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.
- Showing affection for someone other than the mother.
- Disobeying, or expressing independent thought.
- Diminishing the mother.
- Differentiating from the mother.
- 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
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.