Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice

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Volume 52 Issue 4 (December 1979), Pages 301-399

The border between the paranoid‐schizoid and the depressive positions in the borderline patient (pages 385-391)

In this paper some of the mental mechanisms deployed by borderline patients are described and illustrated with clinical material. It is suggested that the term borderline has three distinct but related meanings. First, it refers to a clinical category of patients, borderline between neurosis and psychosis who, while not frankly psychotic, tend to use psychotic mechanisms. Second, it refers to a metaphor representing the subjective experience of these patients who are unable to find a permanent identity but feel themselves sitting on the fence between a variety of different identities in a borderline position. Third, it can refer to a theoretical formulation of the level of development at which these patients function. I propose that in terms of mental mechanisms, they function as if on the border between the paranoid‐schizoid and depressive positions as outlined by Melanie Klein. Some of the consequences of the failure to experience and work through depressive anxieties are discussed.

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