• The Power of Transitional Objects: Nurturing Adult Emotional Well-being

    Transitional objects, a concept introduced by psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott, have long been associated with children and their emotional development. However, recent research suggests that transitional objects can also play a significant role in the lives of adults, providing comfort, security, and a sense of continuity in times of transition and uncertainty. This article explores the concept of transitional objects in the context of adult emotional well-being, drawing upon Winnicott’s insights and contemporary perspectives.

    Understanding Transitional Objects:

    According to Winnicott, transitional objects are external items, such as blankets, stuffed animals, or cherished mementos, that children form an attachment to during their early years. These objects serve as a bridge between the child’s internal world and the external reality, providing a source of comfort and reassurance. They act as a constant presence, offering stability and familiarity during times of separation and anxiety.

    Transitional Objects and Adult Emotional Well-being:

    While transitional objects are commonly associated with childhood, their significance can extend into adulthood as well. As adults navigate various life transitions, such as moving to a new city, starting a new job, or experiencing the loss of a loved one, they often encounter feelings of insecurity and vulnerability. In these moments, transitional objects can serve as a source of emotional support, providing a sense of familiarity and continuity amidst change.

    Even non-physical “objects” can be comforting. Smells, tastes, sounds are all well known to be used to combat stress and anxiety. Smell is one of our oldest and most powerful memory cues and pathways to emotion. We’ve all seen the ads for sound machines that make white, brown, or pink noise. These have similar properties to soothing objects.

    Symbolic Meaning and Personal Significance:

    Transitional objects hold symbolic meaning and personal significance for individuals. They often represent a connection to the past, a sense of identity, or a source of emotional comfort. For example, a worn-out childhood stuffed animal may evoke memories of safety and love, reminding an adult of their resilience and capacity for emotional well-being. By holding onto these objects, adults can tap into a sense of security and draw strength from their emotional history. Transitional objects do not have to be worn-out relics, but universally comforting objects like stuffed animals and soft blankets, are increasingly being bought by adults. Fidget spinners, smooth stones and other tangibles may serve the same purpose.

    Emotional Regulation and Self-Soothing:

    Transitional objects can also aid in emotional regulation and self-soothing. Just as a child might cuddle with a favorite blanket to calm themselves, adults can engage with their transitional objects to manage stress and anxiety. The physical act of holding or interacting with these objects activates a sense of touch and connection, releasing soothing neurochemicals in the brain and promoting a sense of calmness and well-being.

    The Role of Transitional Objects in Therapy:

    Therapists and mental health professionals have recognized the therapeutic value of transitional objects in their work with adult clients. By incorporating these objects into therapy sessions, individuals are provided with a tangible tool to navigate emotional challenges and promote self-care. Transitional objects can serve as a bridge between the therapy space and the outside world, offering a sense of continuity and security as clients explore their emotions and experiences.


    Transitional objects, while traditionally associated with childhood, hold a significant place in adult emotional well-being. Drawing upon the insights of Donald Winnicott, we understand that these objects can serve as sources of comfort, stability, and emotional regulation during times of transition and uncertainty, even trauma. Recognizing the symbolic meaning and personal significance of transitional objects allows individuals to harness their power in promoting emotional well-being and resilience. Whether it be a cherished memento, a sentimental artifact, or a new object with universal or personal meaning, transitional objects have the potential to provide solace and support as adults navigate the complexities of life.