Sacred Objects as Vital Objects: Transitional Objects Reconsidered

Volume 26
Summer 1998
Sacred Objects as Vital Objects: Transitional Objects Reconsidered

In this essay I argue that the concept of transitional objects in Winnicott'€™s psychoanalytic developmental theory and Rizzuto'€™s perspective regarding God representations in human life, though helpful, is inadequate for understanding and explaining the complex roles, functions, and characteristics of sacred objects and practices in adult life. Transitional objects of infancy and early childhood, which represent a movement from merger to shared existence, from primary process to secondary process thinking, from fantasy to reality, are idiosyncratic and are substantially different from the sacred objects many adults share. I argue that an expanded depiction of Winnicott'€™s concept, transitional object, provides an understanding of the vital role or functions of sacred objects in everyday existence and in interpersonal relations. I suggest that sacred objects and practices in adult life may be conceptualized as vital objects or phenomena when they (a) furnish believers with an unconscious belief in omnipotence for the sake of the construction and organization of subjective and intersubjective experiences and reality; (b) provide a subjective and intersubjective sense of identity, continuity, and cohesion; (e) serve as opportunities for spontaneity and creativity; (d) supply comfort and security for persons and communities during periods of anxiety.

Dr. R. LaMothe
159 - 167
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