Winnicott's Concept of 'Holding' as applied to Serious Physical Illness

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In this paper, I describe some of the ways in which D. W. Winnicott’s notion of ‘holding’ might be seen as something intimates do for one another across the life cycle. Drawing on a wide selection of Winnicott’s writings on the subject, I identify five characteristics of holding that many, perhaps most, Western adults, take for granted in ordinary life. Holding enables us to split off catastrophe. It reduces our dependence and increases our sense of autonomy. It contains unmourned losses and sponsors transitional experience. It enables us to form psychosomatic communities with others. I then consider some of the ways in which these characteristics are thrown into jeopardy when serious physical illness arises.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Psychotherapy
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020


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