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Where Objects Were, Subjects Now May Be: The Work of Jessica Benjamin and Reimagining Maternal Subjectivity in Transitional Space

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Challenging an all-too-pervasive failure of imagination regarding the maternal, Jessica Benjamin’s position on recognition changes how we may understand what is possible in the relationships of parents with children, analysts with patients. From this perspective, the experience of recognition is always two-way, so that each person needs to be able to apprehend something of the internality of her partner to feel this other can really see her for who she is, what she feels. This more fully inhabited maternal subjectivity translates to an analytic subjectivity neither deleted nor insistently re-presented, but, rather, responsive to the interplay of oneself in relation to the shifting qualities of relatedness with each specific patient—a subjectivity in responsive relatedness. This article makes use of clinical, personal, and literary examples to explore some of the implications for this enriched view of maternal subjectivity, with a specific focus on expanding Winnicott’s position on transitional objects and transitional experience. It is suggested that it is a particular kind of inhabited subjectivity—one that can be felt and valued as such by the patient—that distinguishes a relational clinical sensibility from others variants of psychoanalytic work.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 17, 2019

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