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  • Rudy Bauer

Transitionnal Space and Relatedness

By Rudolph Bauer, Ph.D., Diplomate in Clinical Psychology, A.B.P.P.


Transitional Space and Relatedness

1.  Today I  will focus on transitional awareness….or what is also called by some, the intermediate area of experience …or even potential space…transitional space or non- conceptual experience…experience beyond words and letters and yet, can be at times, articulated in words and letters…these are private experiences that can shared and communicated.

2.  Winnicott’s understanding of transitional space was elaborated by him throughout his life, and also by his students. This area of intermediate experience is also elaborated by continental philosophy and phenomenology through Heidegger and Merleau Ponty, as well as some the meditative traditions such as Dzogchen Tibetan Buddhism, certain forms of Chinese qi gong, and Hindu Shaivism.

3.  You may wonder whether Winnicott discovered this dimension of human experience    or invented it...this is always a question, what is invented and what is discovered...this paradox of discovery and invention…this is always a question.

4.  For Winnicott and as expressed by his student Masuda Khan, the sense of subjectivity floats…subjectivity is a floating metaphor... for many, subjectivity is located in the mind…or even functions of the mind such as  thinking, feeling, sensation, fantasy, and memory. Subjectivity is located in the ego functions as well as the internalizations as representations…representational internalizations….internal object schemas.

5.  Nonetheless, in time, a person may become aware of their own mind…as mind. For Winnicott, without such awareness, much change may be impossible. Without such recognition that I am not the function of the mind and become aware of my own mind...one’s own thinking, fantasizing, memory, affective states…this experience of awareness creates transitional space and shifts the sense of subjectivity to awareness itself…so one is in awareness but focused on the mind...this intermediate area of experience…in the meditative traditions this would be called mindfulness. One is in awareness, but focuses on the functions of the mind.

Beyond witness consciousness

6. For Winnicott, this awareness of mind can make a further and dramatic  shift wherein a person becomes aware of awareness itself, or one enters  more deeply into transitional awareness …transitional  space….in between thinking and feeling, sensation and memory, reality and fantasy. This intermediate area of experience…in a word, a person has become aware of awareness itself…or within transitional awareness one becomes aware of the transitional space and its corresponding states of relatedness. Transitional is not only within me but between me and you. The importance of transitional space and intermediate area of experiencing is foundational for experiencing a basic sense of self and sense of continuity of self. The father of phenomenology, Husserl, would often say, “What is the wonder of all wonders? Pure awareness and the doorway is our own subjectivity.”

7. Transitional space is not only an internal experience but actually extends beyond the internalized state into the world, into otherness, so you have not simply an interpersonal experience or objective interpersonal relationship, but transitional states of relatedness, or intersubjective states of relatedness. These states can enhance the sense of oneness and stability…of self and oneness and continuity of self over time…the in between is not only within but outside between us.

Cognitive style orients us

8.  Sometimes this transitional relatedness is languaged …actually, this intimacy with one’s own self can be facilitated by being in the company of another…who functions as a transitional object, or to use the language of self psychologist, a self object….in this context, language helps in meditating the relatedness but the actual experience is beyond words and is essentially non-conceptual…or prereflective…..silent; and not essentially affective..

9.  In the meditative traditions there is a remarkably similar process of entering intermediate states… in the beginning, a person is located within the mind and functions of the mind and then the next step a person becomes aware of mind, and then becomes aware of awareness…and within this experience, the sense of awareness of awareness is expressed as a field phenomena...that goes beyond the body mind continuum….these are the different phases of meditation… 

10. I would like to describe the space of transition as this dimension appears in our life experience...whether in therapy, meditative awareness, or even cultural aesthetic experience...or in the experience of play in its many forms.

Each phase of mind and awareness continuum makes contributions to the transformation and continuity of experience.

11.  The spaciousness of the experience provides a sense of the base that is not simply cognitive or representational…..this base is a prereflective or non-conceptual  knowingness….a felt sense ….not necessarily affective, but the  languaging within this experiential near place assists us in creating a...frame that  helps one hold the non- conceptual place or space. This speech is often metaphorical and has poetic tones.  At times, it is very imaginable and even archetypical…formulations or spiritual.

12.  To be in the awareness lets you view experience of functions, lets you work within them, brings forth the self soothing functioning. The sense of self arises in the intermediate area…sense of beingness of one’s own being…ongoing continuity of the beingness of being…when one is only in the mind or part of the mind, continuity is difficult and fragmentation arises.

13.  Sustaining transitional, innermost awareness or self creates sense of continuity…ongoing continuity of relatedness...to one’s own inner self as well as the inner self of others… inside to inside experience.

14.  Transitional space creates a container for experience.  Transitional openness assists us in holding states of mind…holding affective states, cognitive states, memories…

15.  Awareness metabolizes experience…assimilates experience see authors such as Judith Miriani, Erving Polster, Bessel Van Der Kolk. Because awareness metabolizes experience, there’s less damage if one is in awareness…

16.  Awareness is a base for holding affective states and intensity of experience…so that feelings do not become ego states.

17.  Transitional space indicates the importance of formlessness manifesting in human experience and the integration of that experience which emerges from the disintegration of that experience.

18.  In order to have reaching out take or inner extension of self to take place…transitional space, formlessness is base… Between unintegrated and integration there must be the space of formlessness, which brings forth the sense of potential space and allows extension or reaching out or extensions from within.

The sense of unintegration can, of itself, become the resting state of formlessness…this formless experience allows for the eventual assimilation and metabolizing of experience and events that are not so easy to think or hold in the mind…they are so saturating and stunning…they can not be thought but can be intuited, known directly or simply felt…in time…languaging may become possible or invented….formlessness is a kind of timeless state next to time…this timelessness can hold time. This timelessness appears through the doorway of the transitional moment.

19.  Sometimes, a person has not experienced the relaxation of unintegration in their early life and will refine or rediscover this experience of being in a non-purposive state, resting and relating within the unintegrated state …a formless place of being…that is rejuvenating both in depth and breath of experience, a fixated formlessness continuum.  Being in these formless states of experiencing can be useful in passing through and assimilating seemingly unbearable existential agonies…like death, and loss.

20.  In the meditations that focus on becoming awareness of awareness (entering deeply and fully into transitional space, potential space, unformulated experience)….this formless meditative awareness is considered by some to be the most direct and powerful of meditation states…objectless forms of meditation...but such awareness is not always easy to hold or enter into because of its very formlessness. This awareness, objectless forms, appear and disappear…like glimpses…experiencing the beingness of one’s being is glimpsed but not easily held or embodied.

21.  Within the formless state there is a manifestation of qualities of spaciousness or openness, unformulatedness that manifests as clarity and a sense of oneness within body mind continuum. The transitional space is considered the medium between body mind communication…often one is stuck in mind and hyper mentalistic or in the body and is alexithymic, without the capacity to language embodied experience.

22.  This formless state is considered a state of resting and of play...the state of awareness is potential both within and without….both internal as well as external. So the very same transitional moment can arise as one approaches an inventive moment in the real….where there is space or void or openness of experience in unformulated way and one meets the unformulatedness of the situation with one’s self.

23.  Fundamental anxiety’s are  dissolved and metabolized through the capacity to enter the transitional space where in there is a growing comfort as one embodies these states of potential and actuality.  Therapy as well as meditation brings one into new areas of experience…the creative edge is not only within but without…what happens next. The self is not simply the representational self or internalized representations of experience, but the very base of the self is the primordial sense of awareness manifesting in particular mind body configurations. This self is the unfolding innermost field of awareness.

Disintegration leads to integration

24.  Disintegrative states are natural and happen naturally through life as the different development phases impact us.

At times there can be a state of primary unintegration…often frozen and highly contained as  false self….a lack of the sense of beingness or realness. And, as events unfold both internally and externally, the lack of integration becomes less frozen and we experience disintegration or falling apart. In the disintegration phase of maturation we must rest in formlessness. This formlessness is the potential space manifesting in us. Primary unintegration becomes the resting sate, or formlessness. In becoming aware of awareness, which is spacious, you experience a formless field….at times this can happen when you are alone and can also happen when you are alone in the company of another. This can happen in meditation as you rest in the formlessness through which  the formlessness field of the self becomes base…the sense of formlessness is the beingness of being which does manifest within forms of experience….then disintegrates and reintegrates and greater levels of coherence arise.

Often, the mind in its resistance to unformulated unpredictable incessant flows of events and relentless surges does not go along with the disintegration reintegration process and becomes frozen in time….a death like stuckness. One must at times work and at times rest….transitional space in its depth is timelessness ….timeless awareness.

Winnicott would speak about the indicator of health is being able to be alone in the company of another...not isolated, not cut off, but alone.

25.  Transitional space is the place of the manifestation of archetypical experience…sometimes; fantasy is a dissociated state…the imaginable within transitional awareness. Fantasy then becomes an organ of perception (of the mind)…a visionary or apparitional dimension of human experience…Spirituality is transitional space and transitional phenomena…visions and apparitions. Which is different then belief states of mind with its concrete operation orientation.

26.  Difference between fusion and transitional relatedness.


Written by:  Rudolph Bauer, Ph.D.; Edited by:  Mimi Malfitano

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