Borderline Bodies

Affect Regulation Therapy for Personality Disorders

Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology


Clara Mucci (Author)

Overview | Contents

A bold look at the body as a source of contention for those who suffer from personality disorders.

This work connects interpersonal neurobiology, attachment theory, and psychoanalytic theory with cognitive and neuroscientific work on implicit memory, trauma theory, and dissociation to propose an integrated method for treating severe borderline and narcissistic disorders, with the prime aim of resolving the affect dysregulation that affects the various realms of bodily discomfort and existential pain.

Each chapter presents a particular case and illustrates the methods for working with the specific problems that arise: from bulimia to self-cutting to sexual identity diffusion to suicidality. Treatment is illustrated from the initial level of careful diagnosis to the first stages of the interaction to the further steps and development of the interpersonal work of the dyad patient-therapist, including powerful enactments. 

In accessible language that references psychodynamic and relational psychoanalytic theory, the book proposes a revision of the etiopathogenesis of personality disorders, starting from the traumatic interpersonal exchanges (early relational trauma, maltreatment, deprivation, and abuse). 

The book breaks new ground on several levels. For the first time the body is accorded full attention in the treatment: developmentally and epigenetically situation as it is "in-between" the self and the other (at first, the caregiver, then in other circumstances of upbringing and traumatic personal relationships). The body is viewed as the main vehicle of this dysfunctional development, so that both the body and the subject are at once the "victim"—the recipient of the dysregulation resulting in impulsivity, destructiveness, self-harm, or eating disorders—and the internalized persecutor, i.e. the abuser of one's own body that sometimes also becomes the aggressor of others.

Profoundly humane and scientifically sound, this book is a must-read for professionals, clients, and families involved in the difficult task of relieving the symptoms and reorganizing the personalities of subjects living in "borderline bodies."

Book Details

  • Hardcover
  • November 2018
  • ISBN 978-0-393-71266-7
  • 6.4 × 9.6 in / 480 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Endorsements & Reviews

“Clara Mucci's Borderline Bodies is a masterful integration of theory, research, and clinical work that addresses common and serious trauma-based psychological disorders. Narcissism, complex PTSD, dissociation, psychosomatic, disturbances, and suicide are explicated with reference to attachment theory, and other variants of contemporary and classical psychoanalysis, neurobiology, and literature. No surprise to learn that before training in clinical psychology and psychoanalysis. Mucci first earned her PhD in English literature. Borderline Bodies is a creative interdisciplinary work that is a pleasure to read. It will be of immense interest to professions and students across the wide array of disciplines comprising the mental health field.” — Howard Steele, Professor and Chair for Clinical Psychology, Co-Director, Center for Attachment Research, New School for Social Research

“An outstanding exposition and extension of the understanding we currently have of the origins, structural pathology, dynamics, and treatment of borderline and narcissistic conditions. Most impressive, in this era of rarefied hermeneutic zeal, is her attention to the raw terrain of the body. Thus the body, ego, hypochondria, psychosomatics, and perversions of eating and sexuality all make their appearance. Drawing from the foundational work of Ferenczi, the object relations perspective of Kernberg, the French school as represented by Green, the child observational studies of Schore, and also from general psychiatry and contemporary neurophysiology. Mucci provides a seamless gestalt that is fresh, sophisticated, and convincing. The inclusion of ample clinical illustrations imparts poignancy, credibility, and a movingly human cadence to her book!” — Salman Akhtar, MD, Professor of Psychiatry, Jefferson Medical College, Training and Supervising Analyst, Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia

“Clara Mucci's latest book provides a reflection on psychotherapy with borderline patients that is remarkable in its breadth. This book helps bring psychoanalytic thinking into the 21st century. It should contribute to reviving interest in psychoanalytic psychotherapy and assuring a central role in its relation to other areas of scientific investigation. Mucci elaborates the vitality of the analytic endeavor as she connects what goes on in the patient-therapist interaction with the increasing body of knowledge coming from the neurosciences. The book helped me better appreciate what I do when trying to help patients and gave me ideas about how to refine the process. By focusing on right-brain and implicit processes, Mucci helps bring us out of an age of psychoanalytic work that was often stuck in a narrow view of the therapeutic interaction. Mucci succeeds in complementing a sophisticated discussion of neuroscience as it relates to the analytic process with rich case examples that illustrate the points she is making.” — Frank Yeomans, MD, PhD, Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Director of Training, Personality Disorders Institute, Weill Medical College of Cornell University

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