Playing and Reality

Playing and Reality

What are the origins of creativity and how can we develop it - whether within ourselves or in others? Not only does Playing and Reality address these questions, it also tackles many more that surround the fundamental issue of the individual self and its relationship with the outside world. In this landmark book of twentieth-century psychology, Winnicott shows the reader ho...

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Title:Playing and Reality
Author:D.W. Winnicott
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Edition Language:English

Playing and Reality Reviews

  • Carlos

    This is another fave of mine. I could never give a good description of what this book is about cause my understanding it is always changing (and lacking at times).

  • Leah

    Wonderful way of answering Freudian theories of creativity...engaging essays on their own and also great for the lit. classroom...

  • Sarah

    There were parts of this that resonated with me. There were parts that felt a bit false, or strange. But that's alright. Psychology isn't, and shouldn't be, clockwork. It's nebulous; it's

    . Winnicott understood that.

    Because the ideas were presented in all their malleability, they weren't ever threatening to me. I remain free to form my own ideas, so I can fully appreciate his.

    Some favorite quotes:

    "The thing about playing is always the precariousness of the interplay of personal psychi

    There were parts of this that resonated with me. There were parts that felt a bit false, or strange. But that's alright. Psychology isn't, and shouldn't be, clockwork. It's nebulous; it's

    . Winnicott understood that.

    Because the ideas were presented in all their malleability, they weren't ever threatening to me. I remain free to form my own ideas, so I can fully appreciate his.

    Some favorite quotes:

    "The thing about playing is always the precariousness of the interplay of personal psychic reality and the experience of the control of actual objects."

    "Here was the picture of a child and the child had transitional objects [teddy, blanky], and there were transitional phenomena [playing] that were evident, and all of these were symbolical of something and were real for the child; but gradually, or perhaps frequently for a little while, she had to doubt the reality of the thing they were symbolizing. That is to say, if they were symbolical of her mother's devotion and reliability, they remained real in themselves but what they stood for was not real. The mother's devotion and reliability were unreal.

    "This seemed to be near the sort of thing that had haunted her all her life, losing animals, losing her own children, so that she formulated the sentence: 'All I've got is what I have not got.' "

    "Her childhood environment seemed unable to allow her to be formless but must, as she felt it, pattern her and cut her out into shapes conceived by other people. . .

    "At the time of her next visit .. the patient reported to me that since her last visit she had [accomplished] a very great deal.. All the time, however, she was showing great fear of loss of identity as if it might turn out that she had been so patterned. . .

    "I needed to be extremely careful .. lest I appeared to be pleased with all that she had done and the great change that had occurred in her; so easily she would have the feeling that she had fitted in and been patterned by me, and this would be followed by maximal protest and a return to the fixity of [fantasy]."

    "The teacher aims at enrichment. By contrast, the therapist is concerned specifically with the child's own growth processes."

    "It is assumed here that the task of reality acceptance is never fully completed, that no human being is free from the strain of relating inner and outer reality, and that relief from this strain is provided by an intermediate area of experience which is not challenged . . .

    "Should an adult make claims on us for our acceptance of the objectivity of his subjective phenomena we discern or diagnose madness. If, however, the adult can manage to enjoy the personal intermediate area without making claims, then we acknowledge our own corresponding intermediate areas, and are pleased to find a degree of overlapping, that is to say common experience between members of a group in art or religion or philosophy."

    "The place where cultural experience is located is in the potential space between the individual and the environment (originally the object). The same can be said of playing. Cultural experience begins with the creative living first manifested in play."

    "Immaturity is a precious part of the adolescent scene. In this is contained the most exciting features of creative thought, a new and fresh feeling, ideas for new living. Society needs to be shaken by the aspirations of those who are not responsible. If the adults abdicate, the adolescent becomes prematurely, and by false process, an adult. Advice to society could be: for the sake of adolescents, and all their immaturity, do not allow them to step up and attain false maturity by handing over to them responsibility that is not yet theirs, even though they may fight for it.

    "With the priviso that the adult does not abdicate, we may surely think of the strivings of adolescents to find themselves and to determine their own destiny as the most exciting thing that we can see in life around us."

    "In the unconscious fantasy these are matters of life and death."

  • Marty Babits

    This is one of the most important books on the subject of psychotherapy I've read. Winnicott is a poet. He writes in images and often with a lot of jargon that is thick and hard-going. However, when he makes a discovery, and he makes quite a few, it's like he's journeyed to the center of the Earth and come back to reveal what the foundation beneath the foundation of reality is all about. As a therapist who has been practicing over twenty-five years, he is probably my greatest inspiration. His pe

    This is one of the most important books on the subject of psychotherapy I've read. Winnicott is a poet. He writes in images and often with a lot of jargon that is thick and hard-going. However, when he makes a discovery, and he makes quite a few, it's like he's journeyed to the center of the Earth and come back to reveal what the foundation beneath the foundation of reality is all about. As a therapist who has been practicing over twenty-five years, he is probably my greatest inspiration. His perspective turns on appreciation of the creativity and imagination that is part and parcel of psychological development. He gives therapist a way to think about authenticity and spontaneity that pushes away from preconceived notions about what is 'normal' or 'abnormal' and towards what is inventive and creative in our lives as opposed to what is deadening or deadened. Known, before making his reputation as a psychoanalyst, as an outgoing pediatrician who spoke regularly on radio and published essays to explicate childhood development. In a time when theories that blamed mothers for problems their children were experiencing, Winnicott set out to reassure and support mothers. this is a classic work. Probably not of great interest to too many who are not in the therapy profession but, nonetheless, a groundbreaking work.

  • Matthew Kozak

    Skimmed and picked around more than read (...read more heavily in some parts than others, is the fairest to say).

    But considered a milestone work in children's (...and really people in general) psychology by one of my favorite psychologists: Mr. D.W. Winnicott.

    He - along with Carl Rogers, Aaron Beck, and Carl Jung - have had as much of an influence on my own psychological predilections, philosophy, and musings as anyone.

    While this book is about many aspects of development (primarily on the import

    Skimmed and picked around more than read (...read more heavily in some parts than others, is the fairest to say).

    But considered a milestone work in children's (...and really people in general) psychology by one of my favorite psychologists: Mr. D.W. Winnicott.

    He - along with Carl Rogers, Aaron Beck, and Carl Jung - have had as much of an influence on my own psychological predilections, philosophy, and musings as anyone.

    While this book is about many aspects of development (primarily on the importance of 'play' and 'creativity': the definitions, origins, and outworkings of 'play' and 'creativity' that is to say), my favorite quote from this book comes from a comment about being an individual in society:

    "The axiom is that since there is no society except as a structure brought about and maintained and constantly reconstructed by individuals, there is NO personal fulfillment without society, and NO society apart from the COLLECTIVE growth processes of the individuals that compose it." [D.W. Winnicott - PLAYING AND REALITY]

    Thank you!

    PB&J's (Peace, Blessings, and Joyous Love) to whoever reads this,

    -MJK-

  • Sibel Kaçamak

    Alison Bechdel'in Annem Sen Misin? grafik romanını okuduktan sonra listeye aldığım, başka şeyleri araya sıkıştırmaktan bir türlü fırsat bulamadığım kitabı nihayetinde okudum. Çabuk okunan bir ritmi yok, fakat bu anlama zorluğundan ileri gelmiyor. Satır satır hazmetme işlemi var. Yavaş ama çok keyifli gitti. Hem kendi anılarım, hem başkalarının anlattıkları birer birer hafızama geri geldi. Ayrıca bir çok davranış biçiminin gerisindeki mantığı anlamakta çok faydalı oldu. Bir çok kere okunabilir.

  • Ruby Ann

    A major theme in this book is how we experience the field that exists between outer (objective) reality and our inner (subjective) understanding. Winnicott terms this the "intermediate area of experiencing". Transitional phenomenon, an infant's choosing of an object or action that soothes, is the way an infant explores this area, and becomes increasingly comfortable losing his/her sense of omnipotence. During this stage, Winnicott also stresses the importance of "a good enough mother", that is a

    A major theme in this book is how we experience the field that exists between outer (objective) reality and our inner (subjective) understanding. Winnicott terms this the "intermediate area of experiencing". Transitional phenomenon, an infant's choosing of an object or action that soothes, is the way an infant explores this area, and becomes increasingly comfortable losing his/her sense of omnipotence. During this stage, Winnicott also stresses the importance of "a good enough mother", that is a care-taker who is sufficiently attuned to the infant's changing needs. "A good enough mother" supplies the "environmental function" that is imperative to the infant's successful (non-traumatizing) transition to understanding his/her existence as a separate individual. This environmental function includes 1. holding, 2. handling and 3. object-presenting, and most importantly, a "good enough mother" is able to time these action in attunement with the infant's needs. Winnicott also supplies case examples of adult from his therapy practice who suffer from the feelings of dissociation, "un-realness" that is a result of trauma during the transitional period.

    For me, this was an interesting read, though I'm afraid that a lot of it went over my head. He cites Freud and Klein a lot, and since I'm not fully versed in their writing, it made it difficult for me to follow Winnicott's thinking. Some chapters, especially the ones that described his sessions with patients, were practically unintelligible to me. There's also some stuff in here about gender and sexual orientation that seems to reflect societal norms for the time when Winnicott was writing, and while I'm hesitant to throw the baby out with the bath water (especially since, as I said before, I'm not sure I'm fully understanding what he's saying here), these passages are a bit troubling. (Ie: there's something about trauma in childhood leading to the development of homosexuality that appears near the beginning of the book. My first instinct was to throw the book out, but I kept reading, and I do think most of what's in this book is valuable.)

  • Geoffrey Rhodes

    Fantastic. You really only need to read the first third of this book to get it, but for me, the basic ideas he is putting forward here are really life changing. He is proposing a fundamental addition to the nature of our perception of reality (inside, outside, and playspace between), that I think is particularly fascintating for the artist, the compulsive, and the romantic.

  • FiveBooks

    Psychotherapist Dr Judith Edwards has chosen to discuss Playing and Reality by Donald Winnicott on FiveBooks as one of the top five on her subject - Child Psychotherapy, saying that:

    "...Winnicott was the people’s psychoanalyst, seeing mother and child as developing together within their relationship. Winnicott’s Playing and Reality, not published till after his death, is a fine and illuminating collection of his major thinking, important not only because of the work with children (just pick any

    Psychotherapist Dr Judith Edwards has chosen to discuss Playing and Reality by Donald Winnicott on FiveBooks as one of the top five on her subject - Child Psychotherapy, saying that:

    "...Winnicott was the people’s psychoanalyst, seeing mother and child as developing together within their relationship. Winnicott’s Playing and Reality, not published till after his death, is a fine and illuminating collection of his major thinking, important not only because of the work with children (just pick any page and there is something to ponder, such as the therapeutic use of string, for instance, or why a teddy bear may be alternately loved and abused by its child owner) but because of the way he shows how the ‘transitional space’ which develops as the baby separates from the primary caretaker will later become ‘the location for cultural experience’...."

    The full interview is available here:

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