Holding and Made up of - Winnicott (1960)

Keywords: psychoanalytic, holding and containing, winnicott

Holding and containing. The same or different?

The psychoanalytic terms "holding" and "containing" originate, from the writings of two visible psychoanalysts: 'Positioning' in the documents of Winnicott (1960); 'filled with' in the papers of Bion (1962). The current target in psychoanalysis of psychological nurture and exchange alternatively than one of hedonic satisfaction, is generally as consequence of Winnicott's writings and observations. Both conditions are now area of the core vocabulary of most therapists, and many other helping occupations.

Winnicott's school of thought of normal development highlights the holding milieu wanted to the child in the initial stage of life. Object connection theory identifies the theory that the self-ego lives in accordance with other objects, which may be outdoors or inside the psyche. Inside objects refer to internalized adaptations of external objects, developed from early exchanges with parents. The theory of possessing includes both physical and psychological features and promotes the infant's ego-incorporation, his aptitude for subject relating, and eventually his capacity for object consumption.

Winnicott details the holding environment as a developmental stage where the child and mom are one entity, up to now undifferentiated in the infant's consciousness. His writings about them emphasized empathy, thoughts and love between your caregiver and baby. The core purpose of "holding" is to permit the kid to be completely unconscious of his requirement of a separate individual

"It really is axiomatic in these things of maternal treatment of the possessing variety that whenever things go well the infant has no method of knowing what's being properly provided and what is being avoided. " (Winnicott, 1960, p. 52)

Winnicott (1953) conceptualized the psychic space between your mother and her child, explaining it as neither wholly internal nor physical

"It is in the area between internal and outside world, which is also the space between people--the transitional space--that intimate relationships and creativity occur. "

This he termed the "holding environment". The having environment helps the child's transition to autonomy. Failing on the Mother's part to provide an adequate holding environment ends in a "false self applied disorder", corresponding to Winnicott. Winnicott's theory of "false personal disorders" is strikingly very much like descriptions of the schizoid personality by Laing in "The Divided Self applied" (1960), whereby the individual's personality is characterized by a complete insufficient harmony, resulting in a distant attitude, psychological coldness and idiosyncratic autism

Winnicott argues one of the primary purposes of the therapist is to give a "keeping environment" for your client, to ensure that the client may begin to identify and meet recently neglected ego needs and help in the introduction of the true self.

Containment is comparable yet fundamentally different to having. Bion's theory of comprising originates from the idea that the infant tasks into its mother feelings that are upsetting, fearsome, unpleasant or in some other fashion, intolerable. The mother in turn seems the feelings herself, and is able not to react to it, but instead to own it and give the kid back the sensation in an adapted and included form to the newborn, so the child can repossess it and reintegrate the sentiment as its own.

Containment is vital in a therapeutic context as a means of providing a safe place for your client to check out feelings that usually are likely to be experienced as overpowering and bewildering. The need for this in the healing up process cannot be under-estimated. Individuals who've experienced extreme pain, fear, desertion and anger will often find it hard to think; they may find it particularly difficult to think about their thoughts, which can remain completely exempt from awareness, and therefore unavailable for reflection.

When such thoughts due enter consciousness they actually so with such marvelous electricity that thought becomes unbearable. Hence, behaviour demonstrated by the individual's children, or discord with associates, which is perhaps irritating or creates thoughts of discomfort, can provoke uncontrollable fury and distress. In interactions with therapists, clients will project at least many of these difficult feelings, specially the ones least available to consciousness and most unbearable. Hence the therapist will experience in some way, the emotions their consumer is most struggling to feel, verbalise and comtemplate. If the therapist can be familiar with such feelings, and discover a way of starting to put them into words, then the process of the client reclaiming these thoughts, thinking about them and integrating them into their sense of self, begins.

In Bion's view, the infant itself is not included - the Mother manages the difficult sentiment projected into her and earnings it in a more manageable talk about to the child. Because of this the infant is likely to develop an overall sense of wellbeing, and containment as a consequence of a wealth of similar experience of having a distressing emotion comprised and returned. Bion focused his writings on the technique by which the infant copes with fury and irritation. He argued that through the mother's potential to contain those projected feelings, the infant can grow the capability to believe, to contain its emotions also to use them as a source of reflection. Thus containment will not involve giving an answer to a client's portrayed needs. It generally does not entail alleviating their anxiety via the provision of help or comfort. Nor will containment require the provision of medical help, money, or advice. Containment consists of a discourse which appears to find appearance for previously unspeakable thoughts and experiences because they are projected into the psychotherapist.

Let us consider a good example from psychoanalytic practice. A 33-year-old mentally handicapped man attended every day a sheltered workshop where he employed in menial and demoralizing jobs. He eventually looked for treatment from a therapist, who thought that the client possessed a mental capacity capable of higher-grade work. Within the therapy sessions the client would sometimes utter, " I am 33 yrs. old and is also that nothing?" and a minute later, " Can't you give me an image of who I am?" After awareness, the analyst responded by saying

"The actual fact that you feel they have been thirty-three years of emptiness, waste materials and nothingness is so painful that it is easier to have people's picture of you than to face this ghastly nothingness. "

The customer responded

"Well, if you will not give me an image what do I come here for?"

This prompted the therapist to stand, place himself next to the client him and say

"It is like this. There before us is thirty-three years of waste, nothing at all and emptiness. It is like relaxing in a train and opposite rests a man with a wounded and diseased face which is so horrific you need to hold pictures up before you since it is more than you can keep. But the reason you come to see me is the fact that perhaps there is just a possibility that if you have me beside you then you can try it. "

Until this aspect the client have been unable to deal with his painful emotions relating to thirty-three years of "waste, little or nothing and emptiness. " The occurrence is also reminisant of a mother's working with a distraught child in manner that allows the probable of the stress eventually being performed and managed in the infant's own brain. Here the therapist seeks to demonstrate to your client that these feelings are manageable if they feel the therapist and echo upon them jointly.

The ideas of keeping and containing your client are a strong theme in psychodynamic guidance, following the revolutionary input of Winnicott, Bion, and Klein. Winnicott wrote extensively about the mother positioning her baby, which he interpreted into the client-counselor marriage. Bion, however, considered the issue of containment, and looked at how Moms keep their baby safe from it's intolerable thoughts. Following that, the concept of the therapist as a box of the client's most unbearable thoughts became popular.

Containment and positioning are inextricably connected as to be able to contain difficult emotions and then give back them to the client in a manageable fashion, the emotions must be "presented" by the therapist - s/he supports the pain, anguish, confusion and displays to the client these feelings are actually tolerable after all. Containment may be referred to as the power of a person to "stick with" the hurting of another being, whilst psychologically and emotionally having the anguish in a way that allows the emotion to be survived by the bearer. Casement (1985) explained the main element dynamics of containment and uses the conditions containment and retaining interchangeably:

". . . a kind of holding, such as a mother provides to her distressed child. There are various ways that one adult can offer to some other this positioning (or containment). And it can be crucial for a patient to be thus kept in order to recuperate, or to discover maybe for the very first time, a convenience of handling life and life's problems without extended avoidance or suppression. " (pg. 42)

Both containment and having focus on the emotional development of the infant. The existing fashion for cognitive analysis detects little attention here. Bion's theory emphasises the emotional aspect containment by mention of the mother's containing of the child's projections of uneasy feelings. She emotionally digests them, makes sense of them, and via her understanding, empathetic response she allows the newborn to truly have a meaningful mental experience and minimize it's distress. Winnicott's notion of holding also targets the emotional areas of this developmental process as he describes the mother's total attunement to her child is situated after her empathy with the child; this encompasses the holding purpose and allows the infant's ego to assimilate and his instincts to be fulfilled (Winnicott, 1960).

Both terms, containment and holding, place similar focus on the experience of bereavement, parting, abandonment as the primary stimulator of learning and cognitive expansion. Winnicott ( 1958) will note, not simply the disillusionment and pain area of the equation, but that there needs to be a balance between the two in order for healthy development that occurs. Similarly, Klein (1937) positioned some focus on balance as opposed to just the negative experience. She regularly wrote that the introjection of the nice breast was a simple for future development. Generally however, both theorists consider the knowledge of uncomfortable thoughts to be all-powerful and the need to control them basic and vital. Similarly, Bion strains the effects of harmful encounters in Learning from Experience (1962).

'The hyperlink between intolerance of disappointment and the introduction of thought is central to an understanding of thought and its own disruption' -- what counts is the decision the personality made between methods made to evade frustration and those designed to improve it. ' (pg 102)

Bion (1962) also layed out identified a function of the mind which that allows thoughts to be considered - alpha function. He argued that thoughts come before thinking, and suggests that

'thinking is something compelled on an equipment, not fitted to the purpose, by the requirements of reality, and it is modern day with, as Freud said, the reality principle. . . . The apparatus has to undergo adaptation to the new jobs involved in get together the demands of actuality by developing a convenience of thought. ' (pg. 57)

Bion (1962) did not consider the idea that the alpha function may also work on the foundation of contentment, joy, and other experiences positive, enjoyable experiences. Equally, he didn't suggest that the mother's containment of thoughts may also work after on activities of pleasure. Winnicott, however, makes reference to the mother holding the baby through bout of exhilaration. But neither writer seemed to consider the mother's capability to offer inspiring or exciting activities as a facilitator to intellectual and psychological growth.

Melanie Klein organised with Freud's hedonic viewpoint, looking at the infant's incessant explorations as targeted at seeking pleasure. Klein argued the infant's psychic dilemma was acted out inside its own subjective space, with statistics that were the demonic projections of its undeveloped sense of fact. Matching to Klein, the definite environment and its own individuals were of no interest to the newborn. Here marks a crucial distinction between positioning and containing; in Winnicott's positioning theory, although the kid is unaware of its interdependence, the child is wholly reliant on Mother for retaining of difficult emotions. The infant does not project difficult emotions into its subjective space; instead in having theory, the psychic space is shared by the Mother and toddler, as a one product.

Winnicott absorbed much from Klein, and in many ways their ideas are similar. Crucially, however, Winnicott (1975) argued that the infant searches for intricate forms of relationship and reciprocity, and not simply its own pleasure, as assumed by Klein. Winnicott presented that the infant's development can't be understood without considering its real environment, the items, responsive or non-responsiveness the newborn experience, that then either create a "facilitating environment" for mental growth, or otherwise cause the personal to bury itself, its place considered by an inflexible, computerized substitute (the incorrect do it yourself). Thus, Winnicott once said, "there is absolutely no such thing as an infant" alone: we live always coping with a "nursing few. " Winnicott's theoretical writings emphasized empathy, creativity, and, in the words of philosopher Nussbaum, who's an advocate of his theories, "the highly particular deals that constitute love between two imperfect people. "

Some of the differences have been reconciled in the task of John Bowlby (1979). His attachment theory makes an attempt integration of the cognitive and affective, the inner and outward appearance of human social relations. Bowlby and other attachment theorists (such as Mary Ainsworth) showed early habits of attachment have a tendency to be enduring and enhance the representational models, or 'interior world maps', of the personal with regards to the principal caregiver - they become ingrained or internalized. Bowlby argued that the 'secure platform' provided by the Mom in attachment tests, mirrors what sort of therapist also offers the individual in his inner explorations. That is similar to Bion's "containment" and Winnicott's "holding", regarding to Bowlby (1979) and amalgamates both concepts.

In response to the initial question, we should think about what is the purpose of such a variation? Many well-known psychoanalytic theorists and expert psychotherapists advocate dealing with clients in a fashion devoid from intellectual quarrels and preset theoretical leanings, to be able to promote a greater naturalness, aliveness, and sense of reality in therapeutic trainings (Belger). Debatably, this is absolutely only practical once a short level of training and practice has been completed whereby theory has been used and internalized to such a level that the analyst's own subjectivity as an analyst has improved. Hence the importance of understanding the theories of containment and having are central to a budding psychotherapist. However, both concepts used try to produce the same result, one of manageable, managed emotions that not overwhelm your client. Holding and containing are not things therapists do to clients. Somewhat, they constitute a collaborative procedure for development, which occurs only through the contact and discussion therapists have using their clients.


Belger, A, W. (date unknown) Using Winnicott to explore the beginning psychotherapist's romance to theory. Acesssed online 22 February 2006. http://www. fortda. org/fall_02/page7. htm

Bion, W. (1962). Learning From Experience. London: Karnac Literature.

Bowlby, J. (1979). The making and breaking of affectional bonds. London:. Tavistock

Casement, P. (1985) On Learning from the Patient, London: Tavistock

Klein, M. (1937). Love, guilt and reparation. WITHIN THE Writings of Melanie

Klein. Vol. 1. London: Hogarth Press / Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1975,

pp. 306-343.

Klein, M. (1975). The Writing sof Melanie Klein, Vols I-IV (ed R. Money-Kyrle). London: Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis.

Laing, R. D. (1960) The Divided Self: An Existential Research in Sanity and Madness. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Winnicott, D. (1953). Transitional things and transitional phenomena, Int. J. Psychoanal. , 34:89-97.

Winnicott, D. W. (1958). Collected Papers. Through Paediatrics to Psycho-Analysis, London: Tavistock Publications

Winnicott, D. (1960). The theory of the parent-child marriage, Int. J. Psychoanal. , 41:585-595.

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