How Might Lamentations Be Read in the Light of Applying Winnicott’s Notion of a ‘Holding Environment’ to Reconcile the Internal Conflict of the Absent Comforter?

This paper attempts to investigate how Lamentations, chapters 1 and 2, conveys the notion of the absent comforter in proximity to Zion, asserting that the Temple of Jerusalem served Zion as her transitional object by emitting the presence of YHWH, thereby hypothesising that Zion’s tragedy during the Babylonian occupation of Jerusalem in the sixth century BCE was due to the destruction of the Temple. This event prevented Zion from accessing her transitional object and it consequently prohibited interplay, which according to Donald Winnicott provides the essential activity for liberating and creating a sense of self. Thus, this paper proposes that the author of Lamentations expresses grief in the form of emotional catharsis in order to resolve the internal conflict of losing the presence of YHWH. By examining the text of Lamentations in the light of Winnicottian discourse, one might discover a methodology to resolve the internal conflict of the absent comforter. This can be achieved by applying a dynamic that resembles a holding environment to circumvent anxiety, as the function of a holding environment provides a setting that perpetuates the presence of a primary caregiver. Dialogue is demonstrated between Hebrew Scripture and Winnicottian analysis, as both of these worlds of discourse demonstrate value of attempting to access the presence of a caregiver by expressing emotional catharsis.

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Preston Evangelou

Ph.D. Candidate, King’s College

Preston Evangelou is a doctoral candidate at King's College, whose research examines how the Winnicottian theory of transitional progression might be analogous to Johannine theology of spiritual development.