Borderline States of Mind and destructive Feelings: A diagnosis for our times?

Call for papers: Contributions to be received by 12th December

Venue: The Institute of Group Analysis, London NW3 5BY


Date: Friday May 5th 2017

The diagnosis of ‘Borderline Personality Disorder’ is used to describe a set of problems experienced by individuals who often feel overwhelmed by their feelings and feel little sense of control of their lives. This might manifest in considerable unhappiness, volatile relationships and destructive (including self-destructive) behaviour. The diagnosis appears to be common amongst users of mental health services and even amongst offending populations. There are claims that the diagnosis (and related labels such as ‘emotional dysregulation’) is being used more frequently.  It would certainly seem that some of the difficulties (such as self-harm) associated with the diagnosis are becoming more common.

And yet, this is a controversial diagnosis. As the diagnosis becomes prominent, more questions are asked about its meaning. Is it simply just another demeaning label that is applied to people whose life experiences may have given them every reason to feel marginalised – at the borders of the mainstream?

Or perhaps, however clumsy the terms might be, does the phenomenology of the diagnosis point us towards something important about ourselves and our sources of discontent in the 21st century?

We are seeking to understand more about what is going on with borderline mental states. What can we learn about the times and culture that is producing these particular forms of distress? Can a focus on the psychology of such states of mind help us or we need a more thorough cultural analysis to understand what might be happening?

Confirmed speakers:

  • Dr Marilyn Charles (Austin Riggs, MA, co-chair Association for the Psychoanalysis and Culture)

  • Professor Andrew Cooper (Tavistock Clinic and University of East London)

We are keen to hear from people who are interested in exploring current ideas about borderline states of mind. If you are interested in contributing, please send an abstract (not more than 300 words) to David W Jones (, by 12th December 2017.

We will be able to pay travel and accommodation costs for contributors.

This seminar is funded as part of the ESRC series and is run in collaboration with the Institute of Group Analysis and the Association of Psychosocial Studies.



Dr David  W Jones (University of East London), Dr Chris Scanlon  (Community Housing Trust),

Professor David Gadd (University of Manchester)