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Kernberg, O.F. (1977). Boundaries and Structure in Love Relations. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 25:81-114.

(1977). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 25:81-114

Boundaries and Structure in Love Relations

Otto F. Kernberg, M.D.

Summary and Reformulation of Previous Work

MY WORK WITH PATIENTS PRESENTING BORDERLINE personality organization, particularly those with narcissistic personality structure, suggested that a patient's capacity to fall in love and to establish lasting love relationships had important diagnostic and prognostic implications (1974a), (1974b). In exploring these findings, I concluded that the capacity to fall and to remain in love reflected the successful completion of two developmental stages: In the first stage, the early capacity for sensuous stimulation of erotogenic zones is integrated with the later capacity for establishing a total object relation. In the second stage, full genital enjoyment incorporates early body-surface eroticism in the context of a total object relation, including a complementary sexual identification. The first stage requires, in essence, that primitive dissociation or lack of integration of the self and of object representations be overcome in the context of establishing ego identity and the capacity for object relations in depth. The second stage requires the successful overcoming of oedipal conflicts and the related unconscious prohibitions against a full sexual relation.

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