Borderline Personality Disorder can manifest itself in multiple ways. In her book, Understanding The Borderline Mother, Dr. Christine Lawson describes four role types which BPD is exemplified by: the Waif, the Hermit, the Queen, and the Witch. These role types are not mutually exclusive and characteristics of these types over overlap and inter mix.
The borderline Witch mother is personified in fairy tales most notably Hanzel and Gretel.
"Husband, listen to me. Tomorrow at daybreak we'll take the children out to the thickest part of the forest...They'll never find the way home again and that way we'll be rid of them."
Susan Smith killed her children in 1994 when she drove her car into the lake with the kids strapped into their safety seats and killed them because her boyfriend left her and said he didn't want a girlfriend with kids.
Dr. Lawson writes:
"Two lessons can be learned from the Susan Smith case. The first is that a borderline's fear of abandonment can lead to tragically desperate acts. The second is that failing to recognize the borderline Witch can have deadly consequences." p. 123
Dr. Lawson points out that most borderline mothers do not kill their children and most borderline mothers do not physically abuse their children "but the Witch's children live in terror of her power. The look in her eyes strikes fear in their hearts. Words alone can shatter souls." p. 123
I have had adult children of borderline children tell me that the only time they felt safe was when they were in school or at someone else's house. Going home after school always filled them with dread because they never knew "what kind of a mood she would be in" or what fault she had focused on in their absence which had filled her with rage. As Dr. Lawson writes, "Children are the first to recognize and the last to admit that something is wrong with their mother." p.124 Often, only as adults, safely ensconsed in their own life will they look back and disclose stories of the terror they endured as children. Usually other adults, even if they knew the mother, express shock and chagrin because they had no idea of what was actually going on.
Dr. Lawson writes:
The Witch's children feel like the prisoners of a secret war. By the time they grow up they often unconsciously repress their memories, and their terror may be transformed into hatred." p. 125
These adult children sometimes can be become sadistic, callous, and cruel thinking that such behavior is normal and its a question of "getting them before they get you" or that "they deserve it" because of their own weakness or unwillingness to submit to their desires. Dr. Lawson writes:
"Children of borderine Witches know that their mothers can make people vanish. They have seen her cut people to shreds with words, shatter the reputations of those who betray her, and stab them in the heart with false accusations. They know the feeling of sinking into nothingness by soul-wrenching verbal attacks." . 125
A dramatic cinematic portrayal of borderline Witch rage is in the film Fatal Attraction starring Michael Douglas and Glenn Close as borderline girlfriend, Alex Forrest.
Husbands are often the target of vicious and damaging accusations if they try to separate/divorce a borderine Witch partner. Custody battles often ensue which are exceedingly damaging to all parties involved especially the children. Borderline Witches are often very good at manipulating the system and naive attorneys, child protective workers, psychotherapists and clergy get chewed up in the process. Many times religious beliefs get used to justify horrific behavior. Dr. Lawson writes:
"A pseudo-self-righteousness or a justification based on religious dogma may conceal their lack of true remorse. They may cling to the beliefs that they are forgiven and believe that they have spared their children from further suffering." p.128
The borderline Witch herself often was sadistically abused as a child. This justifies her abuse thinking in so many words, "It was good enough for me and it is good enough for you too." or "I don't know what you are complaining about, this is nothing like what I endured." The borderline Witch may trick her children or her husband into telling her what they want and then using it against them by witholding it or giving some flawed version provoking a complaint that can lead to her venting her rage that they are ungrateful or undeserving.
Dr. Lawson points out that frequent attack by the venomous Witch leads to the development of immunity in children and husbands. She writes:
"The Witch's tone of voice conveys a clear message of venomous hatred. But children of Witch mothers are like snake handlers who, frequently bitten, develop immunity. With time, a thick layer of scar tissue eventually covers wounds." p . 132
Unfortunately, forced to stay in a relationship because of dependency as with children, or with hope of always making things better as with husbands, leaves loved ones, especially children, in a no-win situation. Dr. Lawson very eloquently writes it this way:
"Managing the adrenaline triggered by an atack by one's mother is not easy. Children who fight back are punished. Children who hurt themselves may be labeled crazy. Children who hurt someone else are referred to the justice system. The Witch's children must surrender themselves to her control and suffer the consequence of internalized rage." p. 133
One of the most difficult aspects of living with the borderline Witch is that one is living in a war zone. Anxiety is always high because one never knows when and from where the next attack is coming. Dr. Lawson likens it to living in a tornado zone. She writes:
"Attacks by the Witch mother are like tornadoes: random, devastating, and unpredictable. Naturally,her children are on constant alert for changes in the atmosphere that might indicate when and where she will "turn." p. 133
One client told me that she could never plan on having a happy holiday. Something would always set off her mother who would pick a fight, make cutting remarks, and hurt other people because of her own sense of hurt and need to control, to be in charge.
"It was like she was unhappy and so she wanted everyone else unhappy too or even worse she couldn't be content and happy unless she had hurt someone. It was like her only sense of satisfaction. The even scarier thing is that my mother felt entirely justified in this behavior always blaming it on the other person saying in so many words that they deserved it or had it coming. I never dared asking how she figured that or she would attack me."
This is post #16 in a series on Christine Lawson's book, Understanding the Borderline Mother.