If we have been brought up as children with a parent who has BPD, it is often necessary to seek therapy to help resolve the trauma that we have suffered and to help us come to terms with our loss – in effect, our ‘stolen childhood’.
In therapy, it may often be necessary to work through the resentment we might well feel (particularly as this feeling of resentment can be deeply painful for us to carry around) and consider how our lives have been adversely affected.
Also, we may want to work with our therapist to consider what positive or useful things we may have learned from our difficult childhood, perhaps through strategies we adopted to deal with this problematic period of our lives, or from other, more positive, role models (eg teachers, friends, counselors etc).
Reviewing things in such a way can bring to the surface very painful feelings, and, if we do not have a therapist to speak to, talking things over with a sensitive and compassionate friend can be valuable.
Releasing emotions connected with our past through ‘talking them out’ can help us to move forward in our lives. Until we do this, our emotional development can remain arrested (‘stuck’), as I am quite convinced happened in my own case for more years than I care to recollect.
One way in which we can express our, perhaps, long pent-up feelings towards the parent with BPD is to write them a letter describing how their behaviour made our lives so stressful and painful. (It is usually better not to actually send the letter as this runs the risk of making matters worse still; however, some therapists may have different views.)
HOW, AS AN ADULT CHILD, WE CAN NOW PROTECT OURSELVES FROM OUR PARENT WITH BPD?
Individuals with BPD find it very hard to understand that others have personal boundaries, thus it is necessary to put more effort into establishing such boundaries with a parent with BPD than might otherwise be the case.
In some cases, it may be necessary to cut off completely from the parent with BPD, as the relationship is mutually destructive and it appears that this is beyond remedy. That, very sadly, was the decision I had to take with my own mother.
However, such drastic action may not be required; it might, instead, be necessary to make it clear we are unable to cope with constantly supporting the parent with BPD with their endless emotional problems as we have our own to deal with; that we need time alone/personal space/privacy; or that we are not prepared to discuss certain topics which always give rise to unpleasantness, hurt and pain.
These are just examples; there may be several other areas in which we need to make clear our boundaries. A parent with BPD will often put their own emotional needs ahead of ours; we need to be clear in our own minds that we have a right to have our own needs respected.
Indeed, we have a duty to ourselves to meet our own needs, especially as so much emotional damage was done to us as children. We need to ASSERTIVELY make this clear.
Of course, our parent with BPD is very likely to respond by trying to make us feel guilty and bad about ourselves for expressing our own needs, so we need to be prepared in advance for this reaction and not to give in to emotional blackmail. We need to maintain our strength and confidence – a good view to take is that we have a duty to protect the hurt child who still resides within us.
As I have said, it is extremely advisable to have support when thinking about making such changes as I have written about, ideally professional. If, however, this is not possible, there are many support groups for people affected by BPD, both online and offline.
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).