( The effect of being raised by a BPD mother – awareness is power- get yours.)
For most children, a Mom is a safe home base.
( If you would rather listen- go to the end of this post for the audio version)
She is the lap you come home to… and the lap you push off from. In the developmental dance from dependence to independence, a daughter needs Mom as a solid base of support- a mature version of what you hope to become.
Ideally, Mom is the one who can make it all better when the world gets too scary.
But what if your BPD Mother is the scary one?
What if instead of being a port in the storm… Mom is the storm.
What if mom is raging, out of control, self-destructive… and unpredictable?
Where do you go? What do you do?
In those moments when you were a child, scared, hurting, and alone… you turned to Mom, and your BPD Mother couldn’t help you.
She couldn’t even help herself.
Caught in a raging sea of emotion, she pulled far away from you, into a world of her own.
Back then, your BPD Mom was an emotional child in a grownup body; She didn’t have the bandwidth to help you with your struggles when she had so many of her own.
So you were left out in the cold all on your own.
OR… sensing you wanted closeness, your BPD Mom drew you in close, too close.
While this might have felt good at first, you soon realized the closeness was for her benefit, not yours. There was a demanding, clinging nature to it.
You couldn’t break away from a Mom who just can’t let go without bringing on her upset.
And like a drowning person, she clung to you as if her emotional life depended on it –
…her psychological death grip threatened to pull you under with her.
SUFFOCATING. OVERWHELMING. OPPRESSIVE.
You worried that you would go under with her.
At other times you are left to witness Mom’s churning, frantic attempts to fill her unbearable emptiness with men or booze, drugs or drama. Either you were collateral damage to the drama or the focus of her drama.
Either way, living in the emotionally upside-down world as a child with a BPD mother, you are left with emotional wounds that don’t go away just because you’ve gotten older.
The relationship template from childhood stays with you for a lifetime unless without intervention.
An untreated BPD Mother, otherwise known as a mother with Borderline Personality Disorder, has trouble adequately meeting the demands of parenting. Her disorder will render her devoid of the stability, resilience, and maturity to be the central support every child needs.
Let’s turn to the characteristics of an (untreated) BPD mother that impact her child
Caveat- ( Some mothers with BPD do get treatment and are able to parent effectively)
However, in general, the BPD Mother has primitive defenses or psychological coping mechanisms.
children, by definition, have primitive psychological defenses. Thus being dependent on someone older and having the power over you but not the maturity can be terrifying for a child who has yet to develop those skills. Children frequently repress their needs for the sake of the needy parent-clearly, to the detriment of the child.
Here are some traits of the BPD mother that have a substantial impact on her daughter
- fear of abandonment– because she didn’t have reliable, consistent caregivers at pivotal times in her development, she can be stuck on hyper-alert for signs a person close to them will leave them.
- Instability and volatility– a combination of sensitivity and vulnerability, the BPD mother never develops a stable sense of self.
- Chronic sense of emptiness- lacking a reliable sense of core self, a BPD mother can turn to self-destructive impulsive activities to fill the void.
- Tendency to idealize and vilify others– through a process called splitting, Mom sees people and circumstances as all good or all bad. Thus here, relationships are frequently in turmoil.
7 Ways Your BPD Mother Impacted You
1. When you have a Borderline mom –you walk on eggshells.
” I never know when Mom is going to lose it and… over what. I end up walking on eggshells around her.”
Never knowing when her BPD Mother will get triggered and freak out (often without warning), her daughter learns to tiptoe around Mom, suppressing her own needs to avoid upsetting Mom.
2. When you have a Borderline Mom – you can’t trust your judgment.
“When it comes to making decisions I’m always second-guessing myself. I can’t trust I’ll make the right decisions when it comes to relationships.”
In early life, we look to our mothers to mirror our effect on them.
From there, we extrapolate this primary relationship template to others.
This dynamic happens at an automatic and mainly unconscious level. When Mom experiences you as her heroine one minute and the villain the next, you don’t know who you are in relation to others- how could you?
3. When you have a Borderline Mom- you keep waiting for the other shoe to drop.
” I can’t let down my guard and relax. I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop…..because in my experience, it usually does.”
A lifetime of her BPD mother’s unpredictable moods trains her daughter to be on constant high alert. In her experience, things go south, and they go south at the drop of a hat. You figure it’s better to expect it than to be taken by surprise. If you anticipate everything going sour, you won’t be taken by surprise when it does.
4. When you have a Borderline Mom –you constantly feel guilty.
“I always feel like everything is my fault even when I know it isn’t. I’m terrified to dissapoint anyone for any reason.”
Daughters of BPD mothers frequently internalize the belief that they are soley responsible for their Mother’s happiness. Living with a BPD Mother trains her daughter to atttend to everyone else’s needs rather than her own. Thus she feels guilty when she attends to her own life.
5. With the BPD Mom- you can’t say, “No.”
You would think I’ve committed a federal crime by the way Mom reacts… if I tell her, ” No.” I can’t even consider it.”
Because the BPD mother can smell (or thinks she can) rejections a country mile away, she is triggered and very upset. Thus, her daughter is afraid to refuse her mother anything.
6. With the BPD Mom- you have trouble setting and sticking to boundaries.
” Setting a boundary makes me feel like I’ve broken a rule I didn’t know was there. Mom gets so upset, it’s just not worth it.”
Since boundaries are the antidote to enmeshment, even a normal one sets off Mom’s alarm bells. No wonder the daughter of the BPD mother feels like she’s doing something wrong to set a boundary and is likely to cave at the first sign of pushback.
7. With the BPD Mom- you wonder if you’re the crazy one.
” I’m not sure what is normal anymore. Life has been such a chaotic roller coaster I think I have permanent vertigo. I just want peace and normal life. ”
Here’s the truth about you and your BPD mother-
You’re not bad, and you’re not crazy. You were having an absolutely normal reaction to an abnormal situation. Most likely, you’ve done the work of two people to survive. In fact, you’ve been doing a high wire act your entire life- balancing your BPD mother’s ever-changing needs with your own.
You don’t know that you can come down and take a seat. You don’t have to work so hard. It really isn’t up to you to keep another person afloat.
Understanding the impact of a BPD mother’s parenting on you is the first step toward recovery. But, of course, you can’t deal effectively with something you don’t understand in the first place- who could? And besides, this personality disorder is one of the trickiest disorders to deal with.
However, you can empower yourself with knowledge and the right plan to deal with it. And the plan involves bringing the center of attention back to yourself. It isn’t easy, but it is doable.
( If you’d rather listen-here is the audio version)
First, find out if you are caught in the good daughter trap here.
For one on one help -go here.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Daughters of BPD mothers have trouble trusting themselves and others, frequently have low self-esteem and struggle with feelings of guilt and anxiety.
Their primary wound is abandonment.
Because of their mother’s fear of abandonment and volatile mood swings, their daughters feel responsible for their mother’s unhappiness.
Her borderline mother’s extreme mood swings and tendency to vilify people who disappoint her make her daughter afraid of setting her mother off.