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The Borderline Witch - Part three- The Witch's motto: Life Is War

Angry_woman 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 overlap and inter mix. This post is part three on the borderline Witch.

There are many characteristics of the Witch borderline mother. She is sadistically controlling and punitive with her children. This occurs unpredictably but regularly to the extent that after awhile the children of the witch expect to be hurt by her. I had a an adult client tell me that her mother would come to school and have her removed from class and chastise her for not doing some simple chore such as emptying the dishwasher. The client said that her mother would take her home and demand that she do her chores. She said that the front office staff were afraid of her mother and complied with her request to have her daughter removed from school even though they intially protested that this was not a good reason for the daughter to miss school. However, the mother's emotional intensity and insistence seem to bully them into acquiescing. The client told me she was embarassed the next day having to explain to friends, teachers, and school staff what was so important and emergent that her mother had appeared to take her from school.

She engages in "borderline rage" which leads to denigration, smashing of objects especially if they are favored objects of her children such as favorite toys or of her spouse like a favorite guitar, desk, cars etc. I had one client tell me that on several occassions her mother would, in a rage, remove all her toys and beloved dolls and stuffed animals, place them in black garbage bags and make her put them in the trash. She says looking back she has no understanding of what enraged her mother to take such action. A husband told me that his borderline wife one time smashed his guitar and overturned and damaged his desk after a fight when he had left for a few hours to cool down. He said that after that he never brought anything into the house that he was not willing to have her destory in another rage. Nothing, he said, was safe.

She is very good at "splitting", that is, playing one person or group off an other and idealizing one person, child, or group while demonizing another person, child, or group.People and even family members can be "blacklisted" and the Witch will not communicate with them for years if ever again. One client told me that her mother did not speak to her father, the child's grandfather, for over 18 years. Another client told me that her mother was estranged from all of her children having various grievances that they had stole from her and mistreated her in various ways. The client said that she had heard from a friend of her mother that she had explained her estrangement from her children and grandhchildren saying that her children had been the product of marital rape.

The borderline rage and hostility is thought of by psychotherapists as a mask for fear.

Dr. Lawson writes:

"In other words, when the Witch mother perceives her children as resisting her control (by expressing their own will) she perceives them as threatening her survival. Her mindset is 'If you are not with me, you are against me.' The Witch mother's hostility is an attempt to discredit those with power. Portraying the enemy as weak, incompetent, or worthless reduces the threat to her. Thus, she is pleased when others feel diminished, vulnerable, and powerless. The Witch's children sense her pleasure (sadistic enjoyment) at their expense. In fact, degrading others does make the Witch mother feel better." p. 143

The witch is often intrusive, domineering, and violates the boundaries of others. She has an uncanny ability to perceive the vulnerability in others. People closest to her often become withdrawn, isolated, and keep things private for fear that she will use their thoughts, feelings, and desires as weapons against them. One client told me that her mother asked her as a teenager what she wanted for her birthday. She said they discussed her desire for a special kind of radio at length and even had marked one in a catalog. When her birthday occured a month later she was excited about receiving the radio, but it never appeared. When the mother asked her at the end of the day how she had enjoyed her birthday she said "Fine. It was very good." When the mother inquired further, she said she continued to insist it was fine. When the mother finally asked how she felt about not getting the radio, she said she was disappointed, at which point the mother launched into a tirade about how she was ungrateful, never happy with anything the mother had done for her, and that she was a terrible daughter who was selfish, egotistical, and not worth enough to receive anything as fine as the radio which she desired. The adult daughter said she was angry, hurt, confused, and doubted her own worth. She said further that she felt ashamed that she had even admitted that she wanted the radio. She said that she realized then that her desires and preferences were unworthy, and not to be held, let alone admitted to anyone. She said that as an adult she has a hard time believing that she has a right to be happy or to express any preference or desire for fear that it will offend if not enrage people who will think she is selfish and impertinent.

The witch often fears entrapment and becomes paranoid believing that others wish her ill and are out to get her in some way. Her tendency is to "get them before they get me" or "I have been hurt by others so often, I am never giving anyone a chance to hurt me again." The brighter and more articulate the Witch, the more dangerous she is and difficult to reason with. There usually is a kernel of truth to her accusation and paranoia but on further consideration it appears that the fear is usually exaggerated and taken out of context. A client told me that his mother always thought people were trying to take advantage of her. She loved to go garage saling and took great delight in getting people to lower their prices. Getting someone to lower the price of some object from 50 cents to 25 cents gave his mother a sense of triumph as if she had pulled a fast one on a world bent on stealing from her and unfairly taking her money.

The borderline Witch will rarely seek help herself. She is suspicious and doesn't believe that anyone else can understand and help her. If help is obtained it may be as a result of an involuntary psychiatric hospitalization after a suicide attempt. In extreme cases the Witch will go too far and commit a crime and wind up in prison as did Susan Smith who killed her children by driving the car in which they were strapped into a lake.

The borderline Witch's children often grow up somewhat damaged. As Dr. Lawson writes:

"They grow up broken, unable to love, unable to trust, unable to feel. The Witch's children are victims of soul murder and may feel alive only when suffering or when inflicting suffering." P. 148

Dr. Lawson writes further:

"The Witch's children survive their childhood by learning not to feel, cry, laugh, smile, or frown in their mother's presence. Adult children raised by Witch mothers survived an emotional hell. Without intervention, young children may not survive." P. 149

The borderline Witch's children can be greatly helped by what Swiss Psychoanalyst, Alice Miller, calls an enlightened witness. The enlightened witness is a person in whom the child can confide, or whom the child perceives as knowing what is going on. The enlightened witness lets the child know that what is happening to them, the way they are being treated, is not fair. The enlightened witness lets the child know that it is not them who has the problem but the parent. Often times we are mystified and wonder, "Is it me or is it them?" The enlightened witness says to the child, "It's them." The child is relieved to know that he/she doesn't deserve and isn't causing what is going on. The enlightened witnesses understanding and validation can help a child preserve the child's sanity and soul.

This is the 18th post in a series on borderline parenting based on Dr. Christine Ann Lawson's book, Understanding The Borderline Mother.



Wow this is my mother! I had no idea there was a name for her systematic soul killing. In group therapy my sister called her a "soul killer". I'm glad some other people on this planet can relate to having the person who is susposted to love you most bask in your destruction!


Wow. This was really tough to read. It is so relevant to my experience. I even have my own radio story: I wanted a portable radio for Christmas and in the days leading up to it I started crying at the dinner table because I didn't think I'd get it. I was 14 then. So sad.


This is my mother to a tee. For my birthdays, I was made to wait all day long (till dinner) for any acknowledgement that it was my birthday, let alone any presents...and if I got upset, I was a selfish ungrateful demanding little bitch.


I have present stories too. I always got huge mountains of presents that I didn't want (making me look like a spoiled child in the eyes of the family), but not the one book that I wanted. Until today she tries to manipulate me by giving presents- I have paid a high price for every present I took from her. But also for refusing them. Recently, I gave back a cake (I had told her that she should stop giving me presents). She unleashed hell on me by telling relatives what I mean person I am. It's truely ridiculous if it weren't so frightening.


My mother was a borderline. She vacillated between all 4 roles, but mostly Queen/Witch. I used to say, "She sucked the life out of me." I'm still struggling with the aftermath of a childhood with a borderline mother. She once took the Christmas tree, lights and ornaments and stuffed it into the apartment's incinerator to make a point and to hurt me. The emotional pain she inflicted was quite a lot for a child to bare.

Colleen Du Bois

Oh My goodness ! Yes this is my mother too. How I survived to be a relatively well adapted, happy successful woman I do not quite understand, but I can only applaud myself for doing so.


I worked out about a year ago that my mother has bpd and I can definatley categorise her as a witch with some hermit tendancies. Oh my god so many stories flooding through my mind. I relate to the client whose mother told a friend her children were conceived through rape. My mother always had difficulty regarding me as an adult exept when she was 'confiding' in me. She and my father divorced when I was five and she was always trying to make me hate my father, it was like I was her best girlfriend and she was unloading all the secret abuse of her failed marriage onto me. If I was annoyed at my dad she would try to make me dislike him more. Once I needed a lift to the airport and my dad was spending the weekend with friends so he couldn't help me. Annoyed I called my mum and asked her instead, she agreed but spent the whole journey telling me she always had a feeling my father was a bad person, even when they were married. She said he never really loved her, she suspected he was a pedarist because he lost interest in her sexually by the time she was 22 and she only had me as a last ditch attempt to keep him interested in her.
The present thing was also an experience I had in my childhood, my mother would buy me very expensive, non returnable gifts without discussing it with me beforehand. Her presents usually had nothing to do with what I had originally asked her for and because her gifts were so expensive, even if I didn't enjoy them, they were there now so I was expected to use them on a regular basis "why aren't you wearing those heels I bought you for christmas? They cost me more than a washing machine!" Or she would spontaniously pull me out of school for holidays that she'd spent all her savings on and spend the whole holiday making me feel guilty for being there because she had enough money worries without having to pay for me to go on holiday with her.
Its hard to explain to non bpd people how presents can be just as potent as tools of abuse as neglect.


Dear LORD this is my Mom.

I'm beginning to think the present thing is a theme.

When I was a kid I actually made a point of saying how much I hate waterbeds. One Christmas all I wanted was a $15 dollar book. What did I get? The thousand dollar waterbed, and heaps of other expensive stuff I had absolutely zero interest in, but NOT the $15 dollar book. When I was obviously disappointed in the waterbed, and wasn't even comfortable on it when going to bed, of course I was an "ungrateful little bastard."

My world changed when my kids were born and I started to see the crap I suffered extended to my kids, and I think she saw/continues to see them as an extension of me, and that's when I changed everything. I refused to let this person treat/talk to, etc. them the way I was treated. My mom has refused to talk to my daughter for over two years and hasn't seen her for almost six years. Sadly, she's turning 16 this month, all for some slight my Mom perceived in a note she got from my daughter when she was 10 and then another at 13.

These are sick people, they CAN'T be fixed, and the best thing I ever did for my own sanity was leaving Ohio and moving to Nebraska. It did wonders.


My wife is definately a Queen, but can definately show signs of all four, witch being the second most common. Sadistic is the best word to describe it. Who would act so cruel to someone they love? She would vaccilate between loving and cruel so quickly that I knew something was wrong. No "normal" human being would act so mean to someone who cares about them. I find the sadistic nature comes out when anger has been building up for a while. Otherwise fighting it is just a distancing trick they use to avoid intimacy and closeness because it is that which they fear.


I am an adult and i am so frightened by my bpd mother to this day. my sister and brother would go years with no contact with her in order to save themselves from her torment while i would suffer DAILY thinking it was "the right thing to do." Now my brother has died and i have become the target of my mothers pain in a horrible way, worse than before, and i actually fear she wants more than to destroy my life. I swear i think she wants to take it. She is so frightening and i have heard that the "witch" borderline mother will kill her own children...she HAS come close to killing at least two people that i know and has terribly physically harmed one of her own granddaughters! (she was physically abusive to my siblings but only emotionally towards me because i was a sick child.) Where do you turn when you think your mother is planning to take your life? how do i live with this?


I always knew something was wrong. From such a young age I fought my mother tooth and nail. She blamed me for everything. I was insane out of control in a rage because something told me to fight...I didn't know what. She took me to every psychiatrist possible: always hitting me locking me in my room. I was not allowed to do anything. If I even wanted to go outside in the yard I got in trouble. And yet she forced me to play piano, paint, draw, dance, sing, act, play instruments. My school work was always done and checked by her it had to be perfect. Yet she was hitting me, drinking, screaming, passing out, vomiting, always walking around naked. She and my father never spoke except when she wanted her drinks. She screamed every morning as she sat naked on the toilet with the door open, that she was dying. And at 49 she did just that. I thought I was free. But I remember sitting on my bed at the age of 12 when she passed, thinking I was free. And this voice told me it would have been either her or me. And so I don't know. There is no easy answer. My entire being is still reeling from all this. I have no idea which way is up. All I know is that I feel angry and resentful at the analyst who back in the late 1970's didn't tell her or any of us that mother was bpd or shizo. I only found out about her condition ten years after the fact by tracking him down. He looked me square in the face when asked why he hadn't said anything and just asked me 'well what good would it have done?' Crushing...Blessings everyone. We should somehow try to find a way to band together. Don't know how.

Sharon Bailey

I was in my 40's when I finally realized I couldn't take the hurt anymore. Tricks, lies, accusations, insults, on and on. Still on some level I feel ashamed and guilty for not having contact with my crazy mother. It never leaves you, we will never be like other people. It's like a part of us has been too damaged to ever work right. I still fall into relationships that the role I am expected to play is the support person to the weak, with strange accusations and attempts at manipulation etc. Most relationships just are too much of a strain, too much energy trying to maintain boundries, so I am alone and happy.


I too have a witch borderline mother. I'm 41 now, and altough I'm scared as hell, sometimes to the point of dissociation, for me, the pain has to stop. I am in the process of cutting all contacts with her. My childhood was an absolute nightmare. She was and still is crazy, and I do not want her part of my life anymore. WE, LIKE ANYBODY ELSE, ARE ALLOWED TO HAVE A PEACEFULL LIFE.


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No "normal" human being would act so mean to someone who cares about them. I find the sadistic nature comes out when anger has been building up for a while. Otherwise fighting it is just a distancing trick they use to avoid intimacy and closeness because it is that which they fear.

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This is exactly as my mother is. She had put myself and my family through so much abuse I feel forever damaged and abnormal. My father even told me he was proud of me for survivng as I had been on the streets at 14. I would have died had I not been rescued by my friend's family (they unofficially adopted me as even at home with my dad wasnt safe when she was there). When I tried to kill myself at 15 she was there to bully and degrade me for how stupid I was and brought me to the hospital my dad worked at on purpose to see "how proud" he would be of me. She did it to hurt us both in a time when I needed help the most. Even now she plots against us, ruining Christmas this year by chasing everyone away with her wild accusations and tortuous abuse. She revels in making us feel miserable saying how ungrateful and selfish we are, she even took all the presents to "get her money back" because thats all thats ever been important to her. Now After 22 years Im setting up a legal team for my dad composed of doctors, psychiatrists, witnesses and others to testify against her in court for everything she has done to us. It is my personal mission to see she is pennyless and alone just like she made us feel, and just like how her father ended up- dying alone.

mark Flynn

My Ex-wife, the Mother of my Son belongs in both the Witch and the Queen category's.

I found it amazing how accurately she did fit.

I plan to read more in order to get through the next few years of my Sons childhood.


This is most definitely my mother. My birthday story is she told me, when I was 15, I could pick it anything I wanted at Macy's. I chose two Guess sweatshirts that are in style. We proceed to check out and she says to the women at the counter with an air of disgust, "With all these gorgeous clothes, can you believe THIS is what so picked out?"

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