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The Borderline Witch, part two - Beware of "the turn"

Verbal_abuse 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. This post is part two on the boderline Witch.

One of the important characteristics of the Witch type of borderline is what Dr. Lawson and others call "the turn". Dr. Lawson describes "the turn" as follows:

"One of the most devastating experiences for chldren of borderlines is "the turn." The Turn is a sudden attack, the abrupt withdrawal of love and affection, and razor-sharp words that can pierce the heart as painfully as an arrow. The messages aimed at the children include, 'I want you out of my life,' 'I'd be better off without you,' and 'I should never have had you kids.'"

And I could add, "Who do you want to life with: your father or me!?"

After being subjected to "the turn" people in relationship with the borderline often walk on eggshells, on pins and needles, never knowing what might cause "the turn" or which way the wind will be blowing in the next 15 minutes. Dr. Lawson does mention some of the possible triggers for "the turn" on p. 133 in her book Understanding The Borderline Mother.

  1. Showing affection for someone other than the mother.
  2. Disobeying, or expressing independent thought.
  3. Diminishing the mother.
  4. Differentiating from the mother.
  5. Disagreeing with mother.

Dr. Lawson writes:

" The disturbing reality is that the Turn may be triggered by circumstances that have nothing to do with the child. Any situation that triggers feeings of betrayal, rejection, or abandonment might cause the good mother to turn into the Witch. When the borderline mother's partner is absent or frustrating, she may turn on the children.

Children have no way of knowing that the borderline's emotional state is primarily determined by the state of her relationship with her own primary attachment figure. They have no way of knowing that their mother sometimes views their existence as a threat to her existence. Thus, the Turn seems entirely random to the child." p. 133 - 134

In my experience, the borderine herself is not aware of what motivates her feelings and behavior. In her mind, her actions seem entirely justified and appropriate. It is as if she has been so traumatized in the past that she promises herself that she will not allow anyone to hurt her again, and so she is not only defensive but pre-emptively attacks to mitigate any perceived threat, possibly real or imaginary. The mother - child relationship becomes not one of trust, nurturance, and reliability, but one of attack, rejection, unfair accusation and blame leaving a child or partner emotionally stunned, bleeding, hurt, sometimes devastated, and distrusting.

Dr. Lawson points out that the borderline Witch is the least likely to seek treatment. She doesn't want improvement and happiness, but revenge. She will denigrate mental health professionals because she fears their power to see her suffering and expose it which will lead to a loss of control and make her vulnerable to potentially even greater injury and hurt. As Dr. Lawson writes:

"Like the Witch in Hanzel ad Gretel, the borderline Witch has 'a keen sense of smell' for human weakness. Witch mothers know what to say to hurt or scare their cildren, and use humiliation and degradation to punish them." p. 137

It is this same strategy that the Witch uses on others that she most fears people will use on her. Therefore, she will avoid situations where she fears that her suffering can become known and exposed and used against her. Witches will never apologize, say they are sorry, take responsibility for their harming and hurting others. To do so would make them vulnerable and in their mind expose a weakness that could then be taken advantage of by others.

Dr. Lawson makes an accurate but very dire statement when she writes:

"Witch mothers are more likely to bring their children for treatment than to seek help for themselves. They project their own pathology onto their child, and often expect the child to be institutionalized. Because the no-good child is the target of the Witch's projections of self-hatred, the mother may wish for the child to be sent away. She needs and wants to get rid of this hated part of herself. Working with children of Witch mothers requires careful consideration, as therapists need to take appropriate steps to protect themselves while acting in the best interests of the child. No one should underestimate the vindictiveness of the borderline Witch, but, most important, no one should leave her children unprotected." p. 138

Stop_the_pain Unfortunately, it has been my experience working in the mental health field for 38 years to find that most human service, health, and mental health professionals do not understand Borderline Personality Disorder, it's symptoms, and dynamics. Consequently, children, spouses, and the person suffering from the disorder are often mis-served or ill- served. It also has been my observation that most mental health professionals don't want to serve people with Borderline Personality Disorder because the experience is often volatile, acrimonious, futile with sometimes destructive and life threatening consequences. If there were such a thing as combat pay for mental health professionals, those that are willing to provide service to Borderline clients and their families would certainly deserve it. Since mental health services for the most part are voluntary, a more positive prognosis is possible when the criminal justice, child protective, or family court system are involved which can provide structure and consequences for the borderline Witch. This structure may help her contain her bile, venom, and acting out because she knows she is being monitored and can be held accountable. It certainly may provide some small comfort, reassurance, and relief to children and spouses who may have some recourse to an external third party and are no longer at the sole mercy of the Witch's insanity. 

This is post # 17 in a series based on the book Understanding The Borderline Mother by Christine Lawson.



My step-mother is a classic Borderline Witch. It's really hard. The description hits her exactly.


Ouch. I'm middle aged now, and reading this brought back all the pain of childhood like a bolt of lightening.

Matthew | Polaris Rising

My BPD mother is very intelligent and has an MA in Counselling Psychology. I was constantly the problem and given therapy. It took close to 10 years before someone commented that my mother likely had BPD, and that all my "problems" were mostly based on that.

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what is the personality disorder:
the person is very non sociable and only has one friend, and is clingy to that one friend?


Thank you for mental health posts very useful.

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this disorders look so bad, I can't think in live a women with all of them, in one moment is waif that need care, later a lonely person, later a person who demand attention, and finally a person with a terrible sense of humor.

Red Wing Black

let's join our hands together to stop this kind of wrong doings. It may risk lives in the future if we just let them continue.

Tony Dawson

wow. My mother exactly. the "turn" was enver my fault and reason did nothing to prove to her she was acting strangely. Its like a switch for the witch and you never know when it will go off. Add to that partial "Queen", and then the Waif would come out with my father. Dad would only ever turn on me after she got to him. her bullets, his gun. poor man didnt know she was loading it. He died young at 64. She still alive at 80. I wont ever see her again. Of course I'm screwed up and on meds for bipoalr and dysthymia and there's nothing wrong with her...according to her of course.

Tony Dawson

re Red Wing Black. You are right in banding together. Siblings like me and my sister (I am 56 she 50) had never been close. We were always used as a "divide and conquer" mothod for our mother to gain power. Then she finally made one big mistake- she fell out with both of us at the same time. This was the catalyst to my sister and I realising what she was doing= manipulation. So we welded together and now have the most wonderful sister...forever. We are not responsible for our mothers issues especially when denial has been the thing all her 80 years. Turmoil has been there all our lives. No stability. Golden children were others, never my sister and I. And I could never please her. Damn her!

Sandra Dawson

'I'd be better off without you,' and 'I should never have had you kids.' Her words exactly! A mother always with an agenda ready to use friends and family to punish. Once I lost everything - my eldest daughter, my job, my house, some friends and all my family because I dared to stand up to her. Many years in the widerness and another divorce and breakdown I came back. Never again! She showed the loving side at first but slowly the witch reappeared. I had my eldest daughter back temporarily but alas she used all she could again. I have my brother out of it - the only thing that made it worth it and now we know the truth of the witch and can build whats left of our little family together. Love you bro

Tony Dawson

Thanks Sis. It never ceases to amaze me of the power of the witch. Switching from witch to waif is an art form our mother uses to suck in all that she can including us children even as adults. Makes me think I was stupid to allow her to control along with the guilt she used to subdue me. Clever witch. Now for the anti witch venom. A lifetime ahead of struggling to overcome it all. Likley without many relatives we could have had. But like bullying to quote Gene Simmon in an interview with Pamela Connelly ...on youtube and a great interview) "Stand up and use all of your might to neutralise the bully to allow for peace for the next victim. So our witch WILL NOT WIN.

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