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Hunter, R.C. (1966). The Analysis of Episodes of Depersonalization in a Borderline Patient. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 47:32-41.

(1966). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 47:32-41

The Analysis of Episodes of Depersonalization in a Borderline Patient

Robin C.A. Hunter


Depersonalization (loss of the sense of reality as it pertains to the self) and derealization (loss of the sense of reality as it pertains to the environment) occur ubiquitously. They belong together and are two phases of one process.

Derealization represents the withdrawal of cathexis from an environment that is felt to be frustrating and dangerous.

Depersonalization represents a splitting of the ego between what Federn calls the ego-as-subject and the ego-as-object. It occurs in predisposed individuals when circumstances produce a dissimilarity between 'myself as perceived by me' and 'myself as perceived by others'. The predisposition reflects the regressive reactivation of (oral) infantile experiences of such a nature that instinctual needs recognized by the ego are either not acknowledged or are treated as though they do not exist by the mother. Under these circumstances powerful affects are set up, primarily those of rage or guilt. A split occurs in the ego, defensive in function, with subsequent identification with the frustrator and transient acceptance of the frustrator's judgements of the self. Depersonalization thus represents a perverted and unhappy form of the vaunted gift of seeing ourselves as others see us.

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