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Cavalli, A. (2005). Ogden, Thomas H. ‘On holding and containing, being and dreaming’, Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 2004, 85, 6, pp. 1349-64.. J. Anal. Psychol., 50(4):560-562.

(2005). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 50(4):560-562

Ogden, Thomas H. ‘On holding and containing, being and dreaming’, Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 2004, 85, 6, pp. 1349-64.

Review by:
Alessandra Cavalli

In this paper Thomas Ogden is pertinently interested in clarifying the difference between two primary concepts in psychoanalytical language which he finds frequently misunderstood and confused: Winnicott's concept of holding and Bion's idea of container-contained. Both Winnicott and Bion have turned to the mother-baby relationship in order to ground and root their ideas into a basic universal human experience, transporting the mother-baby relationship into a metaphor for the analytical process. Holding and container-contained refer to two different aspects of the mother-baby relationship and two different vertices of conducting the analytical process.

Winnicott's holding refers to the very physical and psychological states in which mother and baby are bound to be from the beginning. If the mother is ‘good enough’ she will sustain over time her ‘primary maternal preoccupation’ or ‘her state of going on being’, which means she will be able to identify with her infant at different developmental stages as well as with the changing of intrapsychic-interpersonal dynamics in her child over time.

To start with, the mother ‘needs to [enter] into the infant's sense of time’, transform the impact of the otherness of time and create the illusion ‘in which time is measured almost entirely in terms of the infant's physical and psychological rhythms’ (p. 1351). She then has to provide a setting for the baby so that the infant can feel the owner of his sensations when the developmental tendencies start to unfold. Simultaneously she needs to hold all the internal and external responses of her child together, allowing her infant to feel that all his bits are ‘coming together in one place’ (p. 1352), in a psychological and physical dimension.

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