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

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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, unable to recognize that their borderline parent lacks a pier, or even a discernible shore. Four character profiles describe different symptom clusters that include the waif mother, the hermit mother, the queen mother, and the witch. Children of borderlines are at risk for developing this complex and devastating personality disorder themselves. Dr. Lawson's recommendations for prevention include empathic understanding of the borderline mother and early intervention with her children to ground them in reality and counteract the often dangerous effects of living with a 'make-believe' mother. Some readers may recognize their mothers as well as themselves in this book. They will also find specific suggestions for creating healthier relationships. Addressing the adult children of borderlines and the therapists who work with them, Dr. Lawson shows how to care for the waif without rescuing her, to attend to the hermit without feeding her fear, to love the queen without becoming her subject, and to live with the witch without becoming her victim. A Jason Aronson Book

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Editorial Reviews

Peter L. Giovacchini
This wonderfully readable book is totally devoid of jargon and pedantry. The writing is concise and simple, although the subject is complex and weighty. With picturesque nosology, Dr. Lawson writes about the waif, hermit, queen, and witch mothers. Her unique examination of borderline mothers and how they relate to their children culminates in a discussion of what can be done for both from an interpersonal perspective. Replete with clinical vignettes, this book is entertaining as well as informative.
James F. Masterson
This well-researched and beautifully written book presents in graphic, specific, clinical detail overwhelming evidence to resolve any ambiguity about the relationship of the borderline mother to her children. The many faces of the borderline mother are nicely differentiated and described. Dr. Lawson also provides guidelines on how to manage a relationship with a borderline mother constructively. A helpful read for all therapists who work with borderline patients.
Joan Lachkar
Masked by a smile, behind the pinafore of maternal attachment, lurks a borderline mother. Dr. Lawson offers a compelling portrait of mothers who project massive states of confusion and terror into their children. She presents a variety of mothers, including the make-believe mother, the fairy tale mother, the queen and witch mother, along with specific clinical suggestions for dealing with each type. This spellbinding contribution to the literature provides effective treatment procedures for therapists working within the spectrum of borderline phenomenology.
Christina Crawford
Childhood lived with a borderline mother results in an unspeakable tragedy. Few of the child's developmental needs are met because the mother cannot be a parent. Consequently, the child is programmed for a lifelong struggle against failure. For over twenty years, people have shared their own agonizing stories with me, looking to my journey for a sense of hope. The compassionate understanding and professional assistance in this book are a road map out of failure.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765703316
  • Publisher: Aronson, Jason Inc.
  • Publication date: 7/28/2002
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 89,703
  • Product dimensions: 5.94 (w) x 10.88 (h) x 1.03 (d)

Meet the Author

Christine Ann Lawson, Ph.D., is a clinical social worker in private practice in Indianapolis, Indiana. She has previously served as adjunct faculty at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis, and Butler University.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Make-Believe Mothers Chapter 2 The Darkness Within Chapter 3 The Waif Mother Chapter 4 The Hermit Mother Chapter 5 The Queen Mother Chapter 6 The Witch Mother Chapter 7 Make-Believe Children Chapter 8 Fairy-Tale Fathers Chapter 9 Loving the Waif Without Rescuing Her Chapter 10 Loving the Hermit Without Feeding Her Fear Chapter 11 Loving the Queen Without Becoming Her Subject Chapter 12 Living with the Witch Without Becoming Her Victim Chapter 13 Living Backwards

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 17 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2002

    Amazingly Accurate

    I have just finished reading this book and want to find the author and give her a hug. She has written a very important and therapeutic text for children of Borderline mothers. Growing up and even now, people think I am exaggerating when I tell of the things my mother does or things I've lived through. Now I know there is a reason she acts this way and also that I am not alone. This is NOT a mother-bashing book. It seeks to detail behaviors and explain why she acts the way she does. The author breaks the general category of BPD into four types. This is most helpful to the reader, because all mothers do not exhibit all characteristics that can be associated with Borderline Personality Disorder which can steer people away from that diagnosis (as it did me). After reading this book, I realize that my mother, for instance, exhibits all of the 'Queen' behaviors, some of the 'Witch', with none of the 'Waif'. I hope this book reaches other children of Borderline mothers. Perhaps the best part of the book is the last quarter which offers advice on how to set boundaries with the different types of Borderline mothers.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 5, 2010

    Excellent resource for family of a borderline

    This book helped me understand what was happening inside the head of a family member with BPD. I have four books on the topic and I think this is the best book to begin your research. The author takes a comprehensive look at the symptoms and consequences of having BPD, breaking up the personality disorder into several "types" of borderline mothers. Although I found that such categorization is useful, the strength of the book rests in its ability to teach those of us without BPD how the mind of a BPD functions, often using concrete examples. I had long ago concluded that my mother was out of touch with reality; I finally understood why and how after reading this book. It isn't as strong a source for those suffering from BPD - there are books out there directed for BPDs that I'd look at first. But if you are a child of a BPD, start with this one!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2009

    Wonderful Book - It's like it was written just for me!

    This is a fantastic, eye-opening book for anyone to read who has grown up with or knows of a someone with this disorder. There isn't just one type of borderline personality described here either, there are several. Reading this book really opened my eyes and helped me gain a greater understanding of my own mother and why she is the way she is. I even learned a lot about myself too. You should read this book if you grew up always feeling worthless and wrong about everything, if you grew up with a mother who went crazy every now and then over absoultey nothing, if you grew up being afraid, or always having to pretend to be someone other than your true self, this book is for you. Read it! It will change your life for the better. It sure changed mine!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2008

    Absolutly Incredible , A Must Read For Children Of Borderline Mothers

    Just reading the preface of this book shook me to my core. I am blessed and greatful to have read this book, i finally feel free and able to breathe, rid of guilt associated with being a child of a borderline mother ! Its Hard To Find your way out with no one guiding you and this book did just that !

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2008

    Happiness without her Rage

    This fantastic book shed clarity on my entire life. It gave me an entirely new, freed state of mind, and it gave me hope for a better future. Understanding this book was simple 'easy reading!'. It showed me that I wasn't alone, and that I can cope with my bad relationship with my mother without blaming myself, and without accepting her rage. This book showed me that I can move forward with my life, with the deep feeling 'down to my toes!' that I deserve to be happy.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2009


    This book opened my eyes to a world of hurt that I have dealt with all my life and now, for the first time, begin to understand. Relieved of immense guilt, my life is now better than ever. The book is easy to understand and comprehensive enough without going into esoteric dimensions.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2004

    Not just for Borderline Mothers

    As a mental health professional, I found this book to be amazing in understanding and explaining people's irrational behavior and possible thought process. It explains personality disorders, in general, and how to work with people who may have them using thoughtful communication skills. Is a great read for anyone who lives with difficult people in their lives, not just mothers. I have recommened this book to many to understand people's personalities, even those without 'borderline mothers.' The only drawback from this book is that it is not written by a mental health professional but Ms. Lawson obviously received careful guidance when writing this book. The only thing I would change is the title, as it does not pertain only to borderline mothers.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2002

    Valuable Resouce

    This book is a godsend! I have been looking for answers/explanations for my mother's behavior my entire life -- this book gave me those answers. I didn't realize she wasn't unique -- I am not the only child who suffered because of a borderline mother. Easy to understand and on point!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted December 8, 2009

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    Posted October 15, 2009

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