"Laura explained that her mother 'went on tirades.' Something could set her off and she would whirl around the house like a cyclone. The warning signal was 'the look.' The look was a piercing, threatening glare to mean, 'I could kill you.' When Laura was a child, her mother actually said it, with no awareness of the power of her words. Children of borderlines and survivors of hurricanes have much in common. Survival is dependent on finding a safe place, staying low, and not being fooled by they eye of the storm." p.27
A little further down the page, Dr. Lawson writes, "When Laura was young the tirades terrified her, but as she grew older, she became immune to them." p. 27
It is interesting how children of borderlines become hypervigilant and learn how to "read" people very well. These children "smell" danger at 1,000 yards.They often are chronically anxious because they don't know what to expect next. One client told me, "I was especially wary when she was nice to me. If I got home from school and she had baked cookies and was warm and affectionate I knew that trouble was not far away.
It seems sad to me that children of borderlines can never relax. They either are dealing with the fury of high winds to use Dr. Lawson's metaphor of the huricane, or they are nervous as they enjoy the lull before the storm.
"The look" that Dr. Lawson refers to in her quote above makes family, friends, and therapists anxious alike. I know the look of which she speaks having seen it in many of my clients. It can be overly charming and effusive as well as testy and passive aggressively quiet with monosyllabic responses to questions and defensive withdrawal with no apparent reason given what has occured in the immediate situation. Continuing to press often is met with a hurtful sarcastic remark or some other sort of attack.
The emotionally lability of the Borderline is legendary wherein on the one hand they can idealize the other person and then flip and demonize the same person. There seems to be an incapacity to hold both good and bad in the mind at the same time in a grey area. Things are seen as either black or white.
People with borderline disorder are capable of perpetrating destruction on others and themselves, verbally and physically. Often times the emotional and mental scarring is the worse and by far more prevalent than the physical.
This is post #8 in a series based on Christine Lawson's book, Understanding The Borderline Mother.