Did Your Parents Only Show You Concern Once You Were Broken?

Did your parents only show you a semblance of warmth and concern when you were needy, submissive, dependent, and emotionally broken yet become distant, cold, and dismissive if anything went well for you or you showed signs of carving out some degree of independence? According to Lorna Smith Benjamin, author of the book Interpersonal Diagnosis and Treatment of Personality Disorders those of us who were treated in such a way are at increased risk of developing borderline personality disorder(BPD) as adults.

Benjamin contends that it is only when the child becomes ‘sick enough’ and has ‘suffered enough’ that s/he received something approaching the level of nurturing s/he so longed for and craved

In this way, suggests Benjamin, being unhappy, miserable, weak, and helpless are positively reinforced by the parents’ responsiveness so, over time, the child learns (largely on an unconscious level) that remaining ‘sick’ is the only way to get the kind of parental response s/he so desperately desires. In the case of my own mother, she seemed somehow to even derive some sort of bizarre gratification out of my distress (and any drama or crisis that attached itself to it) as she could temporarily play the part of the caring mother (notwithstanding the fact that more often than not she was the cause of my distress in the first place; indeed if this was pointed out, her ‘concern’ would turn to venomous rage in a heartbeat). And, of course, once I was remotely recovered she would find a way to psychological crush me again, rather as a cat plays with a mouse.

Children who have these types of experiences growing up may relate to others in a dependent, needy and self-critical way, having unconsciously learned that this version of themselves is the only one that stands any chance of being taken care of and fear that trying to be independent, self-confident and self-believing will meet with rejection and resentment.

READ MORE: BPD Link To Mothers Who Fluctuate Between Nurturing And Abusive Behaviour


David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE). is reader-supported. When you buy through links on this site, I may earn an affiliate commission.