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Ilahi, M.N. (2009). The Gaddini-Winnicott Correspondence, 1964–1970. Edited by Andrea Sabbadini. Psychoanalysis and History 5:1-69, 2003.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 57(3):761-766.

(2009). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 57(3):761-766

The Gaddini-Winnicott Correspondence, 1964–1970. Edited by Andrea Sabbadini. Psychoanalysis and History 5:1-69, 2003.

Review by:
M. Nasir Ilahi

The correspondence between Donald Winnicott and Renata Gaddini, which occupies the major part of an issue of the journal Psychoanalysis and History, is a testament to a mutually enriching professional relationship and warm personal friendship between the two and their families that spanned the final years of Winnicott's life (from around 1964 to 1970). As a young pediatrician in Rome in the 1940s and 1950s, Gaddini had encountered Winnicott's early writings and was impressed by his recognition of the emotional life of babies and small children, the fact that they are persons and can suffer from psychological illness, and the often close relationship of such illness with what manifests as a physical disorder. Winnicott had powerfully stressed, in a nuanced way, the need for the developmental integration, over time, of what he called the “psyche-soma.” This appealed to Gaddini and resonated with her experience as a pediatrician turned psychoanalyst, as was of course the case with Winnicott.

From the correspondence one can see the considerable dismay both Gaddini and Winnicott felt at the lack of interest in the pediatric profession toward the emotional life of babies and children. Instead, as Gaddini reports, in an early letter written shortly after returning from attending the annual meeting of the Italian Pediatric Society, the young doctors there “reflected the well known passion” to treat all illnesses as purely somatic with biochemical bases. In the narrow scientism of these doctors, only “diagrams or any kind of illustrations” made sense to them. In her enthusiasm to somehow reach her colleagues, she asks Winnicott whether it would be worthwhile for him to creatively come up with ideas of illustrating his concepts, such as “holding,” by some sort of visual representation, a request apparently not taken up by him.

Gaddini's concerns and sense of professional isolation in Italy echo, of course, very much what Winnicott had himself long felt about physical medicine's alienation from a more integrated psycho-physical understanding of the whole person. The situation is perhaps not much different today. The forces allied against any such meaningful integration in present-day society, with its increasing tendency toward specialization and intellectual and emotional atomization, are perhaps far greater than may have been appreciated by the two correspondents.

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