by admin on September 10, 2011

linus' blanket/hat

here is another one of esme’s rather way-out (but possibly onto-something) ideas:  clothes as transitional objects.  the transitional object is a psychoanalytic concept that is both simpler and more complex than you might imagine.  it was coined by d.w. winnicott.  esme referred to this concept when she introduced her old stuffed animal, peppy, last week.  any of you who have kids (or remember your own childhood) will know how common it is for a young child to have something like linnus’ blanky.  i’ll bet you can list a few right off the bat.  while esme had peppy, christophe had a tattered blanket he called a wou-wee (now stored safely in the attic).  this is a transitional object.  that’s the simple part.

the part that becomes a bit more esoteric is the function that the transitional object serves.  essentially, it is a mother -substitute, used by the child to comfort itself when the mother is absent.  it is traditionally something soft and cuddly.  it also helps the child separate from the mother, and gain it’s own identity.  it serves as a kind of middle ground between the self and the other (the “me and the not me”).

are you starting to see how esme might connect this idea to clothing?  clothing is (usually) soft, protective, and quite literally defines the boundary between oneself and the outside world.  it mediates between one’s skin and everything outside one’s skin.  here are the characteristics of a transitional object:

the infant has total rights/control over it

it may be cuddled, loved or even mutilated (!)

only the infant can change it

it has warmth or vitality that implies a type of aliveness

it is real (not a hallucination or a dream)

it loses meaning over time

it is eventually relegated to a limbo where it is neither forgotten nor mourned (esme’s attic??)

in addition, winnicott suggests that the transitional object is one of the child’s first acts of  imagination, and is thus connected to creativity.

esme would imagine that clothing does not necessarily serve as a transitional object for everyone.  but for those of us who are a bit obsessed with it, perhaps it serves the deeper psychological functions of defining our bodily boundaries and providing a measure of comfort.  indeed, clothing design as well as the assemblage of each day’s outfit are certainly creative acts.

one could wonder as to the meaning of form-fitting clothes (boundaries) versus loose clothing (boundaries); clothing that invites touch versus clothing that recalls body-armour; the fact that we discard our clothes when becoming most intimate with another human being…….

and listen to this:  whenever i take off hunter’s collar, he sniffs and licks it as though it’s a part of himself that’s missing.  do dogs have transitional objects?

thoughts about this one, readers???

very transitionally,


note:  esme is apparently not the only person who has made this connection:  check this OUT– !



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