3/14: Phantasy and the Object

Please post a question in response to Susan Isaacs or D. W. Winnicott. Be sure to read
Duck, Death and the Tulip.




  1. Just to clarify, in simple terms what is Winicots’s definition of a transitional object?And what does he mean by ‘not me’ possession?

    “Those who happen to be in close touch with mothers’ interests and problems will be already aware of the very rich patterns ordinarily displayed by babies in their use of the first ‘not-me’ possession.”

  2. Isaac describes Phantasy as a way of helping us identify, organize, and relate to other significant series of facts.

    Isaac also discusses Freud’s analysis of psychical reality: “Freud taught us that the inner world of the mind has a continuous reality of it’s own, with its own laws and characteristics, different from those from the external world.” (P.269).

    What relationship does Freud’s analysis of psychical reality have to Issac’s description of Phantasy? And does Issac’s definition of Phantasy only relate to consciousness?

  3. I had a clarification question. Isaacs says that, “the word ‘phantasy’ is often used in contrast with ‘reality,’ the latter word being taken as identical with ‘external’ or ‘material’ or ‘objective facts. But when external reality is called ‘objective’ reality, there is an assumption which denies to physical reality its own objectivity as a mental fact. Some analysts tend to contrast ‘phantasy’ with ‘reality’ in such a way as to undervalue the dynamic importance of phantasy” (269).

    I was intrigued by this part of the article because this reminds me of how we the phrase “it’s all in my head” to downplay our feelings or emotions. Why do we put ‘phantasy’ and ‘reality’ as if they are in opposition to one another? Why is the phantasy not taken as seriously and as objectively as reality?

  4. Isaac’s concept of the “phantasy” related to the physical representations of our unconscious drives and desires compared to “fantasy” which is a part of the conscious drives. Do the transitional objects that Winnicott talks about relate more to Isaac’s “phantasy” or fantasy?

  5. Winnicot was explaining that as an infant grows up they will develop other cultural interests and their attraction to their transition object will fade away. He went onto say, “what emerges from these considerations is the further idea that paradox accepted can have positive value. The resolution of paradox leads to a defence organization which in the adult one can encounter as true and false self organization” (10). I was wondering what he meant here.

  6. Isaac writes, “I wish to state here my opinion that the primary content of all mental processes are unconscious phantasies. Such phantasies are the basis of all unconscious and conscious thought processes” (271-272).

    How does Isaac argue this theory without turning the topic into a chicken vs egg argument? On page 273 Isaac states that words have meaning because they stand for concepts. Why does this theory not apply to dreams vs reality? Mustn’t dreams be a concept based on conscious experiences?

  7. How does Winnicott’s theory of transitional objects fit with the documented fact that most human societies breast feed infants for many years?

  8. Isaacs states in her paper that, “It seems sometimes to be assumed that only in the ‘neurotic’ is physical reality (ie: unconscious phantasy) of paramount importance, and that with ‘normal’ people it’s significance is reduced to vanishing point.”

    How do you think Isaacs would define the words normal and neurotic? What is she saying about the society in which we live in that assumes such a thing?

  9. Isaac discusses the idea that our external realities are progressively intertwined and meshed with out phantasies and then elaborated on. But she then says that the source of our phantasy is internal, in our instinctual impulses. How does our phantasy connect with our reality? If our unconscious thoughts become our impulsive actions, isn’t phantasy and reality the same by Isaac’s definition?

  10. An underlying thread in Isaacs’ piece is the idea that within play and regression, a child is largely affected by an underlying dissonance relating to the mother. Isaacs quotes Freud’s work, “We find aggressive oral and sadistic wishes in a form forced on them by early regression, i.e. in the dread of being killed by the mother – a dread which on its side justifies the death wish against her…” (Isaacs, 281). The author expands on the child’s fear of the mother, claiming that it stems from “fear of the biting retaliatory breast.” (Isaacs, 313).

    Based on these passages, how would Freud would then incorporate and/or analyze the role of the father in the child’s complex fear of the mother’s retaliation?

  11. Throughout D.W. Winnicott’s article “Playing and Reality”, she discusses the significance of an infant’s transitional object. A transitional object serves as a way to comfort the infant, especially at night. How can the concept of a transitional object help an infant embrace their reality during their adulthood? What are some advantages and disadvantages to having a transitional object as an infant? In addition, while examining the children’s story “Duck, Death, and the Tulip”, what can we determine was the transitional object for the duck before she passes away?

  12. In Winnicott’s article, she talks about transitional objects and phenomenons. An example she gives is a security blanket that a child hugs for comfort. She puts an emphasis on the child’s need for transitional objects, but only focuses on children. Would having a transitional object as an adult serve the same function?

  13. In Isaac’s article, she discusses ‘phantasy’ in relation to Frued’s conscious and unconscious. “It takes him a long time to understand the proposal that phantasy and reality are to be treated alike and that it is to begin with no account whether the childhood experiences under consideration belong to the one class or the other” (Isaac 269). She then continues on to explain Frued’s reasoning more by saying the phantasy contributes to unconscious, the obvious, and the conscious, the not so obvious since most of the time we conceal these phantasies during our conscious. Do you agree with this view point? Do you feel we have these phantasy desires during our conscious being?

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