I have already published articles examining borderline personality disorder (BPD) which we may ourselves develop if we experienced significant childhood trauma. I have also published some articles on the potential adverse effects that being brought up by a mother with BPD, or borderline mother, can have on us and it is this that I intend to explore further in this article ; in so doing I will describe four types of borderline mothers.
All individuals who suffer from BPD, including borderline mothers, experience its core symptoms; these are
However, one of these symptoms may PREDOMINATE and thus shape a particular BPD sufferer’s character.
In relation to this idea, James Masterson (1988) classified mothers with BPD into four sub-groups; these are :
1) THE WAIF MOTHER
2) THE HERMIT MOTHER
3) THE QUEEN MOTHER
4) THE WITCH MOTHER
Let’s look at each of these in turn :
1) THE WAIF MOTHER – personality traits include helplessness, hopelessness, proneness to deep despair, extremely low self-esteem, very high sensitivity, having a ‘victim mentality’, passivity and vulnerability. Sees self as failure. May treat her children alternately indulgently and negligently. There often exists an intense underlying feeling of rage which may be particularly likely erupt in response to abandonment (either real or imagined).
POSSIBLE EFFECTS OF WAIF MOTHER ON CHILDREN :
– they may come to see themselves as failures for not being able to make her happy
– they may internalize her despairing view of the world and become despairing themselves
– they may become ENMESHED in their relationship with her and therefore find it difficult to separate from it.
2) THE HERMIT MOTHER – sees the world as dangerous and people in general as self-serving and callous. Constantly expecting disaster to strike and sees signs of imminent calamity everywhere. Has a deep sense of inner shame which she projects onto others. May have a tough exterior and a superficial image of being confident, determined and independent. However, beneath this façade she tends to be distrustful, insecure and prone to rage and paranoia. Gains self-esteem from work or hobbies.
POSSIBLE EFFECTS OF HERMIT MOTHER ON CHILDREN :
– they may internalize mother’s fear of world in general and therefore become anxious if they need to adapt to new situations
– they may find it very difficult to learn appropriate coping skills in relation to a large variety of life’s problems
– they may find it difficult to trust others
3) THE QUEEN MOTHER – constantly craves attention; uses her children to fulfil her own needs; cannot tolerate disagreement or criticism from her children – sees this as evidence that they do not love and respect her; chronic feelings of emptiness; inability to ‘self-soothe’ when distressed; powerful sense of own entitlement – may be prepared to use blackmail in order to get what she wants; capable of planned and premeditated manipulation; discards friends without guilt when they are no longer of use to her
POSSIBLE EFFECTS OF QUEEN MOTHER ON CHILDREN :
– essentially this type of mother sees her children as her audience who must constantly respond to her in ways which bolster her (very fragile) self-esteem – she expects from them their unquestioning and unwavering love, support, attention and admiration. As it is impossible for her children to satisfy her insatiable emotional needs, conflict increases dramatically as the children get older. Rebellion, deep confusion and anger are likely responses from children who live with this kind of mother, but beneath this the children long for approval, recognition, consistency and unconditional love. In essence, however, the ‘queen’ mother’s own needs trump those of her children’s, as far as she is concerned.
4) THE WITCH MOTHER – this type of mother is consumed by self-hatred (often on an unconscious level) and tends to be extremely hostile and cruel towards their children. Because of their feelings of rage mixed with impotence, they have a propensity to be particularly cruel to those less powerful than they are (eg younger). They also tend to be self-obsessed and have little or no concern for others. They are likely to respond particularly venomously to criticism or rejection. At the base of their need for power and control is their intense desire to prevent abandonment. This particular sub-group of BPD is very resistant to treatment as those who suffer it tend not to allow others to help them.
POSSIBLE EFFECTS OF WITCH MOTHER ON CHILDREN :
– the children of this type of mother are likely to find themselves as the target of random, intense and cruel attacks
– as with other forms of abuse, children who suffer the verbal/emotional/psychological abuse assume (completely incorrectly) that it is they themselves who are at fault. As a result of this profound misconception, they are likely to become depressed, subject to feelings of shame, insecure, hypervigilant (ie always on ‘red alert’ on the look out for danger) and dissociative (click here to read my article on dissociation).
As adults, they may develop difficulties with forming and maintaining relationships. It is possible, too, that they will go on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or suffer from BPD themselves, thus potentially perpetuating the cycle.
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).
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