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Bollas, C. (1996). Borderline Desire. Int. Forum Psychoanal., 5(1):5-9.

(1996). International Forum of Psychoanalysis, 5(1):5-9

Borderline Desire

Christopher Bollas, Ph.D.

The borderline personality unconsciously seeks emotional turbulence because this complex of affect is the shape of the object of desire. Whether these people were intrinsically disturbed as infants, or, whether the early object world was itself disturbing, they knew the maternal object as disruptive effect. This effect then became the shape of the object, so, in seeking turbulence they are in fact constituting the primary object. As painful and disturbing an event as this is, it is nonetheless desired and finding themselves in states of distress is unconsciously gratifying.

This person cultivates “borderline objects” which evoke turbulent frames of mind. Such an object usually has an escalatory potential to it, so that the borderline may turn to ordinary distressing facts of life—environmental pollution, harassment of workers in the work place—and transform these facts into self stimulating objects. They bring about a toxic response which constitutes the object of desire.

The borderline personality often seeks moments of misunderstanding with the psychoanalyst paradoxically enough in order to feel closer to the clinician. If he feels that he is bringing about irritation or distress in the analyst, the patient feels that he and the analyst are sharing the primary experience together.

By persistently interpreting to the patient the unconscious desire of his character the analyst can effectively deconstruct the analysand's pathological attachment and help the patient to understand a complex dynamic that has always put this person at acute odds with himself, let alone with others.

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