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(1993). An Interview with Christopher Bollas. Psychoanal. Dial., 3(3):401-430.

(1993). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 3(3):401-430

An Interview with Christopher Bollas

PD: In The Shadow of the Object you use the concept of the “transformational object” to extend Winnicott's contributions of the “holding environment” from a generic, “good-enough mothering” to an emphasis on the particularities of the individual mother. In Winnicott, the environment seems general and nonspecific, defined precisely in terms of the mother's ability to suspend her own subjectivity and mold a world around the baby. In your treatment, the distinct and specific features of the mother, her rhythms, her moods, the particularities of her “handling” are all built into the child's early experience of the very structure and textures of self and the world. Are you not, then, describing a different type of maternal influence in an infant's life from the kind of presence Winnicott defined?

CB: Winnicott wrote that there were two mothers, what he termed the “environment mother” and the “object mother.” The environment mother is, in effect, the holding environment, and this mother will be appreciated, if one can put it that way, by her unobtrusive support of the infant's developing subjectivity. Within this environment the infant will just be and over time develop a sense of his or her own being. It is less a matter of what the mother does than what she does not do. In a sense, not doing is the positive side of maternal holding, if we think of the primary task as not impinging and simply being with the infant. At the same time, however, the other mother presents objects to the baby, and we might say that the most important “object” she presents is herself.

PD: When you mention the other mother, does it make sense to you to refer to Lacan at this point?

CB: Somewhat. I think that insofar as the mother acts—in the continuous presentation to the infant of objects—she does so unconsciously.

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