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Schneider, J. (1998). Our Relationship to Theories. The Use of Theories from a Winnicottian Metapsychology Perspective. Cristina López de Cayaffa; Marina Altmann de Litvan; Luz Porras de Rodríguez; Francisco Labraga. Pp. 9-20. Psychoanal Q., 67(1):185-187.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Our Relationship to Theories. The Use of Theories from a Winnicottian Metapsychology Perspective. Cristina López de Cayaffa; Marina Altmann de Litvan; Luz Porras de Rodríguez; Francisco Labraga. Pp. 9-20

(1998). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 67(1):185-187

Our Relationship to Theories. The Use of Theories from a Winnicottian Metapsychology Perspective. Cristina López de Cayaffa; Marina Altmann de Litvan; Luz Porras de Rodríguez; Francisco Labraga. Pp. 9-20

Jorge Schneider

While organizing a class on the work of Winnicott, these four psychoanalysts decided to use Winnicott's own technique. They played with his ideas and took pleasure in doing so. The theoretical/clinical experience evolved in all participants in a personal way. They found themselves thinking about their relationship to theories at different points in time. How does a theory emerge? What is their approach to an author and his/her theory? What relationship do they maintain with a theory and what use do they make of it? Finally, when thinking about how

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to relate to Winnicott's metapsychology, they decided to focus on the function of the transitional space.

New theories evolve within a particular sociocultural space and time. This space is vital for new ideas to grow. The authors' personal experiences orient their responses to certain aspects of theory. Although Winnicott and Melanie Klein shared the same historical time in England, the early life experiences of Klein helped her focus on the presence of death, anxieties about loss, and sibling rivalry. What we know about Winnicott's childhood in a supportive family milieu helps explain his inquisitive and creative mind.

After finishing a session with a patient, we ask ourselves about the theoretical guidelines for our work. These guidelines evolve from personal theories to other levels of abstraction. The authors believe that theorizing begins at an emotional level. The first theory is a “gut theory.” At another level, the analyst learns about the theory that is popular at the moment. The analyst's relationship with the accepted theory may run the gamut from strict adherence to a more liberal approach. In this way, theories can become true object relationships for us. Here the authors introduce Winnicott's concepts of object-relating and of the use of the object.

In object-relating the emphasis is on the subject. The relationship to the object takes place through projective and identificatory mechanisms. The object is not independent. This is the first step in a relationship. If the maternal function is “good enough,” the object becomes more real: it is no longer the product of projections and therefore becomes available for use. This transition also implies that the object can be destroyed in fantasy and still survive the aggression.

We go through similar steps with theories. In the first step, the theory is idealized, and the subject is rigidly dependent on the theory. In the second step, the theory becomes an independent object. The subject uses theory as an adequate instrument when it is appropriate, leaving space for personal creativity.

Finally, the authors discuss what distinguishes a Winnicottian metapsychology. In Freud's metapsychology every mental process has to be explained from a dynamic, structural, and economic point of view. Winnicott introduces the transitional point of view, the space between internal and external. From the authors' perspective, what structures the mind for Freud is the oedipus complex; for Lacan, it is what is imagined, what is real, and what is symbolic; for Klein, it is the relationship to the breast, anxieties, and defenses; and for Winnicott, it is what takes place in the transitional space. The analytic session is a potential space generated by the interaction of patients and analyst. The interpretation evolves within this transitional space; it is presented by the analyst and discovered by the patient. The solutions can be correct or mistaken, can provoke order or chaos, but this tension is creative.

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The Psychohistory Review. XXIII, 1994/95.

Article Citation

Schneider, J. (1998). Our Relationship to Theories. The Use of Theories from a Winnicottian Metapsychology Perspective. Cristina López de Cayaffa; Marina Altmann de Litvan; Luz Porras de Rodríguez; Francisco Labraga.. Psychoanal. Q., 67(1):185-187

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