Donald Winnicott and Stephen Mitchell’s Developmental Tilt Hypothesis Reconsidered
by Steven H. Cooper, PhD
In this paper, the author revisits Stephen Mitchell’s important developmental tilt hypothesis in light of his treatment of Winnicott’s most creative contributions to psychoanalysis. It is the author’s contention that neither Winnicott’s focus on play as the central factor in the therapeutic action of psychoanalysis nor his role, along with Bion, of creating an ontological turn in psychoanalysis were accounted for in Mitchell’s reading of Winnicott. The author argues that in Mitchell’s useful attempt to redress some of the ways that regression had been concretized in psychoanalytic practice and theory, he overlooked Winnicott’s complex view of holding and the mutual elements of regression that occur between patient and analyst in play. Play embodies tensions between the symmetrical and asymmetrical elements of the analytic relationship in ways that Mitchell did not consider in his developmental tilt hypothesis.
Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 31(3), 355-370, June 2021.
Discussion of this article can be found in the following publications:
- Benjamin, J. (2021). Tilting Back Toward Development: Response to Steven Cooper’s “Donald Winnicott and Stephen Mitchell’s Developmental Tilt Hypothesis Reconsidered”. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 31(3), 371-380.
- Swartz, S. (2021). Tilts and Drives: Commentary on “Donald Winnicott and Stephen Mitchell’s Developmental Tilt Hypothesis Reconsidered” by Steven Cooper. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 31(3), 381-388.
- Coony, A.S. (2021). Polemics and Play: Reflections on Cooper and the Development Tilt. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 31(3), 389-395.
- Cooper, S. H. (2021). The Collision between Comparative Theory and Dialectical Thinking: Response to Benjamin, Schwartz Cooney, and Swartz. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 31(3), 396-406.
About the Author
Steven H. Cooper, PhD, is a psychoanalyst and teacher well known internationally for his interest in integrating independent, Kleinian and relational thinking in his clinical work and writing. He is the author of The Analyst’s Experience of the Depressive Position: The Melancholic Errand of Psychoanalysis (2016), Disturbance in the Field: Essays in Transference-Countertransference Engagement (2010), and Objects of Hope: Exploring Possibility and Limit in Psychoanalysis (2000). He has a forthcoming book to be published by Routledge in 2021, Playing and Becoming in Psychoanalysis. A Training and Supervising Analyst at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, he is also Associate Professor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Co-Chief Editor Emeritus at Psychoanalytic Dialogues.
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