Jesus and Object-Use: A Winnicottian Account of the Resurrection Myth

By Hopkins, Brooke | PSYART, January 1, 2006 | Go to article overview

Jesus and Object-Use: A Winnicottian Account of the Resurrection Myth


Hopkins, Brooke, PSYART


This paper accounts for the power of the resurrection myth in terms of Winnicott's theories of early development, particularly the "development of the capacity for concern" and the idea of "object-use" that grew out of it. The myth of the resurrection allows those who participate in it to reenact basic developmental processes, beginning with the infant's relation to its mother and extending to transference relationships of other sorts, which can lead to the capacity to "use" objects (persons or things). For the believer, Jesus represents the object of destructive attacks who has, somehow, miraculously survived those attacks and has in the process become the symbol of "object-constancy." He can be "used...can feed back other-than-me substance into" those who have attained the capacity to "use" him. The myth enables believers to acknowledge their own destructiveness while at the same time enabling them to live life more fully in "a world of objects...a world of shared reality." The sacrament of the Eucharist is seen as partly reenacting this process.

keywords: Winnicott, resurrection, Jesus, object relations, Eucharist

url: http://www.clas.ufl.edu/ipsa/journal/2006_hopkins01.shtml

"The key to the reading of the gospels is that it is necessary to project in order to receive."

Dolto and Severin, The Jesus of Psychoanalyis

No one will deny, I think, the centrality of the myth of the resurrection in Christian theology. To be sure, accounts of Chistianity are as various as the spectrum, but if Christians can be said to be united in anything, it is in the belief that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, died, buried, and rose again in the flesh, both to forgive men for the sins they had committed and to proclaim his eternal love.1 This is the central event in Christian history, the event that is commemorated and reenacted in an endless variety of communal and private contexts by Christians throughout the world. Regardless of the objective truth of this account it would be hard to deny its deep emotional and psychological appeal for millions of believers. That appeal, however, has never been adequately explained in emotional and psychological terms, and this is what I would like to try to do here.

The purpose of this essay, then, will be to offer an account of the resurrection myth. The terms of that account will be psychoanalytic, largely Winnicottian, in character. This is not only because Winnicott's work tends to be far more sympathetic to the role played by cultural and religious phenomena in human development than Freud's does (Meissner 1984). It is also because Winnicott's writing, particularly his writing on the paradoxical role of aggressive and destructive impulses in human development, sheds direct light on the processes dramatized by the myth itself-specifically, the destructiveness embodied by the act of crucifixion and the central fact of Jesus' reappearance, his acceptance of the world that tried to destroy him. These seem to reflect developmental processes Winnicott describes as leading to the capacity to "use" objects (1969: 86), that is, the capacity to experience them as separate from oneself, as reliable and constant despite their separateness. Of course, Winnicott's work itself does not stand wholly outside the circle of cultural influence. And, while he tends to disapprove of many aspects of Christian morality, particularly that which "continues to create and recreate God as a place to put that which is good in [man] himself, and which he might spoil if he kept it in himself along with all the hate and destructiveness which is also to be found there" (1963a:94), it might be the case that his underlying conception of infant and adult relationships is formed and influenced by-perhaps even drawn out of-a tradition in which destructiveness, rejection, aggression, and yet survival and forgivenmess are central themes. If so, this is simply another version of the hermeneutic circle. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Jesus and Object-Use: A Winnicottian Account of the Resurrection Myth
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.