Resolution, Not Conflict

The guide to problem-solving.

When Your Mother Has a Borderline Personality

Adult children of moms with borderline personality disorders report the lifelong devastating impact of their mothers' intense narcissism and unpredictable raging. What could help kids who have these kinds of moms? Read More

Why not use parent instead of

Why not use parent instead of mother?

EXCELLENT question.

I'm first of all having to think about it. Why did I choose to write about borderline parents using the term mother? As I"ve let the subconscious reasons bubble up, there are several:

1. All but one of the comments that I quote are about borderline moms. The one exception is actually about other relatives who were borderlines. None wrote about a borderline dad.

2. I think that's because we tend to have gender differences in labeling. When women rage we call them borderlines. When men rage they tend to get labeled narcissistic and/or bipolar and/or abusive.

3. Your question really has gotten me thinking, so I looked up google keywords. The reality is that keywords are a big factor in the terms I use to assure good google placement for my articles, which radically increases their reach. I was surprised to see that borderline parent does get a significant number of searches. At the same time, borderline mother gets about 25% more. Borderline father, interestingly, gets very few.

In conclusion, I will sprinkle in more usage of the term parent. At the same time I'll probably stick mainly with mother, primarily for search optimization.....

Thanks so much for this great question.

drh

Newer studies show BPD occurs equally in both men and women

This study from 2011 indicates that borderline pd is equally prevalent in men and women:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3115767/

Gender Patterns in Borderline Personality Disorder

Randy A. Sansone, MD and Lori A. Sansone, MD

(a couple of excerpts:)

Abstract

"...As for prevalence, earlier research concluded that a higher proportion of women than men suffer from borderline personality disorder, although more recent research has determined no differences in prevalence by gender...."

Conclusions
(how the phenotypic presentations differ:)

"... men with BPD are more likely to demonstrate explosive temperaments coupled with high levels of novelty seeking. Men with BPD are also more likely to evidence substance abuse whereas women with BPD are more likely to evidence eating, mood, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorders.

With regard to Axis II comorbidity, men with BPD are more likely than women to have antisocial personality characteristics.

Finally, men with BPD are more likely to have treatment histories for substance abuse whereas women with BPD are likely to have utilized more pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy services. Thus, given the similarities in men and women with BPD, there are also clear gender differences in BPD as well.

***These differences, reported in a number of different studies, may explain why women with BPD are more likely to be over-represented in mental health services and men with BPD are more likely to be over-represented in substance-abuse treatment programs and/or jails."***

I think this last sentence is very important; it explains in a very logical way why both the psychiatric community and the general public misperceive borderline pd as being overwhelmingly a "woman's disorder" when it actually occurs with equal frequency in both genders.

There is another study, a large national psychiatric survey, that concludes that borderline pd occurs much more freqently than earlier research indicated: closer to 5% of the population instead of just under 2%, in part due to this new information about gender prevalence, but I can't find the link to that one. When I find that I'll post the link.

Question

I'm quite young, but I have my fathers ability of really seeing the changes in people over time. One person I've seen this happen to is my mother, in one of the sentences it says, if I were to fall, the mother/father would be "ashamed". Well basically you've just learn't about my mom, she used to be way different, she is now dating this guy, hes' not like the drunk my dad was when I was younger, and still my mom acted like we had a perfect family when obviously my dad was a drunk (At the time). 10 years later, shes a verbally abusive mom that favors my younger sister, and says things to my 5 year old sister like "Oh, Suri you aren't as smart as kayla" oh and yes, if you notice my sister's name is Suri, my mom is delusional too. Then she married that guy, he did something that ruined my life..I don't wannna talk about it, but yeah, and she talks to me like she deserves forgivness, and her damn pride.. I'm pissed off, and I'm about to burst..

Maybe there's some people out

Maybe there's some people out there who would be amazing mothers and who would never, ever hurt their child in any way.
Maybe the fact that you're saying someone with bpd would be an abusive parent is fucking disgusting and you don't know what the fuck you're talking about.
When someone with bpd reads shit like this it can make them completely fucking hate themselves and think that they're an evil person.
Maybe they've been abused and telling them that they're going to be abusive hurts to an extent that you would never fucking understand.
Stop reinforcing the fucking stigma surrounding bpd and making them out to be fucking horrible people.
Having bpd does not make you a bad person, and people like you need to stop fucking making out that it does.

My heart goes out to you

I can "hear" that your heart is in the right place, that you are in pain, and that you abhor the idea that mothers, any mother, could ever be abusive to her own children.

But I am also one of the adult children of a mother who had bpd (she had a formal diagnosis) but she refused to accept the diagnosis, refused to go into treatment and she was very emotionally and physically abusive to me and my siblings. It can happen. It does happen.

Neither Dr. Heitler nor any of the posters here are saying that *everyone* with bpd is abusive to their children. BPD can manifest in a range of behaviors, and in a range of severity. You are correct: not everyone with BPD will automatically abuse their children.

But SOME parents with BPD have it in a more severe form and are not able to control their high impulsivity, their "black and white" thinking, their fear of abandonment, their chronic irritability or extreme, inappropriate rage, their paranoid or delusional thinking when under stress, their self-harming or their suicidal impulses, and this emotional instability and lack of control can and does generate extreme stress and even emotional trauma for their children.

This particular article and the responses to it are meant to offer support to the adult children of BPD parents who suffered abuse at their parent's hands, so I can understand that a person with BPD, particularly a mother who has BPD, would find this particular topic of discussion rather upsetting or even triggering.

But just wishing for something upsetting to not be real, to never happen, or not be true, doesn't make it so.

It may be more helpful for you to seek out the online support groups for those with BPD who are parents; peer support and validation, peer advice and insights would probably feel very encouraging, hopeful and beneficial to you.

If this particular article and the responses have the power to badly upset you, then I suggest that support groups for those with BPD are where you would want to read and post instead.

Irony Alert

This very angry commenter unfortunately can't see how her very comment and her inappropriate reaction to the article reflect her emotional instability. As the child of a borderline parent, I do believe that people with BPD should definitely think twice about having children, and should, at the very least, have made significant progress in therapy before doing so (certainly to the point where they wouldn't react so aggressively to an article on the internet with a perfectly justifiable and scientifically supported opinion that simply argues something that is unpleasant in the eyes of the BPD sufferer).

RE: Irony Alert

What an intelligent, insightful and compassionate response, Danielle. Thank you for sharing it. Have a wonderful day.

BpD

Some people with this are bad. I've grown up with a unbalanced mother, who lashes out, and don't fight fair, all my life she's done and said stupid shit. Only after I attended al anon, that someone asked me I if my mother was a borderline. This woman does not want help, she took the easy way out abusing pills and lying about it, married to a man who tried killing her, and hates him. She's only there for the money. I hate my mother, I don't care about her sickness, she pushes away everyone she loves. She was abused by her alcoholic father, and I had used men All,her life. I predict she will omit make it past next year, the next suicide attempt, will be her last.

Saturday was my birthday

This past Saturday was my birthday. BPD Mom insisted I spend my special day with her as opposed to spending it with my friends. We spent the day doing an activity she wanted to do with her buddies. Then she took me out to eat. We had my birthday lunch at BPD Mom's favorite restaurant and we ordered food she liked. Afterward we went to BPD Mom's house where I did several chores for her.

Once the chores were accomplished BPD Mom sat me down to have a "discussion"(aka ragefest). She was upset that I no longer wanted to have serious discussions about my shortcomings and she was particularly insulted that I tend to get up and leave when she wants to outline the changes I need to make. I thanked her for the pleasant day and walked away, got in my car and drove home without engaging.

On Monday I received a very long email. BPD Mom wrote that she was disappointed that I no longer wanted to have discussions face to face so she is forced to put her feelings in an email. This was followed by several paragraphs that I didn't read thoroughly but there were plenty of personal accusations and blatant lies. I responded that I had received her email and that I had no comment. So then she wrote me another long-winded email which I didn't read. For the second email I didn't respond.

Ah, mother.

Your patience and fortitude astound me ... and thank you also for...

I love your ability to see your mother so accurately on the one hand, and at the same time to dispassionately decide when you have had enough.

Your comments also remind me of a bpd quality that I think I could have highlighted more in my posting: the mean streak. Instead of enjoying loving their children, bpd parents seem to love berating them.

I wonder if this flip of what is usually love into impulses to hurt is a form of psychological reversal? I've written a posting on psychological reversal at http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/resolution-not-conflict/201202/bad-l....

Psychological reversal is a state of self-sabotage. Bpd moms seem to want to sabotage their children.

So thank you so much for highlighting the mean streak aspect of bpd in your comment!

I don't think my BPD mother is that complicated.

I don't think my mom attempting to sabotage me. I've watched her closely for 50 long years. I've noticed something about my BPD mom:

My mother perks up and becomes happy when she succeeds in getting into a finger-pointing ragefest with a family member. It's just like a drug addict or an alcoholic but in place of the mind-altering substance it's the rage that works for her. I'll assume that she might be getting some sort of oxytocin release. Maybe a qualified medical professional should see if hormone levels decrease and increase in BPDs during raging arguments with family members.

The reason my mother is pointing out my faults is that this method of engaging me through anger has worked wonderfully up until about 10 years ago when I decided I couldn't take it anymore and started walking away. My BPD mom is in a Skinner Box, valiantly attempting to get me going so the two of us can raise our voices, verbally volley for 3-5 minutes and her BPD body can react, so that she can perk up and feel happy.

During our conversation this weekend my mother admitted that when she attempted to discuss the faults of my sister, this sister has resorted to lying to avert the ragefest, and this has infuriated my mother. I'm glad my sister has found her own way of subverting these raging discussions with my mom. I say whatever works.

My BPD is sad little woman.

Very Familiar

Thanks for sharing. My mom has not being diagnosed with BPD but I am convinced she is. What you describe is very similar to my last 35 years. and just like you, about 2 years ago, I finally woke up from a nightmare and realized I was dealing with a mental issue not just a temperamental mother. She lies (recreating/exaggerating all her memories where she is always, always the victim and/or the hero). She was verbally abusive with me for 33 years… I used the word "was" as this stopped when I finally learned how to set a boundary. This is something a catholic priest taught me. When she yells, I now remain completely silent. If I am on the phone, I will mute it. If it is an email, I will simply trash it after a few lines. If it is in person (which is much harder), I will leave the room. Now she uses her second and very powerful way of controlling me: GUILT. She is always the victim. She blames in tears and is very manipulative. She constantly reminds me of her 9 months of pregnancy which, according to her, she spend in bed bleeding (reality: 1-2 days of spotting then left to do a movie). She blames for "having chosen my dad over her" when I was 3 years old which forced her to leave me with him (reality: she left me with my dad because he was financially and emotionally more stable.) She blames for having married an abusive husband because, according to her, she married him only to provide me with a father (reality: I had a wonderful father. she married this abusive and mentally ill man because she wanted to be financially supported). She blames me for nearly everything I do or not do. Whatever I give her (time, love, gifts) is never enough and is always received with accusation. Beside the "victim", she is also the "hero" so she will recreate all her memories with her "saving" other people. She loves me when I am in need and resent me when I am happy. It is sad. Thankfully, I did not grow up with her and I now live in another country. I cannot abandon her (she has no other children) and still love her… but I am absolutely exhausted and saddened by her insanity. It is tough and I do not know where to start to get rid of this guilt-trip. I am terrified to inherit these behaviors and bring them into my own family. I hope I can heal from this abusive relationship. any help/suggestions is highly appreciated.Thanks.

I just today had a huge fight

I just today had a huge fight with my mum who I am also convinced is BPD. I'm 37 and today is the first time I walked away from her. Some of what you say was familiar, but mine is to a lesser degree. Namely, the recreations/exaggerations of events to depict herself as hero/victim. Also, stories about how awful my father was to her, which is absolutely not true. And various other things. Today she recreated a story and after putting up with it for so long, I just snapped and I called her on it, telling her what really happened. This set her off on an emotional guilt trip, where she both accused me of putting words in her mouth and then actually tried to put words in mine (which I did not say). I realised I'd made a big mistake in buying into it, so I talked over her and said "I'm going to stop this conversation now, pay for lunch and go back to work now." I got up, and paid for lunch. When I came back she was sitting there with this horrible sulky look on her face. Instead of shutting up I said "Oh don't put on that face" and that set her off again. We went back and forth for a couple more minutes then I said "Okay, well if you don't want to try to resolve this, I'll just go now." She continued to fight, saying "I don't know what you want me to say" which I responded with "you could apologise, and consider the impact of your flippant words". Again, a mistake. However at the end I got up and I leaned over, kissed her and said "I'm going now, see you in a fortnight" and then walked away without looking back. Whilst I did say some things wrong, I'm glad I did because I was sick of putting up with her little niggles at me and her attempts to poison me against dad, and recreating events to paint her in a better light. However, she is my mum and I do love her so I don't want to be fighting with her. But as I'm essentially an only child now (my eldest brother hasn't spoken to her after our middle brother passed away over a decade ago - he's BPD too I think) - I can't abandon her either. I just find her exhausting and wish she had more maturity. So I'll see how I go next lunchdate...

Hello Anonymous. I just

Hello Anonymous. I just wanted to say that I feel for you. I'm 30 years old and today I walked away from my (undiagnosed) BPD mother for the first time. My mother believes that my father is the devil incarnate and that he has poisoned me against her. She constantly accuses me (and my sister) of betrayals and manipulation. In her mind I am always scheming to hurt her. She has said horrible things to me. I spent 24 hours basically being accused of being a cold-hearted bitch. I tried to stick to the script - that I love her and don't want to hurt her - but she would have none of it. Eventually I decided it was best for me to go. She basically told me I was dead to her and said she was cutting me out of her will. As soon as I got in that taxi I felt immediate relief. Sadness but relief. We must take care of ourselves. There is no getting through to a severe BPD like my mother.

Just walk away

My mother most likely was BPD. Everyone was plotting against, everything wrong in her life was someone else's fault. Took my parents 7 years to have me, so you'd think I might mean something to my mother. My stillborn fraternal twin my mother blames on me. Had a head injury at 9 months old which I was never taken to doctor for, had neurological problems with learning to walk and falling throughout childhood. I once fell and rolled down a spiral staircase 3 floors when I was 11 years old on a beach vacation and instead of worrying if I was ok, mom screamed at me for being an embarrassment to her & dad. Dad never said nothing, nor defended me. He allowed me to be abused. They divorced when I was 18 and since then BPD mom has lived with my grandmother and refused to work. Now at age 43 I am a total embarrassment to her because I have a rare autoimmune illness among other things and am on disability. I never married or had kids having had a slew of abusive relationships, plus I'm lesbian which I know she knows but we never discuss. I finally walked away from her over 2 years ago after she called me because she got in trouble for beating my grandmother. She wanted to come live with me forever. I survived 18 years of abuse and neglect & don't want to endure anymore of that. My therapist had told me to walk away if I had to. I haven't seen nor talked to mom since that phone call. I sent her a few cards for birthdays and holidays and money. She didn't send me any cards in return, not any acknowledgement for her only child's birthday. Walk away and let them rot. It is not your responsibility to let someone abuse you your entire life and ruin your life. Just stop letting them hurt you.

Thanks so much for sharing, and for your excellent advice.

I especially like your conclusion: "It is not your responsibility to let someone abuse you and ruin your life."

Last week my mother died. I

Last week my mother died. I had not spoken to her for 12 years, as I realised that she was totally toxic and I needed to walk away. I did not attend her funeral and both myself and my brother were specifically excluded from her will. Then a friend rang me and said that she was a Queen, and had a BPD. I had never heard of this before but reading about it since, that is exactly what she had. All these years I was thinking I was no good - even with several university degrees, a great job, two fabulous sons, a wonderful husband and my own home. I am just lucky I was so strong and had a wonderful grandmother. My brother was not so lucky, he had a hell of a childhood with no one to turn to. I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders and that my decision to walk away has been validated. Thank you to all the posters in this forum. Walking away was the answer for me, too:)

Proud of you

Good for you, Maggie.
Really proud of you! You cared for yourself and you deserve to be cared for.
All the best,
Walking Away

The consequences for the child when growing up

I have with curiosity read through the article and comments. I work and live in Kenya, and have worked with many young people who have been abused by a parent in this way.
The effects it can have on the ability to perform at work can be devastating.
One example was a girl who thought she was listening "too much" to others, but in listening she was not able to repeat any of what was said, and tasks would often not be done.
She would at times make a total mess of files, even if they were all in order. I am not certain of the reason, but I tend to think that she wanted attention and even negative attention would be better than no attention.
She would always smile and be nice, and at the same time be very emotional.
I did experience that she did deal with some of it, and also that she still has much to deal with.
So one part of the issue is "how do you as an adult deal with your BPD parent?" and the other side of it is: "How do you now create healthy meanings about yourself and your life such that you can become empowered?" and "What are some of the consequences of this for the children as they grow up?"

An understanding of the consequences might also help people in the work/social environment to understand more, and to become a network of people who can help.

I see the BPD parent clearly not taking ownership of thoughts and emotions, and I also see this affecting the children.

To the anonymous "just walk away". There is a wonderful book called Journey for Kids, by Brandon Bays. It tells some case studies of kids who have had different traumas in their lives and how they have overcome them through guided visualization.

What you tell about your childhood will hurt any normal person to even hear, and it is only fair that you have a happy life as an adult and that you can leave that behind and live your life. I have met others with similar stories, and they have totally changed their lives by guided visualization and coaching and they are happy now.

Blessings Martine

Fascinating to hear how global bpd parenting is...

Thanks Martine so much for the poignant example you give, for the book suggestion (which I just ordered), and for your recommendation of guided imagery. I actually also in my clinical work use both guided visualization and coaching of new skill sets.

In addition to visualizations, I have been using Bradley Nelson's Emotion Code techniques which are remarkably powerful for reversing the ptsd from borderline parenting. On my blog I have several articles on these techniques:

psychologytoday.com/blog/resolution-not-conflict

Thanks Martine!

Thank you for taking the time to respond Martine. It really means a lot that someone from half way across the world from me would be kind enough to respond to my post. The internet still amazes me how we can now reach out to others we will never meet in person. I have to say I really don't know anything about visualization, but I will do some reading and learn about it. I went through a couple years of counseling to learn how to deal with my past.

I'm Cherokee and we have something in our culture called "Going To Water" where whenever you are troubled or need to sort out your thoughts you are told to go sit by water as the water will take your troubles away and your prayers and thoughts get carried away in the droplets of water. Its something that people do naturally without putting any thought into what they are doing-- when they are upset they often wind up by a river or the sea to sort things out. I have spent a lot of time walking and fishing at rivers & lakes these past few years and walking in the woods & in isolated parks. I've found a lot of time to reflect on life this way. I have a lot of built up anger issues from being silent for so long, so its helping calm me down so I don't get so angry at strangers for slighting me. I have had some major PTSD from the abuse & also surviving several accidents, but I've calm down a lot from going to water.

On going to water...

What a lovely healing idea. I will suggest it to clients with whom I work.

Thank you!

Going to Water

I am Danish (read Viking) and for me water is also truly healing. I will also let your Going to Water pass on to others.

Guided Visualization and Meditation is an amazing way to release the traumas from the subconscious level.

Even Going to Water is meditation:-)

I was taught a wonderful meditation by Master Del Pe where I breathe out all the negative thoughts, stress, sadness, guilt, etc and let it go to the water (Indian Ocean, which I am next to) and after this imagine that I bathe myself in the water and thereby cleanse it all off. Then I do manifestations of the positive. This also by breathing, so I breathe in the positive states such as self esteem, safety, happiness, love, clarity etc.

Perhaps have a look at some of the talks also by Deepak Chopra about the ways of the Wizard or Happiness Prescription.

Going to water

I really love that you posted this as water has always had a very soothing effect on me too. In fact I have been thinking about a way to make an artificial waterfall in my yard as I now live in the desert and any bodies of water here are few and far between. Another thing that helps me these days is when things start getting negative in my life I do everything I can to think of something positive, to replace those thoughts with something good. MY bpd mother passed a way a few years ago, and my brother followed her to the other side within a few months. I had a lot of anger at that time and went into a major depression for a while. I felt that not only had they hurt me in life, now they were still together and deserting me in the most impossible way ever. Seems sort of nuts to think that way, but the human mind isn't always logical. By replacing all the negative thoughts with positive ones, you can only win though. Most of you who are still so angry, is it possible that there were some good times with your sick family memebers? I suggest trying to list some of those times and be ready with those when the negative starts to take over. If you only dwell on the negative you will never be able to heal.
For example: yesterday I was driving to town and my thoughts went to my Mother and the sorrow took over. I cried for a while and that was cleansing in a way but I caught myself getting angry again and remembering the ugly stuff. I made a concious effort to change my thought pattern and started looking for something good to replace those thoughts with. It's not easy to do this for some reason. Maybe we somehow feel comfortable with the misery, it feels almost normal, I don't know. I do know that it feels a whole bunch better when you start to think of the better times.
Another thing that helps me also is thinking of them being on the other side and they say when people pass they are not sick anymore. I like to think that when the sorrow hits that maybe Mom is up there hearing my cries and thinking about how she could make up for the rough times and her behaviour to me. Maybe she wishes she could come to me and tell me she is sorry. I try to imagine her as a caring loving person now and healthy in mind and spirit and I try to feel her put her arms around me with love. And I imagine what it would feel like for me to say, none of that matters anymore Mom, you are well now. I forgive you for the past because there is nothing I can do to change it. And from now on I take responsibility for my own happiness and I choose to treat myself with love and respect and I choose not allow others to ever hurt me like that again. And mainly I choose to forgive my own self because I know I did the best I could and continue being the best I can be in all circumstances of life. I can't change anyone else, nor can I change the past, but now I know I can change how I deal with my life. That is all that you have to know really. We are responsible now for our own happiness. We are responsible now for what happens in our life. No longer can we blame anyone. So my advice to those out there still suffering. Only you can change, only you can fix your hearts now, and only you have the power to say, I am worthwhile and I am good and I deserve the very best this life has to give. I am awesome. Give yourself the love that you missed out on and become what you want to be. You are worth every happiness this world has to offer, so go get it! With love! Pam

Going to water

I really love that you posted this as water has always had a very soothing effect on me too. In fact I have been thinking about a way to make an artificial waterfall in my yard as I now live in the desert and any bodies of water here are few and far between. Another thing that helps me these days is when things start getting negative in my life I do everything I can to think of something positive, to replace those thoughts with something good. MY bpd mother passed a way a few years ago, and my brother followed her to the other side within a few months. I had a lot of anger at that time and went into a major depression for a while. I felt that not only had they hurt me in life, now they were still together and deserting me in the most impossible way ever. Seems sort of nuts to think that way, but the human mind isn't always logical. By replacing all the negative thoughts with positive ones, you can only win though. Most of you who are still so angry, is it possible that there were some good times with your sick family memebers? I suggest trying to list some of those times and be ready with those when the negative starts to take over. If you only dwell on the negative you will never be able to heal.
For example: yesterday I was driving to town and my thoughts went to my Mother and the sorrow took over. I cried for a while and that was cleansing in a way but I caught myself getting angry again and remembering the ugly stuff. I made a concious effort to change my thought pattern and started looking for something good to replace those thoughts with. It's not easy to do this for some reason. Maybe we somehow feel comfortable with the misery, it feels almost normal, I don't know. I do know that it feels a whole bunch better when you start to think of the better times.
Another thing that helps me also is thinking of them being on the other side and they say when people pass they are not sick anymore. I like to think that when the sorrow hits that maybe Mom is up there hearing my cries and thinking about how she could make up for the rough times and her behaviour to me. Maybe she wishes she could come to me and tell me she is sorry. I try to imagine her as a caring loving person now and healthy in mind and spirit and I try to feel her put her arms around me with love. And I imagine what it would feel like for me to say, none of that matters anymore Mom, you are well now. I forgive you for the past because there is nothing I can do to change it. And from now on I take responsibility for my own happiness and I choose to treat myself with love and respect and I choose not allow others to ever hurt me like that again. And mainly I choose to forgive my own self because I know I did the best I could and continue being the best I can be in all circumstances of life. I can't change anyone else, nor can I change the past, but now I know I can change how I deal with my life. That is all that you have to know really. We are responsible now for our own happiness. We are responsible now for what happens in our life. No longer can we blame anyone. So my advice to those out there still suffering. Only you can change, only you can fix your hearts now, and only you have the power to say, I am worthwhile and I am good and I deserve the very best this life has to give. I am awesome. Give yourself the love that you missed out on and become what you want to be. You are worth every happiness this world has to offer, so go get it! With love! Pam

borderline personality disorder mother

My mother has a charming combination of narcissistic personality disorder and histrionic personality disorder. Our family was always late to everything because she always had to make the Grand Entrance, including to other people's weddings, because she wanted to upstage the bride. She once complained to me that my cousin hadn't paid enough attention to her at my cousin's best friend's funeral (the friend had died in his 30s).

More than twenty years ago my mother disowned me, because I found out that she had allowed her boyfriend to sexually abuse my much younger sister. After the secret came out, I was terrified to allow my mother around my very young children, and told her that she needed to see a psychologist before I would allow her to see her grandchildren again. Since my mother is always right, and the entire rest of the world is wrong, she flatly refused to see a counselor or a psychologist, and sent me a letter stating that she had legally disowned me. I was upset for about a month, but then realized that disowning me was absolutely the best thing my mother had ever done for me.

My advice to anyone who is still trying to maintain a relationship with a borderline personality parent is: DON'T! If you can figure out how to goad your parent into disowning you, do it! You will have far less guilt if your parent disowns you, rather than the other way around, and best of all you won't always be waiting for the volcano to erupt.

Brilliant unconventional solutions....

I especially like your compassionate notion of letting your mother send you away instead of vice versa. She then will feel empowered rather than depressed or angry and therefore will be more able to tolerate the loss.

As children we don't get to pick our mother. As adults we can. There's lots of older women out there to pick from after distancing from your birth mother--or for that matter even if your birth mother stays in your life.

My husband and I for instance have a full set of "adoptees," that is young adults around the ages of our actual kids that we feel maternal/paternal caring for. I don't know if we picked them or they picked us. The point is that creation of "families by choice" are an option in adulthood.

Sending Away

I find that intriguing. I am just now coming to terms with my mother and her towering rages. My dad died when she was 38 and she remarried just a few years ago. She is 71. My step father is an ex-alcoholic and the two of them fight constantly. Tempermentally, he is much like her. She tells him she doesn't need him. Some days it seems like she is trying to drive him away so that she can be the victim (i.e. He Left).

On the bathroom comment in the main article, I'd think that would be a good idea, but growing up with my mother, there was no such thing as locking the door or leaving it shut in many case. Her excuse: She didn't want us to be "ashamed". The bathroom was not a sanctuary growing up, unfortunately.

No sanctuary...

Your comment of "there was no such thing as locking the door or leaving it shut in many case.... The bathroom was not a sanctuary growing up." Is very true. I shared a bathroom with my parents until I was 15 (imagine the awkwardness of my Dad tell my Mom in front of me that I needed to start wearing a bra and that she should probably go buy me pads) When I finally got the "OK" to use the bathroom down the hall for showers and stuff the locks on the door didn't work. One time my Mom busted through the door as I was brushing my teeth to tell me how vain I was for looking in the mirror... while I was brushing my teeth. From then on if I heard her coming down the hall I would avert my eyes from the mirror and just keep my head down until she passed.

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Susan Heitler, Ph.D., is the author of many books, including From Conflict to Resolution and The Power of Two. She is a graduate of Harvard University and New York University.

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