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Ross, M. (1976). The Borderline Diathesis. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 3:305-321.

(1976). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 3:305-321

The Borderline Diathesis

Manuel Ross

Within the broad reach of the psychoanalytic view of behaviour, there continue to lie wide areas of phenomenology yet to be brought to rudimentary comprehension under a set of beginning terms. Even by these feeble standards, however, the choice of the rubric 'borderline' has not been a happy one. At its worst, and no more will be said about this, it is uttered as a familiar imprecation to allay our perplexity and anxiety in the face of clinical data and in which those attending its use share a faith that they understand each other. In a strict sense, borderline denotes 'neither here nor there', the 'neither here nor there' being the neuroses and psychoses and their genetically related character formations. This at least tells us something. It is not unusual, for example, to see a therapist who assumes that borderline pathology does not impose its own technical problems, swing back and forth between a technical model based on the neuroses and the active technique implied in treating what has come to be called the defective ego model of schizophrenia. In the latter, the felt need for activity is often used to theoretically rationalize a countertransference, the patient in turn being deprived of that sense of steadiness and firm analytic resolve which he so urgently needs. It appears certain that if borderline pathology is to stand as a diagnostic category in its own right, it will have to throw light on aspects of normal development, as the neuroses and psychoses did and, further, that it will not only be enriched from other sources, but will have an enriching effect as well.

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