Presented by

Virginia Hendrickson

50 E St. SE, Suite 300 Washington, DC 20003


Eight Sessions
10:30 – 12:00 noon
April 1 – May 27
Fee: $360 (includes copies of course material)


In his seminal paper, ‘Transitional Objects and Transitional Phenomena’ Winnicott explores the many developmental achievements that occur between ‘the thumb and the teddy bear’. The transitional object functions to enable the child to tolerate the absence of mother and to internalize her provision of a holding environment.  The mother’s inability to provide an illusory oneness along with the needed holding environment thus compromises the child’s ability to tolerate the absence of the other.  Use of the transitional space to move from the object subjectively conceived to the object objectively perceived is negated and mother’s separateness is defended against.  Absence cannot be constituted, and the psychological work of mourning is precluded. 

The transitional space of aliveness and creativity becomes a space of negation and death as Ogden focuses on in his reading of Winnicott’s paper.  Roitman in his paper on Winnicott’s case material on the negative adds an intersubjective dimension, viewing attachment to a void as an internalization of mother’s need to neglect her child in the service of survival. A compelling case illustrates these dynamics.  Amir in her response to Roitman focuses on how the refusal to mourn is defended against in an idealizing narrative that attacks any link with loss.  She addresses the process whereby one might reclaim one’s lived experience.  Levi and Shalgi in their paper on working with trauma and dissociation explore Winnicott’s differentiation between fantasying and imagining.  A rich discussion ensues in Bartlett’s and Chefetz’ discussion of the case material provided.  And in Novack’s paper on creativity, we will discuss transitional space as the location of cultural and artistic life.  Novack uses Milner’s book On Not Being Able to Paint as an entry into blocks to immersion in the creative process.  Stimulating discussions by Corbett and Stephens bring us into a dialogue on the relationship between the individual and culture and the shifts that have occurred in our field as the ‘relational turn’ has at times eclipsed the focus on the individual.

Together these papers help us navigate the therapeutic challenges we face when transitional space has become one of deadness.  Through these weekly readings with their enlivening clinical case material and our class discussions we will together explore the challenges involved in developing a transitional space that leads to creative transformation and a renewed sense of aliveness and creativity.