And yet, against this reciprocally enhancing stillness, there is an extremely active network of exchange between mother and child, a constant process of negotiated moments that cohere around the rituals of psychosomatic needs: i.e. feeding, diapering, sleeping, holding. It is undeniable, I think, that as the infant's 'other' self, the mother continually transforms the infant's internal and external environment.

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