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Eshel, O. (2013). Reading Winnicott into Nano-Psychoanalysis: “There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom”. Psychoanal. Inq., 33(1):36-49.

(2013). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 33(1):36-49

Reading Winnicott into Nano-Psychoanalysis: “There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom”

Ofra Eshel, Psy.D.

This article presents Winnicott's unique theoretical and clinical thinking, and especially his revision of the foundations of clinical psychoanalysis, as a Kuhnian paradigm shift that, as the title of the article indicates, I term nano-psychoanalysis. The title refers to ideas and terminology borrowed from nanoscience and nanotechnology, and particularly to physicist Richard Feynman's 1959 visionary talk that hailed nanotechnology and its radical potential: “There's plenty of room at the bottom—An Invitation to Enter a new Field of Physics.” I have paraphrased and applied it to Winnicott and to psychoanalysis: “There's plenty of room at the bottom—an invitation to enter nano-psychoanalysis,” and regard Winnicott as the originator of nano-psychoanalysis. For Winnicott's psychoanalytic theory, and particularly his clinical-technical theory with its emphasis on regression in the treatment of more disturbed patients, share the fundamental principle offered by Feynman and nanotechnology—that of going back to the bottom, to the elemental early states and processes, and to early mothering techniques, thereby enabling the initiation of formative developmental processes. This means moving beyond the space-time confines of traditional clinical psychoanalysis to work with primal processes in the treatment experience and setting, thus reaching and correcting basic self-processes and unthinkable early trauma—and enlarging the scope of psychoanalytic practice. It is a quest for clinical psychoanalysis at its most formative edge.

The article explores the radical vision of Winnicott's clinical thinking and his theory of regression, comparing it to the psychoanalytic thinking of his two contemporaries—Balint in London and Nacht in Paris—who also dealt with the ideas of primary states and therapeutic regression in the psychoanalytic situation, but with rather restrained and cautious clinical-theoretical conclusions. Winnicott's 1955 letter to Bion, and the story of the Mirror of Erised in Harry Potter offer further points of relating to Winnicott's singular ideas.

[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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