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Understanding the Borderline Mother: Helping Her Children Transcend the Intense, Unpredictable, and Volatile Relationship
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Understanding the Borderline Mother: Helping Her Children Transcend the Intense, Unpredictable, and Volatile Relationship

4.29 of 5 stars 4.29  ·  rating details  ·  577 ratings  ·  91 reviews
The first love in our lives is our mother. Recognizing her face, her voice, the meaning of her moods, and her facial expressions is crucial to survival. Dr. Christine Ann Lawson vividly describes how mothers who suffer from borderline personality disorder produce children who may flounder in life even as adults, futilely struggling to reach the safety of a parental harbor, ...more
Paperback, 330 pages
Published July 1st 2002 by Jason Aronson, Inc. (first published 2000)
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Community Reviews

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I devoured this book, though not because it was "enjoyable". As others have written, at turns I found it illuminating, validating, or anger-provoking. I am trying hard to use it for understanding, but I have a lot of work to do before that is likely to happen. Finally, though, I can name behaviors that I knew made me crazy (but I kept thinking I should be able to just get past it all). It is wonderful to feel less alone -- I knew my sister understood, but outside of her, people who have not expe ...more
Feb 25, 2014 Joy marked it as to-read
so far this book has captivated my interest and also made me so thoroughly frustrated, i end up throwing it on the bed after every other paragraph. i feel like i'm reading my life written in an auto biography, which is the interesting part that keeps pulling me back. but at the same time, it's so hard to see my life so raw, bare, and laid out, i find myself feeling drawn back into the hurts, anger, frustrations, confusions of my childhood. which is the throwing of book part.
i hope somewhere....
Apr 25, 2008 Terri rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Terri by: Dan the Man
Was your childhood full of loss and/or emotional abandonment or abuse? Was your mother extremely moody, clingy, helpless, angry, unpredictable, crazy, rejecting, etc.?

If you had/have a borderline mother, she might be quoted on every page or so of this well researched book. And if you have some traits yourself, you'll find yourself saying "yikes!" more than a few times. Addressing this personality disorder and working hard at improvement is well worth the therapy hours and cost. Er, the chapter

just a brief review:
throughout this whole book, i kept having to remind myself that i've never met christine, nor did she live with me whilst i was growing up!
this book has helped me immensely; it actually made me cry tears of relief when i realised that i wasn't alone, and my therapist and i used it as a discussion point a time or two.
i highly recommend it to everyone who has the opportunity to read it!
While many familial relationships are fraught with conflict, and every family is dysfunctional in some degree, most are not destructive or annihilating. This readable book addresses the extreme mothers that we have all heard of, if only in the news, but may be far more common and closer than many of us realize. This book is directed to those children and emotional orphans who have passed through such soul-crushing experiences and alludes to the many, many casualties of children sacrificed on the ...more
Jun 19, 2009 L.r. added it
I didn't read very far into this book. It brought back so many painful memories that I was unable to finish it. But I felt morea acceptance of my life with a very difficult mother.
Apr 18, 2010 Eli rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: children of borderlines & their mothers
Recommended to Eli by: Rose
Shelves: nonfiction, 2010
Some mental health professionals call Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) a unique mental condition affecting 6 million+ Americans. Some view it as a subtype of PTSD. Others consider the condition and its symptoms so vague as to be diagnostically useless and suggest scrapping the term entirely. By the end of Understanding the Borderline Mother, I saw the case for all 3.

This is an emotionally difficult book for anyone dealing with a borderline mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, &c. Though
I am in the process of reading this book. I am blown away that someone has actually written about what it was like growing up with a whirlwind, violent and charismatic parent. Lawson explains what it is like to grow up with someone who cannot be counted on to be the parent, who is violent one moment and effusively affectionate the next. She explains how riding that childhood roller coaster affect children physically and mentally. It is nice to know that I am not the only one out there who has li ...more
This book answered so many questions. If you have a bpd person in your life, particularly a mother or other authority figure, this will be difficult to read, but also freeing. It is NOT your fault. You CAN'T control it...and you CAN'T cure it. This explains a lot of the manipulation and games that are played, and the why they display behavior that conflicts with their apparent goal/needs. It's heartbreaking when it's someone you love...but it's the BEST book on the experience of growing up with ...more
Thankfully not my mother. I read this book to try to understand my friendship with an old childhood friend whose mother has borderline personality disorder. I expected that I'd find some of her behaviors fitting with BPD as well and that certainly was true. I could basically substitute "friend" for "mother" in the book especially since I met her as a child.

The author categorizes borderline personalities into Waif, Hermit, Queen, and Witch. However, they easily fit into all or most of them. She i
I didn't even read this book, and I know I NEVER will. Just reading the back cover pissed me off to no end! First of all, I HAVE borderline personality disorder, I am NOT borderline! It is not who I am, it is a small part of me... Second of all, I was VERY offended by Christina Crawford's comment on the back saying that all mothers with bpd are horrible and destroy their children's lives. I am sure that growing up with a parent that has bpd CAN be difficult and in some cases very negatively affe ...more
Karri Lewis
Sep 27, 2007 Karri Lewis rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Children of BPD Mother
This book gave me a clear understanding of what had been going on in my life in regards to my confusing relationship with my undiagnosed(most-likely bpd) mother. Unfortunately, there is little advice in the best way to navigate a relationship with the bpd mother other than some really basic stuff. I guess a whole 'nother book could be written about that subject....Anyway, the book is very enlightening and validating to a child who has been invalidated by his mother's behavior all his life.
Kristy Powers
Apr 17, 2008 Kristy Powers rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: adult children of borderline mothers
It made me anxious, relieved, sad, and exhilarated. It's helped change my life. Recommended to people who find resonance in these terms:

the Waif Mother
the Hermit Mother
the Queen Mother
the Witch Mother

the All-Good Child
the No-Good Child

Loving the Waif Without Rescuing Her
Loving the Hermit Without Feeding Her Fear
Loving the Queen Without Becoming Her Subject
Living with the Witch Without Becoming Her Victim
R. C.
This was heavier on the understanding part and light on the helping children transcend bits. Even the understanding part did not go in depth enough, I thought. I kept thinking, "wait, she did WHAT? why?" So it was a good outline of what BPD looks like in mothers, but more from a surface perspective than one that helps you see why they behave this way or how the gears spin in their heads.
Amy Charles
For those of you who know me, I read this for obvious reasons. I found it helpful to read about others who didn't have that stereotypically nurturing mother. I've said it before, I'll say it again - just because someone gives birth to you doesn't guarantee their status as a parent!
I just read this book in one sitting. I ended up highlighting almost as much as I didn't. I can't think of a better book for a child of a borderline mother. I kept thinking, "This is it. This is it exactly." Sometimes validation is the most important thing.
The dipictions of borderline mothers was so depressing that I had to stop reading the book, especially since I grew up with one. I already know how frightful they can be.
Dec 31, 2014 Rickey marked it as research-related
I came across this book while looking for other books in the library. It intrigued me, as I am fascinated by many types of personalities - in theater, fiction, and psychology. Studying this, especially now, after having read Crucial Conversations, and earlier, works by The Arbinger Institute... I wonder if a book like this can give one a tendency to create stories about others. Some other books like this have concerned me in the past. And yet, when is it helpful to read something like this about ...more
Recommended by my doctor and I'm very glad I read it. It really helps.
Katie Desai
If you've got one of these, this book is amazing.
First the good things about this book: I really appreciate the amount of case study information, examples from historical figures, and correlations to real experience. This book is not esoteric or written for experts. It's written for children (primarily) of these mothers with the goal of helping gain understanding (so the title) and give some beginning skills for coping. There's also a useful section on the types of men BPD mothers are attracted to. I won't go into my personal reasons for readi ...more
Jukka Häkkinen
Rajatilapersoonallisuutta käsitellään kirjassa laajasti ja monipuolisesti. Käytännön esimerkkien kannalta kirja on hyvä, rajatilapersoonallisuuden perusulottuvuudet käsitellään mielenkiintoisesti, vaikkakin satujen kautta tapahtuva jäsentely herätti vähän ennakkoluuloja. Teoreettisesti kirja on heppoinen ja monessa kohdassa suorastaan ärsyttävä. Erityisesti ärsyttää neurokielen kautta tapahtuva psykoanalyyttisen näkemyksen oikeuttaminen. Siis esimerkiksi: Tutkimus on osoittanut, että pitkäaikain ...more
It was recently suggested to me by a psychologist friend that my husband's mother likely suffers from this disorder. After reading this book, there is no doubt in my mind that she has it (although not an extreme case). I read it as a way to understand her better and as a way to manage/cope with her better, since our relationship has been rocky from the start. I haven't yet engaged in a coversation with my MIL since reading the boook, but I think it will help me tremendously in my future interact ...more
I read this book in three days because I knew the subject matter would be heavy and the only way to emotionally get through it was to plow through. I took a lot of notes and have a lot to think about. But mainly I feel like I finally have words to help me describe my childhood experience.
Shar Anderson
This isn't a book you read unless you need to. If you need to read this book, it is invaluable. For those of us with mothers that do not fit the mold, this book is illuminating, enlightening, empowering, frustrating, etc. I find myself referring back to it over and over again.
This is an excellent book for therapists, people with BPD, and others who are affected by a family or friend with BPD. Although it was written about and for people whose mothers have BPD and is probably most helpful to them, I found it fascinating and I think it's full of good information for others as well. It's written by a Ph.D. clinical social worker and gives appropriate citations to other research, but it is written for the layperson. The author uses personal interviews, therapy sessions, ...more
Karen Butler
Very helpful!

This is a unique concept. I had never thought to consider the Borderline's child-rearing practices while working with this patient population. Every clinician should be evaluating the safety of the BPD's offspring.

Beth Day
Honestly, I made Matthew read it, let him summarize, and then read the parts that seemed relevant/useful/interesting to me after I got the shorthand from him. I really really really really want to read non-fiction books with great information in them, but man do I have a hard time focusing/keeping my attention to them. It helps when Matthew reads them, gives me the big picture, and then I feel no shame in skipping around. Anyways, book recommended to me regarding my mother. She's apparently a He ...more
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“The Queen is controlling, the Witch is sadistic, the Hermit is fearful, and the Waif is helpless.

And each requires a different approach. Don't let the Queen get the upper hand; be wary even of accepting gifts because it engenders expectations. Don't internalize the Hermit's fears or become limited by them. Don't allow yourself to be alone with the Witch; maintain distance for your own emotional and physical safety. And with the Waif, don't get pulled into her crises and sense of victimization. Pay attention to your own tendencies to want to rescue her, which just feeds the dynamic.”
“To stave off the panic associated with the absence of a primary object, borderline patients frequently will impulsively engage in behaviors that numb the panic and establish contact with and control over some new object.” 22 likes
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