All-or-None Phenomena in the Psychotherapy of Severe Disorders

  • Clarence G. Schulz


The phenomenon of splitting, referring to “good” and “bad” attitudes toward others or toward oneself, is a prominent feature in borderline personality disorders, as well as in the schizophrenias. My thesis is that splitting is only one aspect of the broader concept of the all-or-none phenomenon. Our diagnostic abilities and therapeutic efforts will improve if we recognize the many clinical manifestations of all-or-none phenomena. Among these I will present examples of cognitive aspects, affective features, narcissistic manifestations, and aspects of superego- and ego-ideal functions. In addition, I will cite a few references about all-or-none phenomena appearing in the psychiatric literature, and will consider developmental relationships to splitting. Finally, I will focus on some implications for psychotherapeutic techniques with these patients.


Borderline Personality Disorder Severe Disorder Ambivalent Attitude Borderline Patient Psychiatric Literature 


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  1. 1.
    Kernberg OF: Borderline Conditions and Pathological Narcissism. New York, Jason Aronson Inc, 1975.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Sullivan HS: Conceptions of Modern Psychiatry. Washington, DC, William Alanson White Psychiatric Foundation, 1948, p 38, p 39.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Bose G: All-or-None Attitude in Sex. Samiksa 1, 1947. Reprinted in Yearb Psychoanal 4:86–98, 1948, p. 87.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Clarence G. Schulz
    • 1
  1. 1.The Sheppard and Enoch Pratt HospitalTowsonUSA

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