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Playing and Reality (Routledge Classics) 2nd Edition

10 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0415345460
ISBN-10: 0415345464
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Playing and Reality (Routledge Classics) + Home Is Where We Start From: Essays by a Psychoanalyst + The Child, The Family And The Outside World (Classics in Child Development)
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Editorial Reviews


"Winnicott was the greatest British psychoanalyst who ever lived. He writes beautifully and simply about the problems of everyday life - and is the perfect thing to read if you want to understand yourself and other people better." - Alain de Botton

About the Author

D.W. Winnicott (1896-1971). A renowned psychoanalyst and theorist, whose profound and original thought has had a lasting influence throughout the world. He was President of the British Psycho-Analytical Society and President of the Paediatric Section of the Royal Society of Medicine.


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Product Details

  • Series: Routledge Classics
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 2 edition (November 11, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415345464
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415345460
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #60,559 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

128 of 131 people found the following review helpful By Franz Metcalf on October 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I am sorry to be so blunt about this, but previous reviewers Sierra and whomi do not appear to have really grasped Winnicott's work in this book (Sierra really has no clue at all). I have to respond at some length. But better to just read the book.

Winnicott (henceforward DWW) creates--in an enormous leap away from Freud--a vision of the complex and beautiful relationship of the infant and primary caregiver. In fact he speaks of the "mother infant dyad," rather than two separate persons during the first few months of life. From this union, if all goes well, the child gradual emerges and develops a sense of self through a process of disillusionment by the mother, in doses the infant can withstand.

As this occurs, the child symbolizes the lost union with the mother in what DWW calls "transitional objects" and begins, with the comfort of these objects, to begin to play in what DWW calls the "potential space." We might call it the realm of culture, of love, and of religion. Only with successful caregiving does the child have a chance to fully develop as a person, and DWW shows, in loving detail and case histories, how this happens through the devotion of the mother.

This is why DWW's work is vital not merely to psychoanalysts, but to every person on this planet. His work has influenced two generations of therapists, theorists, and educators and, indirectly, every one of us. Further, his work has increasingly been supported by developmental insights gained from attachment theory and other experimental and verifiable studies.

I don't normally write reviews on, but I could not let foolish misreadings by other reviewers stand unchallenged. Sierra's attitude is not only condescending, it is lazy. Enough said.
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By D. Miles on January 17, 2008
Format: Paperback
First of all, this book is written for psychoanalysts. One of the other reviewers clearly hated it and summarily dismissed it as "not even worth thinking about." For someone not used to reading dense psychological text, this book would be tough to follow. Honestly, Winnicott is hard to follow even if you are used to reading dense psychological text. He's not particularly concise and often uses certain terms without explaining them. For example, he speaks about the infant's need to "destroy" the transitional object, but also to see the object survive the destruction. I interpret that to mean something about learning object permanence, but he's never clear.

Having said that, I really like this book. It's a collection of essays and speeches and so isn't meant to be a completely coherent argument from start to finish. The chapters I like the best are where he develops his theory of play and creativity. In short, infants learn to distinguish themselves from their environment by having a "potential space" where it is safe to explore and play. Being able to be creative is how human beings discover their true, authentic self. And this is especially important for a developing infant.

Winnicott contributed a significant amount to the field of object-relations therapy. I really dig his work, and his theory of the significance of play in the work of analysis not only makes sense to me, but also adds a level of fun and creativity. His written work is dense, and most of it was published in journals, so it can be hard to sift through. But I like this book the best ("Human Nature" is second). The concept of discovering your true, authentic self through play and exploration is a pretty liberating idea even as an adult, and Winnicott provides some solid developmental theory here to back that up. If you're studying Winnicott or object-relations, this is a great book to read.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Thomas L. Cook on June 1, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Winnicott was a strange, playful genius. The hugeness and flexibility he shows in this book is astounding. He's tossing around super-profound philosophical ideas like oranges and catching them in reverse order; leaving an idea undeveloped at the end of a chapter, and ending the chapter essentially with a good hearted laugh. I can almost see him laughing his way through certain parts of the text.

I give this book five stars because the ideas contained in here are going to continue to bear fruit in so many ways. We have been waiting for decades for someone to tie together the Neo-platonic strands in psychological thought, in contradiction to Freud and the radical empiricist strands, and Winnicott is the first to really achieve some headway in this area. You see, most people in psychology either think that our brains are like wax and we go around pressing them against things and putting indentations in the wax, whereas some others think that our brains are more like cookie cutters that chop out figures from raw experience. The former group are the empiricists (Freud), and the latter, the rationalists. (Piaget). This is especially important as we move into an era where psychotherapy is increasingly cognitive and rationalistic. Psychiatry and psychology training, in the wake of psychoanalysis's rationalistic errors of ignoring data and imposing a theory of sexuality on every case it came across, is unfortunately being repeated by people in the various schools of therapy. And it's really confusing for residents (like myself) to decide how much data to gather on a patient, and when to stop and apply a theory.

Winnicott teaches here that we in part, create reality and in part, discover it.
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