The conceptualization of borderline personality disorder within the framework of Lacanian thought

Liliana Monica Rusansky Drob, Pace University


The diagnosis of Borderline Personality Organization has taken its place in American psychoanalysis, as a personality structure the significance of which has equaled and, in some quarters, even eclipsed the traditionally recognized structures of neuroses, psychosis and perversion. However, the Borderline diagnosis has been largely ignored amongst psychoanalytically oriented clinicians in Europe and South America. One reason for this is that a major theoretical gulf exists between American and European/Latin American psychoanalysis, a gulf that can in part be attributed to the dominance of ego psychology and object-relations theory in the United States and an equal dominance of the theories of Jacques Lacan in such places as France and Argentina. By comparing the psychoanalytic theories of Otto Kernberg and Jacques Lacan in the context of the borderline diagnoses, this study seeks to initiate and contribute to a long overdue dialog between American and French psychoanalysis. This study seeks to both “map out the territory” for dialog on a number of issues relevant to the borderline diagnosis and locate the place of so-called borderline pathology within Lacanian thought. The main vehicles for this comparative and theoretical study are a critical review of the literature and the analysis of an illustrative case. The case of “Katherine,” a 25 year-old woman who the author saw for three years in psychoanalytically oriented therapy is presented and analyzed from both Kernbergian and Lacanian points of view. It is shown that Katherine, who readily meets Kernberg's presumptive and structural, can profitably be understood and treated as a case of neurosis within Lacan's diagnostic scheme. The question of whether those patients described by Kernberg as structurally borderline, do in fact constitute a homogenous group from the perspective of Lacanian theory is considered. At the close of the discussion some tentative suggestions are made regarding how Lacanian ideas can be of value in the diagnosis and treatment of severe pathology, as well as how certain Lacanian ideas might be operationalized and formulated as empirical hypotheses. The implications for child and school psychology are considered and the limitations of the study described. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)

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Recommended Citation

Rusansky Drob, Liliana Monica, "The conceptualization of borderline personality disorder within the framework of Lacanian thought" (2002). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3029610.



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