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Adler, G. Buie, D.H., Jr. (1979). Aloneness and Borderline Psychopathology: The Possible Relevance of Child Development Issues. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 60:83-96.

(1979). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 60:83-96

Aloneness and Borderline Psychopathology: The Possible Relevance of Child Development Issues

Gerald Adler and Dan H. Buie, Jr.


The experience of intense painful aloneness is a common event in the lives of borderline patients, especially those closer to the psychotic spectrum. This experience is defined as an intrinsic aspect of the borderline personality defect and consists of a relative or total inability to remember positive images or fantasies of sustaining people in the patient's present or past life, or being overwhelmed by negative memories and images of these people.

The development of borderline aloneness is related to a possible developmental failure, defined by Piaget, Fraiberg, and A.-M. Sandler. These workers describe the child's development of object permanence and evocative memory capacity (Piaget's sensori-motor stage VI). We postulate that a major borderline vulnerability is the tenuous achievement of the capacity for affective object permanence and its regressive loss to recognition memory or earlier when under specific stresses. We relate our hypotheses to possible empathic parental failures during the substages of separation-individuation, especially the rapproachement sub-phase.

The treatment implications of our formulations are discussed, with an emphasis on the clarification of the need for the therapist's availability and the use of transitional objects during times of the patient's loss of his affective cognitive capacities. These regressive experiences often emerge as a core transference manifestation during psychoanalytic therapy with borderline patients, and often become the

basis of significant therapeutic work.

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