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Cone, D.H. (2020). Double-Think, Double-Binds and the Secret History of Borderline Personality Disorder. Brit. J. Psychother., 36(2):294-302.

(2020). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 36(2):294-302

Clinical and Cultural Practice

Double-Think, Double-Binds and the Secret History of Borderline Personality Disorder

Deborah Hill Cone

The clinical diagnosis of borderline personality disorder carries a uniquely pungent stigma. The literature repeatedly refers to these patients as manipulative, malignant and treatment resistant. In this paper, it is argued that when viewed within a broader matrix, the person with borderline organization exhibits unstable emotions and behaviour not because they are ‘difficult’ but because they lack the option of more socially sanctioned defences. This personality organization has developed because they have been trapped in some kind of irreconcilable circumstance (a double-bind) and yet also required to deny the truth of this (double-think). The author explores how this mechanism may be present in less obviously dysfunctional manifestations for many people, including herself, a 50-year-old psychotherapy student. This paper argues the person with borderline organization is grappling with the paradoxical need for both merger and separation, but this may be better understood as not just trying to make meaning for themselves as an individual, but as bearing the psychic burden for generations who have gone before them, such as the indigenous Maori people of New Zealand (Aotearoa), who experienced the trauma of colonization.

[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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