Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Transitional objects (Psychology), Talismans, Winnicott, D.W. (Donald Woods), 1896-1971, Freud, Sigmund, 1856-1939, Freud, Anna, 1895-1982, Objects, Special objects, Transitional objects, American, Adults, Meaning, Lucky charms, Biographical objects, Evocative objects, Transitional space, Intermediate area, Form, Cathect, Decathect, Health


This thesis is an inquiry into the meaning and functions that special objects hold for American adults. After interviewing 29 adults—10 who identify as male and 19 who identify as female—about their special objects, I found that these objects are felt to have profound meaning and important functions for adults. Objects are found special for possessing superlative physical characteristics—visual, auditory, olfactory, tactile, energetic, or due to their size, weight, or sturdiness. And they are found special for their functions: as signifiers of affiliation or membership in a group; as things that assert and reify personal identity; as things that connect possessors' to special people, places, and/or times; as things that connect them to something larger such as the Divine, "infinite consciousness," or to a new perspective on humanity; as things that stimulate thought; as things that bring comfort and calm; as things that bring protection and/or luck, good energy and/or emotional health. My study indicates that possession of and interaction with an object is connected to feeling a positive emotion—feeling calm, comforted, loved, proud, connected, affiliated, fascinated, or "full in [one's] heart." There are some negative feelings associated with special objects as well, such as obligation, burden, guilt, anxiety, and shame. These special objects are distinct from consumer objects; most are old, worn, and felt to be irreplaceable. I found that some objects in this study seem to be transitional objects, and some seem to function in similar ways to transitional objects, though there is no clear indication that possession of these objects indicates pathology. My findings suggest that special objects are a typical—and meaningful—part of American adult life.




iii, 97 pages. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, 2014. Includes bibliographical references (pages 86-89)