Jiandanxinli Uni

Brazilian Society of Winnicottian Psychoanalysis (SBPW)
International Winnicott Association (IWA)
Jiandanxinli Uni
September 17th, 2020 to December 3rd, 2020

Winnicott’s natural and professional environments. An introduction to an essential element of Winnicott’s revolutionary program for understanding and treating mental health disorders

Z. Loparic

General introduction 

This Course is a continuation of an earlier one delivered under the title, “Winnicott’s Wheel of Life: Introduction to a revolutionary program for treating mental health disorders”. This course has the same general objective, which is to present an outline of one of most significant recent developments for the treatment of mental disorders, one rich in possibilities for new research and applications. It is based on the contributions of D.W. Winnicott, the British pediatrician, psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and social worker, which amount to a new independent revolutionary program in the fields of mental health care he was active in. Winnicott’s engagement in the wide-ranging revolutionary research was motivated by two things he had learned from his patients: 1) the disorders he was treating in any one of these fields had in common that they were all related to interruptions of the maturational processes of individual human beings which are due to failures in the relationship with other human beings, that is to say, with the human environment; and 2) traditional research and treatment programs were ineffective in helping individuals in this kind of troubles. The program that Winnicott produced was based on the results of his research on the following three points: 1) what happens in human development at successive stages of human life as the WHEEL OF LIFE turns from conception to death, 2) what may go wrong, and how, in growth and development, and 3) what can be done about it and how to provide for the needs of individuals who have suffered maturational breakdown. The specific objective of this course is to offer a more detailed study of an essential aspects of the topic 1), namely, the various kinds and the stages of development, as well as the therapeutic use of environments. It is hoped that by addressing this specific topic in an orderly and articulated fashion, the course will provide professionals in the fields of mental health care mentioned above (pediatrics, child psychiatry, psychoanalysis, psychiatric social work) – as well as the general public, including parents and teachers – deep insights into Winnicott’s clinical theory and practice.

Lecture 1. A revolutionary move: environment theory and environment-based therapy 
Summary. This lecture will present Winnicott’s general views on environments and environmental relationships. In particular, it will deal with:1) the classification of environments, 2) their creation and development during the maturational processes, 3) their extension, 4) the dependence of individuals and groups on environments, 5) the function of environments as conditions of possibility of environmental relationships of different kinds, and, in particular, 6) object relations. This last point will be used to establish comparisons with traditional object relations theory and to highlight the theoretical novelty, the therapeutic relevance and the philosophical dimensions of Winnicott’s views. The case of the cigarette woman will exemplify environment dependence in real life and in the setting (a relationship different from the pleasures one seeks in consonance with the pleasure principle).


Winnicott, D.W. 1954/1988a, Human Nature, Introduction to Part I. Part I and Part IV, Chapter 10. 
Winnicott, D.W. 1965b: The Family and Individual Development, Part I. 
Loparic, Z. 2013. “From Freud to Winnicott: Aspects of a Paradigm Change”. In Abram, J. (Ed.), 2013: Donald Winnicott Today, pp. 113-156. London: Routledge. Available online in Loparic Collection.
Loparic, Z. 2017. “Achievements of Winnicott’s Revolution”. In Loparic, Z. & Ribeiro, C. V. (Eds.) 2017: Winnicott and the Future of Psychoanalysis. São Paulo: DWW editorial. Available online in Loparic Collection.
Loparic, Z. 2018. “Winnicott’s Paradigm Shift in Psychoanalytic Theory and Practice”. In Joyce, A. (Ed.) 2018: Donald Winnicott and the History of the PresentUnderstanding the Man and his Work. London: Karnac. Available online in Loparic Collection.

Lecture 2. Physical environments. Physical nature and the body as environments
Summary. Winnicott’s ideas on this topic will be developed beginning with his concept of human animal, a creature that can only start to exist, develop and attain fulfilment if facilitated by various kinds of environments. The lecture will focus on the human animal insofar as it is dependent on, 1) nature as a whole, to begin with, 2) the traditional fundamental elements of material world: the Western: air, water, fire and earth or the Chinese: wood, fire, earth, metal and water, 3) the living world of plants and animals (food); 4) the mother’s living body, its parts (womb, arms, breasts), unity and functioning; 5) one’s own living body(moving and at rest) its parts, unity and functioning. The Margaret Little case will be used as illustration.


Winnicott, D.W. 1954/1988a, Human Nature, General Introduction. Part IV, Chapter 10.

Lecture 3. The early environment-mother. Care
Summary. Human beings are essentially dependent on personal and social environments to start to be, go-on-being and develop as existers. The first non-physical environments are 1) the good enough mother or the mother’s lap (to be analyzed in this lecture), and 2) the benign circle maintained in movement by the mother – both favoring two-person mother-baby relationships (see Lecture 4). The mother’s lap, which provides holding and handling and the opportunity to have the mother as a personal or subjective object, is the needed facilitating environment in the stages of the first maturational period of absolute dependence. This environment is the model for Winnicott’s general theory of environments. The cases of the twin women (1958, pp. 167) and of the woman who dreamt of a tortoise will illustrate Winnicott’s theory of maternal care and its relevance for therapeutic practice.


Dias, E. O. 2016. Winnicott’s Theory of the Maturational Processes. London: Karnac. Chapter 2. (Chinese translation to be published soon.)

Winnicott, D.W. 1965a: The Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment, Chapters 3 and17.

Lecture 4. The benign circle: living together with the mother and the father
Summary. The benign circle is an environment established in the period of relative dependence and provided by the mother; it later becomes an external environment maintained by the family. In two-person relationships with the mother, the child further develops its personality structure, the capacity for concern and for tolerating conflicts of ambivalence, as well as its sense of responsibility. The lecture will be illustrated by the case of a two-year-old boy (1965a, p. 231 and 254-255) and by the case of Joan (1965a, p. 21; 1996, p. 69).


Winnicott, D.W. 1954/1988a, Human Nature, Part III.

Winnicott, D.W. 1958. Through Paediatrics to Psychoanalysis, Chapter 21.

Lecture 5. The family environment
Summary. The family is the first natural social group. It is created by individual children themselves in order to see attended their maturational needs that arise in the stage of concern. Families facilitate and strengthen the personality structure, the capacity for concern and for tolerance, the onset of three-person relationships, and a range of new developments: personal loyalty, rivalry related to various kinds of instinctual urges, a sense of reality in three-person relationships. Family also provides the home, the first external environment where the child is safe to be, where we all start from and to where we can return in order to reassure and even protect ourselves, (as can be seen by our confinement to our home as a shelter during the current pandemic). The case of the woman who was always fantasying will be used as illustration (Playing and Reality, ch. 2).


Winnicott, D.W. 1958. Home is where we start from. Chapter: “The Child in the Family Group”.

Winnicott, D.W. 1965a. Playing and reality, Chapter 2

Winnicott, D.W. 1965a: The Family and Individual Development, Part I. 

Lecture 6. Other social environments
Summary. The creation of the family environment is followed by a series of environments that make possible many-person relationships: adoptive families, schools, groups, national and international societies, and eventually humankind and human history. All are important for the maturational processes to go on and are an essential reference for Winnicott’s theory of late maturational disorders. Cases: 1996, chap.14 (school) and 17 (adoption).


Winnicott, D.W. 1958. Through Paediatrics to Psychoanalysis, Chapters 21 and 25.

Winnicott, D.W. 1984. Deprivation and Delinquency. Part II.

Lecture 7. Cultural environments
Summary. Cultural environments are constituted by the same general inherited structures (languages and traditional world views, for instance) found in mythology, religion, arts and philosophy. Although these views have changed and been further developed into more recent scientific, economic and political traditions, they all exert decisive influence on the structure and functioning of the personal and social environments studied in previous lectures and they all are strongly present in the professional environments to be studied next.

 The illustrative case is the article “Freedom” in Home is where we start from.


Winnicott, D.W. 1958. Home is where we start from. Several chapters.
Winnicott, D.W. 1965a: The Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment, Chapters 8.

Winnicott, D.W. 1971. Playing and Reality. Chapters 4, 5, 7 and 8.

Lecture 8. Individual, natural and professional treatment environments
Summary. When ill, human individual has to must rely on natural environments and, even more importantly, on professional environments or settings, which can be individual, social (community) or combined environments. In turn, the establishment of professional environments is patterned on the natural maternal, parental and family environments. Individual professional environments are based mainly on two-person relationships developed in the environment-mother and in the benign circle environment, and are made possible by cross-identifications. The illustrations will be: case 1989, ch.19 and the case of a baby girl who bit Winnicott (1958, pp. 55-56).


Winnicott, D.W. 1958. Through Paediatrics to Psychoanalysis, Chapter 4 and 22.

Winnicott, D.W. 1965a: The Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment, Chapters 14, 15, 17 and 20.
Winnicott, D.W. 1989. Psychoanalytic Explorations, Chapter 19.

Lecture 9. Social, professional and natural therapeutic environments
Summary. Models for the Winnicottian professional community’s social and institutional settings are the natural three-person parental environments (families) and the multiple-person family and group environments. As a continuation of the previous course, it will be shown in greater detail how these environments enable care-cure, a typical Winnicottian therapeutic procedure that in many ways reproduces the early and even the earliest mothering techniques and comprises the summation of all details of the management of maturational needs. Care-cure can be usefully combined with orthodox standard analysis. New material will also be provided on the prevention of maturational disorders. Case: Margaret Little in the hospital.


Winnicott, D.W. 1958. Through Paediatrics to Psychoanalysis, Chapter 22.

Winnicott, D.W. 1984. Deprivation and Delinquency. Chapter 26. 

Lecture 10. Virtual environments in everyday life and in therapy
Summary.  Virtual environments have now become important spaces for everyday life and activities. Besides discussing the nature of these spaces, the lecture will consider their use in 1) data gathering, 2) interpersonal and social communication, and 3) teaching. These developments will be examined from the perspective of Winnicott’s theory of environments. The lecture will also address the use of virtual environments in health care, both in strictly medical therapeutics and in other kinds of treatment,  emphasizing communication within virtual therapeutical settings and, in particular, the treatment of maturational problems from Winnicott’s perspective. The Piggle case – will illustrate working with parents remotely and on demand.

Winnicott, D.W. 1980. The Piggle.