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Blum, H.P. Ross, J.M. (1993). The Clinical Relevance of the Contribution of Winnicott. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 41:219-235.

(1993). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 41:219-235

The Clinical Relevance of the Contribution of Winnicott

Harold P. Blum, M.D. and John Munder Ross, Ph.D.

BLUM INTRODUCED THE PANELISTS. He then noted that Donald W. Winnicott has continued to exert a powerful influence on contemporary psychoanalytic thought since his death 20 years ago. Many of his original notions have become so popular that at times they sound like clichés. The appeal of his ideas is enhanced because Winnicott eschewed abstract jargon and couched his formulations in "experience-near" English, lacing his writings with homespun wisdom and humor. To some he has become an analytic "folk hero" who revolutionized developmental theory, whereas others find his poetical, intuitive assertions enigmatic, speculative, and unsubstantiated.

Winnicott was a loner who forged his own path among the Kleinian, object-relations and Freudian schools dominating British psychoanalysis. He neither taught at the major institutes, nor did he found a school of his own. Having had Freudian and Kleinian analyses and having been mentored by Melanie Klein in the 1930's, Winnicott evolved into a "rugged individualist."

Winnicott rarely referred to the ideas of other contributors and did not use "the terms of psychoanalytic metapsychology." Uninterested in theoretical debate, he failed to reconcile inconsistencies and paradoxes in his own writings and did not systematically explore divergences between his assertions and those of other clinical theorists.

Winnicott continued to practice pediatrics, and is best known for his observations of the early parent-infant relationship. Noteworthy among his contributions are his formulations regarding: transitional objects and phenomena; primary maternal preoccupation; the "good-enough" or ordinary devoted mother; the developmental phases of ruthlessness and concern; the holding environment; impingement; regression to dependence; the true and false self; capacity for play; use of an object; and the facilitating environment.

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