Opportunity for illusion

The mother, at the beginning, by an almost 100 per cent adaptation affords the infant the opportunity for the illusion that her breast is part of the infant. It is, as it were, under the baby’s magical control. The same can be said in terms of infant care in general, in the quiet times between the excitements. The mother’s eventual task is gradually to disillusion the infant, but she has no hope of success unless at first she has been able to give sufficient opportunity for illusion.

D.W. Winnicott, quoted in Mark Epstein’s The Trauma of Everyday Life

The idea of the necessity of healthy, developmental disillusion (“growing up”) being preceded by an adequate period of illusion (of mother-child “oneness”) makes sense. There must be a solid foundation for the experience of acclimating to reality, a foundation the nature of which is a negation of that reality. Like a fundamental bundle of strength and energy afford by the mother-child relationship, which enables the child to navigate an indifferent world.

About Ben

I'm a young person living in Portland, Maine with abiding interests in philosophy, community, and how to lead a good life in the modern world.
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2 Responses to Opportunity for illusion

  1. Mickey Foley says:

    That’s an interesting point about the foundation being a negation of the reality. It’s like saying that we are all alone and yet none of us is alone.


  2. Ben says:

    Right. We’re not alone because we all, to some degree, participate in and sustain the illusion of oneness.


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