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Gargiulo, G.J. (1992). Sublimation: Winnicottian Reflections. Psychoanal. Rev., 79(3):327-340.

(1992). Psychoanalytic Review, 79(3):327-340

Sublimation: Winnicottian Reflections

Gerald J. Gargiulo, M.A.

On the seashores of endless worlds, children play

—Rabindranath Tagore

In this article, I would like to discuss some of Winnicott's theoretical contributions as they relate to the concept of sublimation. The concept of sublimation, which has been recurrently studied in the classical literature, can be productively enhanced, I believe, by placing it within a Winnicottian object-relations framework. I will delineate the classical understanding of sublimation, and of necessity the corollary concept of symbol formation, in order to provide a background for appreciating Winnicott's particular contributions. I hope to show that Winnicott's ideas and models are preeminently useful in trying to grasp what has been an elusive concept in psychoanalytic reflections.

In discussing sublimation, one is addressing cultural achievements, that area of human interaction where we experience ourselves as communicative through such experiences as art, music, religion, philosophy, and of course, psychoanalysis. Freud, as we know, concentrated primarily on delimiting the intrapsychic terrain and his formulations, consequently, reflect this perspective. Winnicott does not repudiate Freud's work but rather looks to a different place in order to understand our cultural heritage. His concept of the transitional area between the “me” and the “not me” became, for him, the playground in which he does a good deal of his musings.

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