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Relationships borderline mothers have with their children

Mother_and_child Dr. Christine Lawson writes in her book, Understanding The Borderline Mother, about the relationships that borderline mothers have with their children.

"The dependency of the newborn can be intensely satisfying to the borderline mother, but as the child becomes increasingly independent, conflict erupts." p. 40

I had a client who told me that she never felt better than when she was pregnant. She stated that she enjoyed the nursing and caretaking of the infants until they reached about 2 years of age and then she wanted another child. She had nine children altogether and she became increasingly unhappy when she came to the age when she could no longer have children in her mid-40s.

As the child grows and becomes more independent having been weaned, talking, walking, and toilet trained, the borderline mother feels increasing distress at the separation and the diminishment of the symbiotic tie the toddler has with her.

"The mother's anxiety intensifies because the child is no longer totally dependent and cannot be completly controlled. When the borderline mother recognizes the child's separateness, separation anxiety is triggered and different parts of her personality are split off and projected onto the child." p.40 - p.41

When the borderline mother has several children, some of them can be treated as the "good child" and some of them as the "no-good" child. As a result children in the family can have quite different experiences of the same mother.

"Adult children of borderlines may experience conflict with siblings who have different perceptions of the same mother." p 41

A little further down on the same page, Dr. Lawson writes further:

"Loyalty is richly rewarded whereas the price of betrayal is symbolic beheading - the child is completely cut off." p. 41

The differential treatment is often confusing to children and sometimes they are played one off the other. The good child may feel guilty and upset about how the no-good child is treated but is afraid to say anything less she/he loose their favored position and become the object of the wrath, scorn, and denigration as well. Dr. Lawson writes:

"The consequences of betrayal so frighten children that they may have difficulty speaking about their mother. Upon entering therapy, adult children of borderlines are initially reluctant to discuss their childhood experiences." P. 41

Children learn not to speak of their experiences out of fear of upsetting the mother and precipitating some sort of abuse. Dr. Lawson writes:

"Because borderline mothers can misperceive a child's normal need to separate as betrayal, children learn to deny, disavow, or repress their feelings in order to survive. All good children may stay merged and unable to separate from mother. No-good children may distance themselves completely, although they are more likely to continue a conflicted relationship. It is rare for adult children to abandon their mother, regardless of how many times their mother has abandoned them." p . 42

I had an adult child of a borderline mother in counseling who came from a large family who said "Mom could be very good when she was good, or very bad when she was bad." She told me she has phone contact with her mother on holidays but is leary about physical visits.

This is post # 10 based on Christine Lawson's book, Understanding The Borderline Mother.


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