A love relationship between the child and his teddy bear


Osho speaks on the significance of a teddy bear for a child and also refers to the work of Donald Winnicott (7 April 1896 – 25 January 1971).

Osho with Afghan hat

One psychologist, Winnicott, has been working with a particular problem with small children for many years, and he has discovered many beautiful things. They are pertinent.

You may have watched small children with their teddy bear, or their toy, their special toy, or their blanket, or something that has a special personality to the child. The teddy bear… you cannot replace the teddy bear. You may say that you can find a better one, but that doesn’t matter. There is a love relationship between the child and his teddy bear. His teddy bear is unique; you cannot replace it. It becomes dirty, it becomes smelly, rotten, but the child goes on carrying it. You cannot find a new one, a fresh one. Even parents have to tolerate it. Even they have to respect, because a child feels offended. If the parents are going to travel, they have to tolerate the teddy bear also; they have to treat it almost as a member of the family. They know this is foolish, but for the child it has significance.

What significance does the teddy bear have for the child? It is objective in a way. It is there, outside the child; it is part of reality. Certainly it is not just imagination, it is not just subjective; it is not a dream, it is there. But it is not totally there; many of the child’s dreams are involved in it. It is object, objective, but much subjectivity is involved in it. For the child it is almost alive. The child has projected many things onto the teddy bear. He talks to the teddy bear, sometimes he becomes angry and throws it away, then says, ‘I am sorry’ and takes it back. It has a personality, almost human. Without the teddy bear he cannot go to sleep. Holding, hugging, he goes to sleep; he feels secure. With the teddy bear the world is okay, everything is okay. Without the teddy bear he is suddenly alone.

So the teddy bear exists in a totally new dimension which is neither subjective nor objective. Winnicott calls it ‘the transitory realm’: a little objective and a little subjective. Many children grow physically, but they never grow spiritually, and they need teddy bears all their lives. Your images of God in the temple are nothing but teddy bears.

Osho, The Beloved, Vol 2, Ch 5

Donald WinnicottDonald Woods Winnicott FRCP was an English paediatrician and psychoanalyst who was especially influential in the field of object relations theory and developmental psychology. He was a leading member of the British Independent Group of the British Psychoanalytical Society, and two-times President of the British Psychoanalytical Society.

Winnicott is best known for his ideas on the true self and false self, the “good enough” parent, and borrowed from his second wife, Clare Winnicott, arguably his chief professional collaborator, the notion of the transitional object. He wrote several books, including Playing and Reality, and over 200 papers.

One of the elements that Winnicott considered could be lost in childhood was what he called the sense of being – for him, a primary element, of which a sense of doing is only a derivative. The capacity for being – the ability to feel genuinely alive inside, which Winnicott saw as essential to the maintenance of a true self – was fostered in his view by the practice of childhood play.

Winnicott considered that playing was the key to emotional and psychological well-being. By “playing”, he meant not only the ways that children of all ages play, but also the way adults “play” through making art, or engaging in sports, hobbies, humour, meaningful conversation, etc. At any age, he saw play as crucial to the development of authentic selfhood, because when people play they feel real, spontaneous and alive, and keenly interested in what they’re doing.

Playing can also be seen in the use of a transitional object, Winnicott’s term for an object, such as a teddy bear, that has a quality for a small child of being both real and made-up at the same time. Winnicott pointed out that no one demands that a toddler explain whether his Binky is a “real bear” or a creation of the child’s own imagination, and went on to argue that it’s very important that the child is allowed to experience the Binky as being in an undefined, “transitional” status between the child’s imagination and the real world outside the child.

For Winnicott, one of the most important and precarious stages of development was in the first three years of life, when an infant grows into a child with an increasingly separate sense of self in relation to a larger world of other people. In health, the child learns to bring his or her spontaneous, real self into play with others; in a false self disorder, the child has found it unsafe or impossible to do so, and instead feels compelled to hide the true self from other people, and pretend to be whatever they want instead.

Playing for Winnicott ultimately extended all the way up from earliest childhood experience to what he called “the abstractions of politics and economics and philosophy and culture…this ‘third area’, that of cultural experience which is a derivative of play.”

Thanks to Antar Marc

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