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Village, M. (1985). The Narcissistic and Borderline Disorders by James F. Masterson Published by Brunncr/Mazel: New York 1981; 246 pp; £26, hardback.. Brit. J. Psychother., 1(4):295.

(1985). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 1(4):295

Book Reviews

The Narcissistic and Borderline Disorders by James F. Masterson Published by Brunncr/Mazel: New York 1981; 246 pp; £26, hardback.

Review by:
Martin Village

There is a spirited debate in progress on the other side of the Atlantic and it concerns the origins of narcissistic psychopathology. Dr. Masterson's corner in an ideological cosmos which includes such luminaries as Kohut, Kernberg, Spitz and Winnicott (with a nod in the direction of his true and false self) is secured by his espousal of what he calls ‘confrontive psychotherapy’ as a technique in the treatment of borderline patients. His present contribution is aimed at making a theoretical distinction between borderline patients and narcissists (something which he says Kohut failed to do) and then to illustrate with case histories the considerations of technique which flow from that distinction.

Doubtless we have not heard the last word from this author on the matter of the developmental theory which underpins his technique. It has been criticized as being simplistic (Kernberg) but it also manages, simultaneously and without paradox, to be complicated. We are introduced to a world of WORU's (Withdrawing Object Relations part-Units) and WORU's (Rewarding Object Relations part-Units) which the borderline patient acts out in the transference; while the narcissist is afflicted with equally unpleasant ‘defensive, grandiose, omnipotent, self-object fused-units’ or ‘underlying, empty, aggressive fused-units’ which he acts out in his transference. Rather suspiciously, Dr. Masterson's developmental theory seems to provide all the answers, at least in the case of the borderline patient.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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