The Challenge: A borderline personality disordered (BPD) individual has a very fragile and unpredictable personality. They may be highly educated and have very successful careers. However, they struggle with interpersonal relationships because they are too fragile to be effective. They are very much like emotional children locked in an adult body, expected to function in adult relationships. When things are going their way, they can be delightful and charming. As soon as they do not get their way, or someone crosses them, they will quickly resort to destructive means to stabilize their fragile sense of self.
Coping Mechanisms: The BPD’s greatest fear is to be abandoned and they will do just about anything to avoid the crushing blow of perceived rejection. They must feel they are loved at all times. They will create dependency in their child and will have difficulty seeing their child as separate. Sadly they “split” which means they view others, including their children, as either all good or all bad.
They do not allow themselves to acknowledge anything in the “gray” area of life where most of reality exists. For example, if their child loves the other parent, then the BPD parent will over-react and believe they are being rejected by their child. They teach their child that if they want to feel safe then they have to adore them. They make it known in every possible way that “You are for me or you are against me.” If there is more than one child, the BPD parent may even idealize one child and reject the other.
The Impact of Being Raised by a Borderline Personality Disordered Parent
Children of mothers with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) are a disadvantaged group of children that are at risk for future psychopathology. Crandell et al. (1997) demonstrated that, for these children, attachment status is not completely stable.
Some children are able to resolve early traumatic experiences and are able to obtain an ‘earned secure’ attachment status in adulthood. Adults with an earned secure status function comparably to adults who had secure attachment status as children (Crandell et al, 1997). These findings hold great promises for the prognosis of children of mothers with BPD. With adequate attention and intervention, there is hope that children of mothers with BPD will overcome the risks associated with this maternal psychopathology.
Have Your Parents Put You at Risk for Psychopathology
Growing up with one or more parents affected with BPD causes significant damage to the child’s sense of self. Relief can only be achieved by stopping the abuse. This is done by installing consistent boundaries that do not allow for this type of abuse. Once this is achieved, healing of the self can occur by recognizing the damage done by the abuse and recasting the relationship in more realistic terms.
The nub of the problem is that if you have been raised by a Borderline mother or father, these behavioral scenes are your normal. First you need to step outside the abusive relationship sufficiently to realize what’s been done to you. After all, children don’t ask for abuse from the people they love the most in this world. Then, psychotherapy can help with objectifying what’s going on, setting good limits, and being the best son or daughter that you choose to be under the circumstances.
It’s a fight that’s worth the effort.