chapter  9
23 Pages

Weaving with the world

Winnicott’s reimagining of reality

One way to read D. W. Winnicott's theory of primary creativity is as a reimagining of what it means for the individual to have contact with external reality. Winnicott reshapes Freud's reality and pleasure principles in accordance with his own sensibility. As Winnicott struggled with the "inherent difficulty in regard to human contact with external reality", he came to conceive psychic life as imbued with a vigor he called imaginative elaboration or primary creativity. What makes contact with reality "inherently difficult", from Winnicott's point of view, is not that it frustrates. Rather, the difficulty resides in the perpetual strain of keeping inner dream life and outer perceptions separate yet interrelated, so that meaningfulness emerges spontaneously from what is created and found. The importance Winnicott places on primary creativity signals a shift in emphasis within psychoanalysis from patterns of frustration, gratification, and sublimation to the way a developing person meaningfully weaves with and is woven into the world.