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Wrye, H.K. (1993). Hello, the Hollow Deadspace or Playspace?. Psychoanal. Rev., 80(1):101-122.

(1993). Psychoanalytic Review, 80(1):101-122

Hello, the Hollow Deadspace or Playspace?

Harriet Kimble Wrye, Ph.D.

Indeed, cosmic strings seem to be replacing black holes as the theoretical darlings of astrophysics. But whereas black holes are virtually inevitable — given the well-tested laws of general relativity — strings are appreciably more iffy.

—Discover (April, 1988)

Our perception and handling of our bodies in physical space communicates much about our experience of self and other boundaries, intrapsychic space, and interpersonal space. When psychological separation from mother has been successfully navigated and a reliable mother internalized, a feeling of well-being in, and tolerance for, physical space ensues. When this occurs, space can be hailed as freeing, regenerative, and welcome. It's safe, and often even joyful, to come out and play.

By dark contrast, for those less fortunate in negotiating separation-individuation issues, space is often experienced as null and void, a black hole. It can be experienced as annihilating deadness —a barren, “horrible hollow” in which one is potentially “lost in space,” disconnected, or “spaced out.” Those whose infancy lacked experiencing a safe space between self and mother, are left vulnerable to feeling traumatically uncontained and, in Bion's (1962) sense, unlinked, splintered into “raw beta elements” in a world of dismantled part and dead objects.

Concepts of spatial experience are valuable in describing aspects of separateness and togetherness in all relationships. In this paper, space relates to both concrete external physical dimensions and their internal psychological and symbolic dimensions.

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