Home FEATURED ARTICLE HOME PAGE In the Darkest Places: Early Relational Trauma and Borderline States of Mind

In the Darkest Places: Early Relational Trauma and Borderline States of Mind


Written by Marcus West

Reviewed by: Monica Spafford

In Into the Darkest Places: Early Relational Trauma and Borderline States of Mind, Jungian Marcus West re-declares early relational trauma as the root of psychological distress and analytic thinking. West ultimately works to develop an integrative approach to trauma analysis and therapy incorporating ideas from theorists like Freud and Jung who prioritize internal reactions to trauma and Ferenczi and Bowlby who emphasize real-world experiences. He suggests that our analytic approaches to trauma cannot be divorced from the experience itself or the individual and internal responses. Subsequently, using his integrative approach West offers a nuanced understanding of borderline states of mind.

He suggests that theorists like Freud, Jung, Klein, among others have not taken into account the ways in which trauma is “embodied and embedded in the individual’s character structure” (xviii). In doing so, West believes that these theorists’ ultimate approach to understanding and analyzing trauma is disconnected from the trauma itself. For example, Freud focused primarily on the unconscious not on tangible experiences of trauma. Klein and Jung take a similar approach.
West advocates in favor of theorists like Ferenczi and Bowlby who focus on how real-world trauma becomes ingrained in an individual’s identity. However, West acknowledges the limitations of these theorists and ultimately proposes an integrative approach.

He utilizes his integrative approach to shed a new light on borderline states of mind. West suggests that individuals with a borderline psychology have incorporated the trauma into their identity, which disrupts ego-functioning and conflicts with their innate attachment needs. West proposes that trauma therapy should target the most disruptive aspects of the trauma, the internalization of the trauma, and is most successful when the analyst and the individual work through the trauma complex.

West questions well-known theories and looks at trauma from an integrative perspective. He claims that early relational trauma is the root of psychological distress and seeks to look at analytic theory, trauma theory, and relational theory side-by-side, suggesting that the limitations of one can be explained by the others. Ultimately, West declares to be successful the analyst must be willing and “prepared to accompany the patient ‘into the darkest places’” (xviii).

Marcus West is a training analyst of the Society of Analytical Psychology working in private practice in Sussex, England. He is an editor of the Journal of Analytical Psychology and is chair of Psychotherapy Sussex. He is a Jungian who specializes in a variety of topics including but not limited to identity, narcissism, borderline phenomena, trauma, envy, and dreams. In 2004, he was joint winner of the Michael Fordham Prize, which is presented to the published paper that demonstrates the most creative and original approach to clinical analytic thinking. He is also the author of two other books: Feeling, Being, and the Sense of Self—A New Perspective on Identity, Affect, and Narcissistic Disorders published in 2007 and Understanding Dreams in Clinical Practice published in 2011.

Monica Spafford studies Applied Psychology at New York University and is set to graduate in May of 2018. She is a Research Assistant for the INSIGHTS into Children’s Temperament research study at NYU’s Institute of Human Development and Social Change testing the efficacy of the INSIGHTS program, an evidence-based intervention that works to support children’s social-emotional development and academic learning. In addition to working for International Journal of Psychotherapy, she writes reviews for Somatic Psychotherapy Today.