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Am J Psychother. 1983 Jan;37(1):49-61.

Omnipotence, helplessness, and control with the borderline patient.


Via transference, borderline patients attempt to actualize dyads that represent fixations at and regressions to the symbiotic phase and the differentiation subphase of separation/individuation. Early awareness of separateness leads to the idealization of the provider as omnipotent and devaluation of the separate self as helpless. Efforts are directed at re-fusion to restore the positive symbiotic self-object via controlling the omnipotent other. This primitive constellation becomes reenacted in the transference with the borderline patients. Clinical examples from long-term psychotherapy with three borderline patients illustrate this constellation and outline the following strategies by which they attempt to reestablish symbiosis manipulatively and maintain fantasies of omnipotence: (1) impulsivity; (2) selection of a dependent object; (3) seduction; (4) overt and covert manipulation (identification with the aggressor); and (5) compliance. These pathological transferences may illuminate reconstructions of early differentiation in borderline infantile development and the impact which this differentiation can have upon subsequent self-systems and object relationships.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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