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Stern, A. (1957). The Transference in the Borderline Group of Neuroses. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 5:348-350.

(1957). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 5:348-350

The Transference in the Borderline Group of Neuroses

Adolph Stern, M.D.

It is a truism that the handling of the transference in all classes of neuroses is the key to psychoanalytic therapy. The difficulties which we meet in handling the transference depend, to a great extent, on the nature (quality) of the patient's transference capacity. We all know that what gives rise to the greatest obstacles to psychoanalytic therapy is the patient in whom emotional infantilism is a predominant psychic characteristic; it is into this group that the borderline patients fall.

A brief description of the childhood history of these patients explains the existence of what David M. Levy has so aptly termed "love hunger"; this gives the cue to the quality of the transference which these patients bring with them into treatment. Such a history reveals that one or both parents suffer from gross psychopathology, ranging from pathological character traits to psychoses. They quarrel a good deal; an anxious, insecure atmosphere pervades the household over long periods of time. Separation of the parents, desertion by one or both parents; cruelty, brutality, lack of tender, warm love on the part of parent or parents, especially on the part of the mother; all of these, or a combination of some of them, deprive such children, from birth, of normal affective support; there is an absence of reassurance, respect, a sense of belonging, of being wanted. As is to be expected, the effect of such a family relationship is severely traumatic.

As a result of these influences, the child develops character traits which persist into later adulthood. Chief among them, and present in most if not all such patients, is a "love hunger, " evidenced by a generalized sense of insecurity, affective helplessness; a great need of affective support. Many evidence a rigid, withdrawn, affectless personality and all sorts of preoedipal unsatisfied needs.

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