chapter  26
24 Pages

The Borderline Concept: An Intersubjective Viewpoint

THE BORDERLINE CONCEPT has, in recent years, achieved enormous popularity within psychoanalytic and psychotherapeutic circles. Despite this rise to stardom, vast differences of opinion and numerous unresolved questions continue to exist concerning just what, if anything, the term "borderline" describes. We shall not attempt to cover the voluminous literature on this subject here (see Sugarman and Lerner, 1980, for an excellent review). Instead, we offer a critique of the currently prevalent view that the term "borderline" refers to a discrete pathological character structure, rooted in specific pathognomonic instinctual conflicts and primitive defenses. In our opinion, an alternative understanding of borderline phenomena emerges when they are viewed from a psychoanalytic developmental and self-psychological perspective. Our focus will be on the "intersubjective contexts" (Stolorow et aI., 1983; Atwood and Stolorow, 1984) in which borderline symptomatology takes form, both in early development and in the psychoanalytic situation.