Borderline: A Diagnostic Straitjacket?

Marilyn Charles


The reflective capacity needed to mindfully organize and integrate information is under fire from information overload and the trend towards simplistic ‘solutions’ to complex dilemmas threatens that further entrench social problems. Truth, as an inherent value guiding civilized societies, is itself under fire, making the psychoanalytic lens an invaluable tool for creative, respectful engagement with problems in living.

Posing the dilemma in that way takes a stand against the language of diagnosis that obscures social problems and makes them even more intransigent. I will discuss how social injustice invites readings of distress in ways that affirm the social order and undermine individual development, and point to how current societal pressures oppose the development of the reflective capacities needed to work towards more effective and human solutions to social problems. I will also suggest how the psychoanalytic lens can aid our efforts towards alleviating human suffering, using clinical vignettes for illustration. 


Diagnosis; Reflective Function; Self-Regulation; Trauma; Oppression

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