A personality disorder is defined as a pattern(s) of abnormal thoughts and behavior that impairs relationships with others and/or self.

Borderline personality disorder is a disorder during which a person exhibits unstable moods, behavior and relationships. They are also associated with reckless behavior and suicidal tendencies. Symptoms will include extreme reactions, intense relationships, impulsive decisions and behavior, suicidal tendencies, extensive mood swings, feelings of emptiness, intensive and uncontrollable anger.

Borderline Mothers are hard to detect. Most times, you will feel like something is off after spending time with them. Their children are always quiet, soft spoken or come across as if they have no opinion at all. They will come across as completely compliant or completely combative. If you have the ability to gain the child’s trust, what they have to say will be mind-blowing, please believe them. The mother always comes off as if she lives only for her children and their welfare, but behind closed doors, she either loathes or demand complete loyalty from her children. When she complains about her children, and she will, it will sound harsh, mean-spirited and come off like the child is mentally ill or troubled. She will play the victim and always assume it is not her fault. These women also wear many masks. The only way to detect them is if they have a meltdown, become combative or you eventually tune in to their unstable or unreliable story lines. With time, you will see discrepancy in their story telling. These women exhibit jealousy, are vindictive, make random negative statements about others, are meddlers, talk behind your back, exhibit high grade anxiety and/or see everything from a negative perspective, it is always the worst case scenario. They are always so stressed out even though they really don’t do much. Depending on the type of borderline: By Christine Lawson PhD


Typical Thoughts

Unconsciously, Witches hate themselves because they grew up in an environment that “required complete submission to a hostile or sadistic caregiver” (2000). They continue the cycle by acting cruelly to others, especially those who are too weak, young, or powerless to help themselves.

Typical Emotions

They feel no remorse for nightmarish acts, showing more interest in their own well-being than concern over the way they’ve hurt others. The Witch’s triggers include jealousy, criticism, betrayal, abandonment, feeling left out, and being ignored.

Typical Actions and Central Dilemma

Most BP parents do not physically abuse their children. Those who do probably fall into this category. However, the abuse usually occurs when other competent adults are not present. Thus, family members can live in fear while all seems well to the outside world.

Witches want power and control over others so that others do not abandon them. When someone or something triggers the Witches’ abandonment fear, these BPs can become brutal and full of rage, even punishing or hurting family members who stand in their way (2000). These types of BPs are most resistant to treatment: they will not allow others to help and the source of self-loathing is very deep.

 Typical Thoughts, Emotions, and Actions of Family Members

  • “I will comply with what she wants. Resistance is futile. I will be assimilated.”
  • Fear in victims.
  • Denial on the part of those who could protect the victims.
  • Tries not to trigger the witch. But her behavior is not really about the non-BP, so this strategy doesn’t work.

 The Effect of the Witch’s Behavior in Children

  • Children live in terror of Witches’ capricious moods; they are the “collateral damage” of a secret war they did not start, do not understand, and cannot control.
  • Attacks are random, intense, and cruel. Children automatically think they’re at fault and can become shamed, depressed, insecure, dissociative, and hyper vigilant.
  • As adults they may have multiple difficulties with self, relationships, physical illness, and even post traumatic stress disorder.


Typical Thoughts

“I want more attention. I deserve more attention. And, by the way, what have you done for me lately?” Also, “My children should fulfill my needs, not the other way around. They don’t love or respect me if they disagree with me, go against my wishes, or have needs of their own.”

Typical Feelings

These include entitlement, deprivation, emptiness, anger, frustration, or loneliness from the deprivation they felt as children. Queens are impatient and have a low tolerance for frustration. They also push others’ boundaries without regret or recognition.

Typical Actions and Central Dilemma

Driven by feelings of emptiness and unable to soothe themselves, Queens do what it takes to get what they feel they so richly deserve–including vindictive acts like blackmail. Initially they may impress others with their social graces. But when “friends” can no longer deliver, the Queen cuts them off without a thought. Queens are capable of real manipulation (vs. more primitive BP defenses) to get what they desire.

Typical Thoughts, Emotions, and Actions of Family Members

  • “I can’t meet this person’s needs; my best isn’t enough.”
  • “Don’t I ever get to have any needs? (Better not say that or the Queen will leave me.)”
  • “Why is everything always about her?
  • “If people only knew what an act the Queen puts on, they’d sure be shocked.”
  • Family members who the Queen shames, ignores, or gives superficial attention learn that their worth depends on external things (cars, important titles).
  • Non-BPs’ self-esteem also suffers–especially among those who become isolated or who had a Queen parent.
  • Over time, non-BPs feel used, manipulated and angry–anger at the BP and at themselves for capitulating so much they no longer recognize themselves.
  • Non-BPs give in to her wishes because it’s easier than maintaining personal limits.
  • Less assertive non-BPs are vulnerable to distortion campaigns, unwilling or unable to protect themselves or their children.

 Consequences to Children with a Queen Parent 

  • To the Queen, children are a built-in audience expected to give love, attention and support when the Queen needs it. Children feel confused and betrayed when their normal behavior is sometimes punished (according to the Queen’s needs of the moment). Since Queens don’t allow or help children become individuals (autonomy is discouraged–even punished) kids mimic the behavior they do see: the Queens’. Thus, a new generation of BPs is born.
  • As kids grow, conflict with the Queen increases. Underneath, these kids long for approval, recognition, consistency, and to be loved unconditionally for who they are, not what they achieve.


Typical Thoughts

“I am a worthless victim.  I do so want to be loved and protected, but I am not worthy of it.”  Philosophy: The glass is not only half-empty, but is about to spill all over the floor I just washed.

Typical Feelings

Helpless, hopeless, and despair. Rage can be masked by sadness and depression, but released by rejection or abandonment. Waifs distort their own errors or disappointments, leading to more shame. They feel vulnerable, defective, anxious, moody, and irrationally fearful.

Typical Actions and Central Dilemma

They look to others to “save them,” but ultimately refuse assistance because helplessness makes them feel safe. Ironically, if they mistrust everyone and let no one get close, they stay in control and no one can abandon or disappoint them. Waifs may hurt themselves to express shame, but they are capable of raging if they feel rejected or abandoned. They don’t ask for what they need, then appear Martyr-like because others can’t read their minds and give it to them. Waifs may have crying spells and be unable to give nurturing to others.

Typical Thoughts, Emotions, and Actions of Family Members

  • “The greater the sacrifice, the more I show I love her.”
  • “She desperately needs help, so I must save her, no matter what.”
  • “My needs are not as important as hers.”
  • “If I learn enough about BPD, I can heal her.”
  • “I like being needed, but sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the BP’s neediness.”
  • “I get confused and frustrated when she rejects my help.”
  • “Her behavior isn’t all that abnormal. I can manage it and so can the kids.”
  • “I feel abused, and my self-esteem wasn’t all that high to begin with.”
  • “I try to help, but she turns it down again and again.”
  • “If a method for coping with this doesn’t work, I plan to keep trying. It will eventually succeed.”
  • “I am unable to protect my children or myself from this behavior.”

 The Effects of the Waif’s Behavior on Children 

  • They feel angry, afraid and alone.
  • Children may feel like failures for not making the BP happy, or they may keep trying and trying until the mother’s death. This enmeshment (inability to separate) may hinder grown child’s relationships, which may be fraught with dependency.
  • The child may become cynical, angry, and feel manipulated or turn into over responsible nursemaids seeking elusive approval.
  • The message to children is that life is something to be endured until you die.
  • The BP shelters children to such an extent they find autonomy disconcerting.


Typical Thoughts

“It’s a dog eat dog world out there and I’m a cat. Everyone out there is for themselves and no place is safe. Since people will always end up betraying me, I must be alert for hints or hidden meanings in things others would consider innocuous.”

Typical Feelings

Terrified of not having control, fear of engulfment keeps them from obtaining comfort. No wonder they see potential disaster everywhere. Hermits take criticism as a global condemnation of themselves and depend upon work and hobbies for self-esteem. Their inner shame is expressed through continual criticism of others.

Typical Actions and Central Dilemma

The hard shell makes these BPs appear confident, determined, independent, and even socially graceful. But it’s a veneer. Like many BPs, hermits show one face to the world and another to everyone else. Close family members experience, “distrust, perfectionism, insecurity, anxiety, rage and paranoia” (2000). They hold everyone to same ideal of perfection, punishing others by raging or shutting them out. Hermits fear losing themselves, which translates into possessiveness about their belongings.

Typical Thoughts, Emotions, and Actions of Family Members

  • “Like the BP says, the world is unsafe and I should not risk trusting people.”
  • “I need to protect the BP from the terror of the outside world.”
  • “I am a faithful, loyal person and would never leave the BP to fend for herself.”
  • “I feel trapped and isolated by the Hermit’s fear.”
  • “I have trouble trusting and making mistakes because I know the BP will say, ‘I told you so.'”
  • “I’m giving up my social life because it’s too hard to maintain one and be a helpful person to the BP, who doesn’t want to go out or make friends.”
  • “I will make excuses for the BP so no one will suspect the real problems.”

The Effects of the Hermit’s Behavior on Children 

  • During adulthood, they suffer from many maladies stemming from trapped feelings such as panic attacks or phobias.
  • Children not encouraged to explore and learn can become anxious when faced with new situations. They may not learn appropriate coping skills, give up control too easily, have a hard time trusting, and be less capable of naturally moving away from the parent.

Child(ren) reactions and dysfunction due to Borderline Mothering:

  1. Exhibit emotional intensity
  2. Feel emotionally manipulated by mother
  3. Have memory difficulties
  4. Can be self-destructive cutting, banging head
  5. Have high levels of anxiety
  6. Exhibit guilt
  7. Act out in rage
  8. Having consuming negative thoughts
  9. Spends a lot of time in their room or hiding
  10. Cannot self-regulate feelings
  11. Depersonalization
  12. Have angry defiance
  13. Feel worthless
  14. Exhibit false compliance and have recurring feelings of emptiness
  15. Unable to express emotional at all by becoming trapped within their emotions
  16. Lack autonomy freedom for self-direction or self-expression
  17. Learn not to feel
  18. Learn not to get upset over yelling, screaming threats
  19. Has feelings of emptiness
  20. Obsessive ruminations
  21. Child associates love with fear and kindness with danger
  22. Avoid having friends over for fear of seeing mothers dark side
  23. Believe their worth is based on their mothers opinions

Borderline Mothers

  • Uses dear to keep child in line this creates a lack of trust or shatters a trusted relationship with child
  • Exhibit all or nothing behavior and expectations towards others
  • Develops false self may have many masks wear throughout the day
  • Ridicule their children and demand complete loyalty at the expense of the other parent
  • Have emotional outburst randomly usually when it makes no logical sense
  • Exhibits anxiety, shame, rage and/or lacks self-esteem or awareness
  • Has a negative attitude about everything
  • Demand to control all aspects of child’s life refusing to allow autonomy, independence or freedom of expression or self-direction
  • Complains about child as if they are troubled or bad
  • Cut off communication with children or others from resources, communication, and support when she feels betrayed
  • Extraordinarily sensitive to criticism and expects to child to care for them
  • If she doesn’t feel supported child will receive bouts of annihilating rage
  • Memory difficulties, hard time focusing, confused, disorganized thinking, inability to reason objectively, morbid introspection and exhibits intrusive thoughts
  • They are worst case scenarios
  • Emotionally manipulative
  • Will respond to child’s needs either in a way that increases child’s distress or will dismiss their concerns entirely.


    Good Mothering                     vs.            Borderline Mothering

1.      Comforts child


2.      Apologizes for inappropriate behavior


3.      Takes care of herself



4.      Encourages independence in her children


5.      Is proud of her children’s accomplishments



6.      Builds her child’s self-esteem


7.      Responds to her child’s changing needs



8.      Calms and comforts her children


9.      Disciplines with logical natural consequences



10.   Expects that her child will be loved by others


11.   Nevers threatens abandonment



12.   Believes in her children’s basic goodness


13.   Trusts her children




1.      Confuses child


2.      Does not apologize or remember inappropriate behavior



3.      Expects to be taken care of


4.      Punishes or discourages independence



5.      Envies, ignores or demeans her child’s accomplishments


6.      Destroys, denigrates or undermines self –esteem



7.      Expects child to respond to her needs


8.      Frightens and upsets her children


9.      Disciplines inconsistently or punitively


10.   Feels left out jealous or resentful if the child is loved by someone else



11.   Uses threats of abandonment or actual abandonment to punish child


12.   Does not believe in the child’s basic goodness



13.   Does not trust her child



The Good Child                       vs.       The Bad or invisible Child

·        This is the parentified child

·        Feels must parent the parent

·        Personal accomplishment bring no satisfaction since it must be from luck or good fortune

·        Is told adult secrets that are inappropriate

·        Fears betraying mother

·        Withholds feelings for fear of being punished

·        Can’t say no to mothers demands

·        Feels responsible for mothers happiness

·        Feels underserving of a good life

·        Has difficulty experiencing pleasure repress self-awareness

·        Learns not to feel

·        Gets angry or confused and doesn’t know why

·        Higher chance of also developing borderline personality

·        Experiences chronic migraines, bodily aches and pains

·        Can exhibit pain agnosia- the inability to feel

·        Appears to be indifferent to punishment

·        Feels worthless, meaningless not living

·        Self mutilates

·        High levels of anxiety, rage, shame, guilt

·        Loathes mother

·        Obsessive ruminations


All information was derived from Christine Ann Lawson 2000 “Understanding the Borderline Mother.” Although this book is expensive it is worth the price if you had a BPD mother or you’re a non-BP parent co-parenting a child with a borderline spouse.

Written by Amy Choisser 2015


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