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The Borderline Personality Disordered Family, Part III, Healing

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

During the recent series of postings we covered a lot of ground about Borderline Personality Disorder, the Borderline Family and how this disorder affects children. Part III of this series deals with how the adult survivor of borderline parents can learn to reverse the damaging effects of their childhood experiences and live a fulfilled life.

It is common for adult survivors of the deleterious effects of borderline parents to have many of the following experiences. See if you recognize any of these in yourself:

1) Becoming involved in relationships in which you are abused.

2) Have great difficulty trusting other people.

3) Place the needs of other people over those of your own.

4) Experience your life as chaotic and unpredictable.

5) Are not able to enjoy your life or believe any of the successes you have experienced.

6) Experience feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and depression.

7) Blame your self when others feel angry or upset about something.

8) Believe you are unlovable and that no one will ever love you.

9) Constantly feel guilty about everything that happens.

10) Cannot trust your perceptions, opinions, feelings and needs. Often times the child of borderline parents were told what to think or perceive rather than being asked. For example, they may have felt chilly at home but were told it was warm. In addition, boundaries were violated as exemplified by the borderline mother discussing her sexual issues with her young daughter. Also, privacy was not honored, diaries were read, and the child and adolescents room was entered without knocking even when the door was closed. I knew of one case in which a patient remembered that her mother found a drawing of the family that she had made in school. Her mother did not like the drawing and punished the child. It is important to remember that in addition to violating boundaries, these borderline parents alternated between loving and hating the child, verbally humiliating them, then praising, exploding into rage at the child for no reason at all, physically beating the child, also for no comprehensible reason, then apologizing to the child and pretending nothing happened.

What are some of the goals the adult survivor must achieve in order to fulfill their lives? They must:

1) Stop blaming them selves for things that happened during childhood and for what happens to others in the present. Incredibly, many of these adult survivors persist in believing that they must have deserved the treatment they received as children.

2) Identify and accept their feelings and opinions and have the courage of their convictions. In many of these cases the adult survivor has not learned to accept their feelings as valid.

3) Maintain distance from the family in order to gain and maintain feelings of stability and not fall back into old patterns. It does not take long for even those who are function well as adults to slip back into old patterns of behavior learned during childhood.

4) Say no to the abusive family regardless of what they are demanding.

5) Let the abusive family know that abuse of any type will not longer be tolerated. I knew of one person who took a family member to court after this person had attempted to rob them of inherited money.

6) reframe your life script so that you will no longer play the role of victim.

7) Drop the use of the term "I am supposed to" and replace it with what "I want to do and what I refuse to do." Believe in and trust your opinions, feelings, perceptions and memories.

8) Believe in and accept your memory of the past and do not fall into the trap of being told that your memories are false. Your memories are just as valid as those of anyone else in the family. Memory depends a lot on each person’s point of view and is fragile and flexible under all circumstances. Besides, all that really matters is that you have your memories and your own point of view.

9) Accept your perceptions. Survivors of parental abuse are commonly told by friends and extended family that their parents are really good people and they must be mistaken in thinking such terrible things. Joan Crawford’s daughter had that experience after writing about her mother’s abusive treatment of her and her brother in the book, Mommy Dearest. No one questions the truth of the book and its awful accounts of parental abuse.

10) Communicate what you want instead of attempting to placate other people. Select the movie you want to see and the restaurant you wish to go to. People can negotiate with you so that you do not have to simply deny your opinions.

11) All of this can be difficult to do alone. Therefore it is recommended that, as a survivor of child abuse, you go to Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy where you can learn to reframe your thinking and feeling about yourself to be more realistic and helpful to yourself.

What are your experiences, opinions and points of view?

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