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Contemporary Issues in the Psychology of Religion Final Exam.docx

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University of Ottawa
Religious Studies
Naomi Goldenberg

Caitlin Kemmett- 6087806 1 Contemporary Issues in the Psychology of Religion Final Exam Contemporary Issues in the  Psychology of Religion  Final Exam Professor: N. Goldenberg TA: Gabrielle Desmarais 4/22/2013 Caitlin Kemmett- 6087806 Contemporary Issues in the Psychology of Religion Final Exam 2 1. D.W Winnicott was a psychoanalyst around the same time Freud and Melanie Klein were making big discoveries about children’s state of minds and development of a child’s identity. Winnicott’s essays are compiled into a book titled Playing and Reality which houses some of his and the field of psychoanalysis’most important theories. To understand Winnicott as a whole you have to first understand his concepts of development. The transitional object which is the topic of his first essay in the book is quite crucial to his theories. You are going to be one of two people once you understand this concept, either “oh yeah mine was…” or “nope never had one”. The transitional object is your favourite childhood toy that was always with you. Think Linus from the Peanuts and his blanket, that’s a perfect example of a transitional object the child was never able to part with. You have to understand however that not all children have this intense relationship with their transitional object, Linus does and so do other kids but it doesn’t need to be that intense. All babies use a thing or technique to soothe themselves when the mother isn’t around. Atransitional object is exactly this, whether it is a blanket, doll, teddy or specific pacifier. Is often the first thing used as a stand in for the mother while or after the weaning process or when she is no longer “available” or willed by the child. This can be understood as when the child develops and realizes that it has no control over the mother and that the mother is separate from it. Winnicott has a list of 7 different characteristics of a transitional which he calls special qualities in the relationship. The first of which is the infant undoubtedly has control over the object (unlike the mother), the child can will the object to do whatever it wants. The transitional object is loved by the child and cherished but can also be abused and destroyed if the child wants. The object cannot be changed, unless the child changes it. This special quality is easily applied if you think about your own transitional object, if your parent washed your favourite teddy it changes the relationship you Caitlin Kemmett- 6087806 Contemporary Issues in the Psychology of Religion Final Exam 3 have with the teddy bear. However if you happened to draw on the teddy or the stuffing started to fall out you wouldn’t let your parent fix them. It’s the idea that because you have changed the transitional object it was still yours and you loved it. The object according to Winnicott must appear to the child to have a vitality or reality of its own, the object must comfort the child. The best example of this I can give is that of a teddy bear named Sleepy Bear, which was my brother’s transitional object. Sleepy Bear originally was a teddy bear my brother would use to soothe himself when he was upset, but very soon my brother used to create stories about where Sleepy Bear was when he was missing. Sleepy Bear had a world of his own within my brother’s chest of drawer with different areas, very much like Candyland. Sleepy Bear however would only go on these adventures when we couldn’t find him, in many ways Sleepy Bear also became my transitional object because we would create stories about where he went together and Sleepy Bear himself was always willing to part with my brother when I was upset or needed comforting. The last two special qualities Winnicott outlines in his book are the idea that this object does not come from within the child, the reality of the object is prescribed by the infant but the object itself must be external and the infant must identify the object as their transitional object. This is to say the infant cannot be given an object and be told by someone external that they will use this are their transitional object. The last quality Winnicott describes is the loss of importance the transitional object is subjected to. The child losses its need and dependency on the transitional object as it grows older and develops other relationships with family members and people outside of them and the mother. Winnicott also uses the idea of a good-enough mother as being crucial to proper childhood development. Agood-enough mother does not have to be the infant’s real mother but rather a person who has been there and is actively adapting to the infant’s needs completely until Caitlin Kemmett- 6087806 Contemporary Issues in the Psychology of Religion Final Exam 4 she is no longer needed and adapts less and less. The mother, parent or caregiver does not need to dote on the child but rather be there for the child and protect the child from the extremes (distress and discomfort). If the good-enough mother fails to be there Winnicott believes the child will default to compliant behaviour and desires. The good-enough mother must maintain an omnipotent presence for the child. For example a when an infant is hungry, they are not left hungry for an extended period of time. Psychoanalysis through playing was highly influenced by Klein and then adopted by Winnicott among others to aid in the understanding a child’s development and psyche. Winnicott himself states that “playing must be spontaneous (65)” in order to achieve a successful psychotherapy. Through this spontaneous playing the child will also surprise and analyze themselves rather than the analysis jumping to clever conclusions. Winnicott also notes in his chapter that it is important to play freely with a child because then you can discover a child’s true nature. If as analyst you are open to the playing then a child will feed off that “energy” and play with you without hesitation. Playing for Winnicott is based on the idea of trust on the child’s part with the analyst and the area the play is being conducted. Playing also involves the physical for Winnicott it is the manipulation of objects; a child cannot will a toy to interact according to their thoughts. This expands on the idea that play must be an external act to allow the child to explore their different fantasies and desires. The act of play also is tantalising for the child, whether it is exploring sexual desires/frustrations it also helps to satisfy the child even when the child become anxious. The final theory Winnicott describes, which I think is important and pretty ground breaking is the idea of self. Yes shortly before Freud had theorized the different levels of self Caitlin Kemmett- 6087806 Contemporary Issues in the Psychology of Religion Final Exam 5 being the id, ego and super ego, Winnicott’s definition was less concrete as Freud made his seem. There is a search for the self, the personality you have which is “only in being creative that the individual discovers the self (69)”. Winnicott unlike Klein believes that any creativity and searching with “waster product [involved] is a search that is doomed to be never-ending and essentially unsuccessful (69)”. A clever analyst is a recurring thought in Winnicott’s book Playing and Reality, he uses this term as a way to make his book perhaps sound more like a handbook with case studies thrown in rather than a compiled book of his essays. 2. In the article by Cheryl Lynn Ross and Mary Ellen Ross titled “Mothers, Infants, and the Psychoanalytic Study of Religion” the practice of mass and organized religion as a whole has overtones of patriarchal archetypes. Both Ross and Ross use many Freudian, Kleinian and Winnicott idea of the transformational object as examples to demonstrate just how situated the institution is in psychoanalytical categories. Summarized by Kelley Raab briefly their article “offers a psychoanalytic interpretation of ritual that includes pre-Oedipal period when the mother is critical (Raab, 88)”. Ross and Ross find many places within the practice of Mass which can be deconstructed psychoanalytically. They use Turner’s concept of liminal stage and the effects it has on practitioners of the religion, his concept can be used to explain rituals as a whole. The idea that “ceremonial observances are not only repetitive and anxious- they are creative and playful as well (Ross and Ross 92)”. They also suggest in the article that Freud understands religions “in terms of the struggle between father and son (Ross and Ross 91)”. There are also “overt symbolisms of sexuality and hostility between the sexes (Ross and Ross 93)” in the ritual that is mass. This idea is developed in Raab’s article “Toward a Psychology of the Eucharist” women’s position and responsibility in the sacrament of the Eucharist or rather lack thereof. Caitlin Kemmett- 6087806 Contemporary Issues in the Psychology of Religion Final Exam 6 Where the issue lies for Ross and Ross is in the ambivalence present in the sacrament of mass. They use Winnicott’s thought of connecting ritual and “preodipal issues that offer the means to extend Freud’s interpretation of ritual’s significance (Ross and Ross 95).” The ideal that Christ, God and the holy spirit is above and beyond us creates this omnipotence yet powerlessness through the consumption of the body and blood of Christ during the sacrament. Mass creates ambivalence through the consumption and destruction of God as a transcendent and ambivalent character himself. The very male orientated mass ceremony is the main point Ross and Ross were trying to explore and bring to the surface for the reader. Through the male leading the mass, to the consumption of a male through the Eucharist and seeking forgiveness through a male figure a person is transfixed in an Oedipus complex. In Raab’s article this male orientated ritual is questioned and explored thoroughly. She summarizes Ross and Ross’essay and further develops some concepts presented in the essay which demanded to by explored for clarification. The ritual is attempting to achieve three different goals, according to Raab, the first is to re-attain union with the early mother, the second is to separate from her and finally to repair a relationship with her. The unconscious origin of the Eucharist for Raab is deeply rooted in psychological theories but can also be described as a person’s seeking to return to a time of breast feeding. The separation felt during the weaning period deeply affects the child which spurs the need to re- create this action in different facets. Every weekend a person participating in Mass and specifically the acceptance of the Eucharist aids a person deal with the traumatization weaning created. Caitlin Kemmett- 6087806 Contemporary Issues in the Psychology of Religion Final Exam 7 3.Transformational object according to Bollas’the first object the infant identifies as a reoccurring experience. He presents his ideas on the transitional object in an article of the same name and how it is applied to an actual client he had treated in the past. The transformational object is “sought for its function as signifier of the process of transformation of being (Bollas, 84)”. For Bollas it is important to understand that the presence of the transformational object results in an ego change. The mother for example can be a transformational object because for the baby she is who/what actually changes the infant’s world through feeding, changing and even movement to different rooms or places.As with Winnicott Bollas believes the absence of a mother is what helps shape an unhealthy person and leads to “ego collapse and psychic pain (85)”. Atransformational for Bollas is not stagnant and does develop as the person does exemplified in his search for the transitional object in adults. Bollas outlines the transitional object as being in someone’s future yet searched for as a solution for present situations. He also borrows from Klein’s idea of splitting which the transformations object “serve to split the bad self away from the subject’s cognitive knowledge […] object relations that is associated with ego transformation and repair (88)”. The transformational object cannot fix a person but we believe, wish and hope that it may make us the “best self we can be”. Bollas uses a clinical study to help explain the positive effects of a transitional object on what appears to be a man who is depressed but Bollas suggests it goes deeper than that. Peter as Bollas explains him and his case. Peter is a patient who has a “wealth of ego strengths (intelligence, talent, accomplishment, success) but who is personally bereft and sad without being clinically depressed (89)”. He also makes note that Peter’s depression began shortly after his girlfriend had left him and he developed an “inexorable sadness and personal loneliness (89)”. Bollas suggests that one of the reasons Peter was depressed is because of his relationship Caitlin Kemmett- 6087806 Contemporary Issues in the Psychology of Religion Final Exam 8 with his mother, she considered him as a mythical object rather than her child when he was younger. Bollas details this as the mother “she cared for Peter, investing all her liveliness towards him
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