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

Omnipotence, helplessness, and control with the borderline patient.

Abstract

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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