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Esman, A.H. (2014). Winnicott's Babies and Winnicott's Patients. Margaret Boyle Spelman. London: Karnac, 2014. 189 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 83(3):743-745.

(2014). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 83(3):743-745

Winnicott's Babies and Winnicott's Patients. Margaret Boyle Spelman. London: Karnac, 2014. 189 pp.

Review by:
Aaron H. Esman

The writings of Donald Winnicott have gained much attention of late, particularly in the British Isles and in the world of object relations theory in psychoanalysis. The present book, by its very title, gives evidence of that growth as it seeks to demonstrate the application of his ideas both to the study of infant development and behavior and to the analytic situation with adult patients. The author, a clinical psychologist in Ireland, appears to have discovered Winnicott's writings in the course of her recent experience as infant observer, and they clearly influenced that procedure as she describes in great detail the “fictionalized” version of one such experience executed weekly over a year and a half.

The book begins, in fact, with an extended chapter in which the author sets forth a rather naively compressed version of Freud's theories of early development, followed by an even more constricted account of Kleinian theory—all as backdrop for a more extended presentation of Winnicott's professional development and the evolution of his thinking about both infant development and the analytic treatment of adults. She is at pains to define the ways in which Winnicott shared and differed from classical Freudian and Kleinian views. “At the beginning for Freud there is pleasure seeking, for Klein there is object relating and for Winnicott there is dependence” (p. 10).

The author goes on to offer her account of Winnicott's now-familiar conception of the early mother-infant relationship, encapsulated in his view of “absolute dependence”—“There is no such thing as a baby” (p. 15). She details at some length the dangers resulting from failure of a “good enough environment” (including, erroneously, “childhood schizophrenia”), and then likens this state to the early phases of the clinical situation with adults, where the “holding environment” must be addressed to the patient's “absolute dependence”—whether or not acknowledged—on the therapist.

In the subsequent chapter, Spelman progresses to the phase of “relative dependence” (p.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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