If we have no sense of our boundary as a baby then we are in a strange way limitless. Winnicott sees this as a characteristic of transitional experiencing and calls it a sense of freedom where the limitlessness is a sense of wholeness. Of course he also separately wrote about a sense of falling apart and how feeling contained by the sense of one’s self is of course helpful to functioning in the world.
In his analysis of transitional experiencing Winnicott saw how the realisation of the other person or of an object outside oneself, what he called the ‘not-me’ can bring with it a sense of aliveness where the other/object is felt as real as well. This he also saw as a sense of freedom, albeit of a different order, with the realisation that if there is another person or something outside of ourselves there is an excitement about how we can relate to this other thing or person.
Winnicott using the analytic jargon called this ‘object usage’ and saw it as a creative action that contributes to a sense of trust and faith. This he thought particularly crucial if the object survived what he called our destructive attacks. In other words if the chewed teddy bear remains intact or the mothering person returns with more food even if the baby has felt anger and rage and so on it all helps to build up trust and faith. Winnicott famously replaced a vase that a patient smashed with an exact replica by the time of the next session so that the patient would know that the object survived her destructive attacks. An action incidentally that has been greatly debated.
So again, it seems possible to play with these analytic ideas in the context of religious belief and a relationship with the Divine. Returning from a state of limitlessness, which can happen in deep meditation, we may have felt at-one with God. But then there are times when God feels completely exterior or irrelevant, in other words we have in a way destroyed or crucified him for our own ends. Perhaps in a tangible way this might happen by ridiculing belief or denigrating others or whatever or just through neglect, obliterating any sense of the Divine in the face of more important things going on.
Yet we are told that these separations can be forgiven and that God has not been destroyed by our actions. Is this one of the symbolic meaning of the cross and resurrection? That the worst that can be done has been done but it is not the end. In this way God becomes the ‘Other’ outside one’s grasp that survives as imperishable.
There is a paradox here and noted in Winnicott’s writings where he saw that profound vulnerability and saving indestructibility bring the paradox of faith to a new level. His most memorable expression of faith is found in this quote:
“The subject says to the object: ‘I destroyed you,’ and the object is there to receive the communication. From now on the subject says: ‘Hello object!’ ‘I destroyed you.’ ‘I love you.’ ‘ You have value for me because of your survival of my destruction of you.’ ‘While I am loving you I am all the time destroying you in (unconscious) fantasy.’”
This brings a deeper understanding to thoughts of redemption and forgiveness.