Sometimes you can catch important things about human nature in apparent incidentals. It's well observed that between the ages of around one and 12, many children manifest a deep attachment to a stuffed, soft object, normally shaped into a bear, a rabbit, or—less often—a penguin. The depth of the relationship can be extraordinary. The child sleeps with it, talks to it, cries in front of it, and tells it things it would never tell anyone else. What's truly remarkable is that the animal looks after its owner, addressing him in a tone of unusual maturity and kindness. It might, in a crisis, urge the child not to worry so much and to look forward to better times in the future. But naturally, the animal's character is entirely made up. The animal is simply something invented, or brought to life, by one part of the child in order to look after the other.
The English psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott was the first person to write seriously, and with sensitivity, about the business of teddy bears. In a paper from the early 1960s, Winnicott described a boy of six, whose parents had been deeply abusive to him, becoming very connected to a small animal his grandmother had given him. Every night, he would have a dialogue with the animal, would hug him close to his chest and shed a few tears into his stained and graying soft fur. It was his most precious possession, for which he would've given up everything else. As the boy summarized the situation to Winnicott, "No one else can understand me like Bunny can," what fascinated Winnicott here was that it was, of course, the boy who had invented the rabbit, given him his identity, his voice, and his way of addressing him. The boy was speaking to himself via the bunny in a voice filled with an otherwise all-too-rarely-present compassion and sympathy.
英國心理分析師 Donald Winnicott 是第一位認真又感性地研究泰迪熊行業的人。在 1960 年代早期的一篇論文中，Winnicott 描述了一個六歲男孩，他的父母嚴重虐待他，男孩和他祖母送的小動物玩偶產生強烈的連結。每天晚上他都會和玩偶對話，將他緊緊抱在胸前，且掉幾滴淚在他那帶有髒汙又逐漸變灰的絨毛上。那隻玩偶是男孩最珍貴的資產，男孩會為了它放棄一切。當男孩向 Winnicott 簡述這個情況：「沒有人能比兔兔更了解我」，在這讓 Winnicott 感到有趣的事是，當然，男孩創造了兔子，賦予他個性、聲音，以及和自己說話的方式。男孩是在透過這隻小兔子和自己對話，以一種充滿生活中少見的憐憫和同情的聲音跟自己對話。
Although it sounds a little odd, speaking to ourselves is common practice throughout our lives. Often, when we do so, the tone is harsh and punitive. We upbraid ourselves for being losers, time-wasters, or perverts. But, as Winnicott knew, mental well-being depends on having to hand a repertoire of more gentle, forgiving, and hopeful inner voices. To keep going, there are moments when one side of the mind needs to say to the other that the criticism is enough: that it understands, that this could happen to anyone, that one couldn't have known. It's this kind of indispensable benevolent voice that the child first starts to rehearse and exercise—with the help of a stuffed animal.
雖然這聽起來有些奇怪，但和自己對話是我們人生中常見的行為。常常當我們和自己對話時，我們的語調會嚴厲又苛刻。我們責備自己一事無成、浪費時間或行為反常。但據 Winnicott 所知，心理健康取決於必須以一種更溫柔、寬容且懷抱希望的心底聲音表達。為了繼續下去，有時候心裡某一面必須告訴另一面批評已經夠了：它能理解，任何人都可能碰到這種事，人人都沒辦法事先知道。就是這種不可或缺的和藹聲音，那是孩子最先開始練習和實現的－－透過填充動物玩偶的協助。
In adolescence, animals tend to get put away. They become embarrassing, evoking a vulnerability we're keen to escape from. But, to follow Winnicott, if our development has gone well, what was trialled in the presence of a stuffed animal should continue all of our lives—because, by definition, we will frequently be let down by the people around us, who won't be able to understand us, won't listen to our griefs, and won't be kind to us in the manner we crave and require.
青春期時，這些動物玩偶往往被丟到一邊。它們變得令人難為情，喚起一種我們亟欲逃避的脆弱感。但依照 Winnicott 的建議，若我們發展良好，擁有填充玩偶時的試驗應該要跟著我們一輩子－－因為，就本質來說，我們會常常對生活周遭的人感到失望，他們無法理解我們、不願聆聽我們的悲傷，而且不會以我們渴望且需要的方式善良地對待我們。
Every healthy adult should therefore possess a capacity for self-nurture, that is, for retreating to a safe, secluded space and speaking in a tone that's gentle, encouraging, and infinitely forgiving. That we don't formally label the understanding self "white rabbit" or "yellow bear" shouldn't obscure the debt that the nurturing adult self owes to its earlier embodiment in a furry toy.
A good adult life requires us to see the links between our strengths and our regressive, childlike states. Being properly mature demands a gracious accommodation with what could seem embarrassing or humiliatingly vulnerable. We should honor stuffed animals for what they really are: tools to help us on our first steps in the vital business of knowing how to look after ourselves.