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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

Review

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. (Peter L. Giovacchini)

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. (James F. Masterson)

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. (Joan Lachkar)

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. (Christina Crawford)

About 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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4.7 out of 54.7 out of 5
677 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Lisa
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Changed my life
Reviewed in the United States on August 30, 2016
If I could give this book a thousands stars and then take the author to lunch I would. I cannot tell you what this book offered in terms of emotional relief but I will try. This book was like reading about most of my childhood. I finally at 34 years old had the epiphany... See more
If I could give this book a thousands stars and then take the author to lunch I would. I cannot tell you what this book offered in terms of emotional relief but I will try. This book was like reading about most of my childhood. I finally at 34 years old had the epiphany that if this book was right then logically there was credible evidence that I was not actually a bad person. I realized at core that I believed I was bad. Truly bad. How can you see anything realistically or find happiness if you are bad at your core ? The felt what I would describe was an opening inside my heart. A space created to allow me to look over things that have happened differently. I feel quiet. For the first time perhaps ever ( while not on drugs ) I am quiet inside. There is no guilt, shame, self loathing, and feeling of pouncing on someone for putting me down. Just quiet. I feel nice. I feel quiet. These last 6 days have been so lovely. I am half way through the book and can''t wait to see what it says next. Thank god for this book. I have hated myself for most of my life and tried destroying myself to make the self loathing end for so long. But I''m not bad. I don''t know what I am but not being bad is a really nice start. Thank you Chrisrine Lawson. Thank you.
310 people found this helpful
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PragmaticScholar
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Learning to love and trust after growing up in a BPD home
Reviewed in the United States on November 23, 2016
Let''s imagine your parents never taught you to walk or even exposed you to the concept of walking, and you spent the last 40 years crawling on your hands and knees. You would definitely wonder why everyone else seemed to ambulate more efficiently, but you''d lack the mental... See more
Let''s imagine your parents never taught you to walk or even exposed you to the concept of walking, and you spent the last 40 years crawling on your hands and knees. You would definitely wonder why everyone else seemed to ambulate more efficiently, but you''d lack the mental framework to identify the difference between walking and crawling, as this concept had never been taught to you in the early years when it most mattered. Seeing people move about using only their feet would definitely fascinate you, and you''d want to try the concept, but after 40 years on hands and knees, you''d probably fall down a lot, and it might be difficult to automatically develop a sense of balance without some guidance.

Learning to love and trust after growing up in a BPD household is not that different.

It''s easy for the armchair quarterbacks to suggest that those traumatized by BPD parents should just quit their dang whining, snap out of it and get with the program, but those traumatized by a BPD parent have a very different definition of love (and a painful one at that) than those reared in more authentically and altruistically loving households. I would wager that 100 out of 100 BPD-traumatized people would trade a kidney for the capacity to just "snap out of it," as the internal work that needs to be done is arduous and sometimes even more painful than what happened as a child.

Stopping the cycles of abuse requires recognition of the problem and modifications to behavior. This book is a good beginning.

My copy of the book was published in 2000, when bookshelves were not as well stocked for quality personal psychology books but were certainly rife with plenty of flim-flam pop psychology. In the sixteen years since, the decreasing stigma for mental health issues as well as ever-expanding media resources have increased the public vocabulary in the area of psychology. There has been additional research on BPD since 2000 with many publications for patients taking a more clinical tone than this book, but considering this book in context, it is a smart, well-written volume for the 2000 audience, utilizing archetypes to illustrate different types of BPD in mothers.

Some reviewers claim the archetypes seem a bit harsh, but if the title was "Understanding the Borderline Co-Worker" instead of "Understanding the Borderline Mother," I suspect there would be fewer complaints of that nature. The concept of motherhood has been sanctified for so long that it''s difficult to take mothers (even those that have inflicted harm) down from the pedestal to analyze behavior in a constructive way. The celebrity examples do seem a bit out of context, both in 2000 and in 2016, and seem a bit exaggerated relative to the other examples of behavior.

If you''re dealing with, or suspect you''re dealing with BPD in your family, the best case scenario is to have a good therapist as your Sherpa as you navigate those waters. At the very least, you''ll have an objective voice of reason in your exploration; ideally, your experienced therapist has helped others through all stages of healing and will have insight to expedite your path to health. BPD is heavy stuff, and even if you''ve dealt with other major issues in therapy in the past, BPD weighs in so much more exponentially.

This book will likely validate your childhood experiences that previously did not make sense. There are passages that will help you identify what''s missing in your early childhood development and will clarify what you can do as an adult to rectify that lack of early development and move toward a life of love and trust. I would not attempt to use this book as my sole source in healing myself and/or my relationships with those who have BPD, but it will help as a complementary part of education and therapy.

The book is NOT meant to nit-pick the parenting of the majority of the population.

For those affected by BPD, this book is not "just another excuse to whine," and it''s highly insensitive and demonstrates ignorance (or perhaps denial?) of the diagnosis to suggest it is.

Ironically, it''s the very absence of a lifetime "whining" or even uttering a single complaint for most BPD-traumatized individuals that has ultimately produced the most dysfunction in their own lives. Many have suffered in silence from their abuse, assuming the definition of "love" they were given in childhood required them to accommodate abuse from others. There''s no retirement plan for martyrs, and this book will let you know you''re not alone if that was your history. I hope it helps and hope there are brighter days full of love ahead for you.
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Karissa
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
So thankful for this book.
Reviewed in the United States on April 10, 2016
A must-read. I am a 27 year old mental health provider, who works with people with borderline personality disorder, believe it or not. I always thought there was something wrong with my mother growing up, but remained silent because I thought no one would believe me. This... See more
A must-read. I am a 27 year old mental health provider, who works with people with borderline personality disorder, believe it or not. I always thought there was something wrong with my mother growing up, but remained silent because I thought no one would believe me. This book provided the validation I have been seeking all these years. I am completely estranged from my mother, who was definitely emotionally abusive and manipulative, and a little bit physically abusive, which curtailed as I grew older. She is a mixture of the "Witch" and "Queen" types mentioned in the book, and it was so affirming to know why I behaved the way I did, and that a lot of the interventions I used to deal with her behavior made sense. Looking back now, I am so thankful for getting out when I did. I am lucky that I saw everything for what it was. So thankful for this book.
92 people found this helpful
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Rachel
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Recommend this book for everyone who grew up with a Borderline mother.
Reviewed in the United States on April 14, 2016
I absolutely love this book. I had a very difficult childhood living with my single, Borderline, alcoholic, and Narcissistic mother. I never knew (or even really thought) that it was so bad until my late teenage years when the effects of what I went through started to... See more
I absolutely love this book. I had a very difficult childhood living with my single, Borderline, alcoholic, and Narcissistic mother. I never knew (or even really thought) that it was so bad until my late teenage years when the effects of what I went through started to become clear. I couldn''t really see it while I was still living with her, because I was still in it. It was my reality, it was all I knew, and it was screwed up.

I bought this book years ago on here on a whim and it changed everything for me. My mother had mentioned that a doctor told her she needed therapy for her Borderline and I had no idea what that meant. When I got and read this book it transformed my brain and understanding of Borderline. I was a budding Psychology student at the time, and I was also just getting into the process of healing years of trauma. Because of this book I understand why I have so many of the issues I do, I understand my mother and why she had the issues she did (without the need to feel sorry for her--I simply just understand it), and I feel so much less crazy. I still have a long way to go but this book was, and still is, key in my recovery and development of my own identity, separate from my mothers. I recommend it for anyone and everyone who grew up with a Borderline mother.
75 people found this helpful
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MJM in Richmond VA
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Best Borderline Resource I have!
Reviewed in the United States on October 15, 2016
My third copy of this wonderful book. When I share with someone - it doesn''t come back. I just miss all my notes to myself. But happy to share this insight with others in the same nightmare of borderline land. My mom, ''the Queen'' has much less power over me after... See more
My third copy of this wonderful book. When I share with someone - it doesn''t come back. I just miss all my notes to myself.
But happy to share this insight with others in the same nightmare of borderline land. My mom, ''the Queen'' has much less power over me after reading, understanding and putting some better tools in my bag!
37 people found this helpful
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A prolific reader
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
I Needed This Book 40 Years Ago!
Reviewed in the United States on July 22, 2014
I grew up with an undiagnosed BPD mother. My childhood home was a chaotic, emotional obstacle course depending on the day and my mother''s moods. Not knowing that there was anything truly wrong with my mother, I just figured there was something rotten in ME that was making... See more
I grew up with an undiagnosed BPD mother. My childhood home was a chaotic, emotional obstacle course depending on the day and my mother''s moods. Not knowing that there was anything truly wrong with my mother, I just figured there was something rotten in ME that was making her so difficult. As a young adult I tried to ''fix'' her, and spent SO MUCH TIME and effort on a lost cause. This book was not only validation, it was a complete eye opener for me. Suddenly, my mother and entire confusing childhood was in the black and white pages of this book. Suddenly I was able to see IT NEVER WAS MY FAULT and I can''t fix her. I had a name that explained it all to me: Borderline Personality Disorder. What''s more, I was also able to start seeing my father (the Huntsman) as her codependent and come to terms with his inability to see her illness or her abuse of others, including himself. This book is simply PRICELESS.
62 people found this helpful
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Elizabeth Mckenzie
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Great book - sorry I need it!
Reviewed in the United States on May 8, 2017
This book helped me understand and put into words a lot of what I lived through as a child. My mother didn''t fit neatly into the categories the author describes, but the descriptions certainly helped me. This is a very helpful book, and validating for those of us who have... See more
This book helped me understand and put into words a lot of what I lived through as a child. My mother didn''t fit neatly into the categories the author describes, but the descriptions certainly helped me. This is a very helpful book, and validating for those of us who have been manipulated and abused, and often think it was OUR fault somehow. You can tell it is written partly for therapists, but it''s also very helpful for survivors!
24 people found this helpful
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JLS1125
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Amazing book covering the complexities of the borderline mother & her family
Reviewed in the United States on May 7, 2015
Amazing, real-life book about borderline mothers. When I read it, I felt like someone had a camera recording my family and included or mirrored it in this book. That''s how much it exudes the real-life dysfunction and incredible craziness (and cruelty) a borderline mother... See more
Amazing, real-life book about borderline mothers. When I read it, I felt like someone had a camera recording my family and included or mirrored it in this book. That''s how much it exudes the real-life dysfunction and incredible craziness (and cruelty) a borderline mother can produce. It covers the different (but very real) types of borderline mothers with meaningful and useful explanations and examples. It also covers the different types of husbands of borderline women/mothers. It includes very helpful tips on how to best deal with each type of borderline mother, especially when such a mother is at her worst. It was a relief for me to read this book, knowing someone (the author) understands and can explain the complexities of what happens in a family with a borderline mother. With the different types of borderline mothers, I thought my mother fell into two different types, with one type being dominant. The same was true with my father, who fell in between two of the different types of husbands of borderlines, with one type being dominant. I highly recommend this book, especially for anyone who struggles with the pain and frustration that comes from having a borderline mother and feels challenged with understanding such a mother''s actions (even if they are passive or subtle).
23 people found this helpful
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Top reviews from other countries

Nic
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Interesting and informative
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 17, 2019
This book is very interesting, about borderline mothers, and classifies them into types - the waif who is sad, the hermit who is frightened and the queen who is empty. Any one can turn into a witch - angry when they have their feelings, and unfortunately children are in the...See more
This book is very interesting, about borderline mothers, and classifies them into types - the waif who is sad, the hermit who is frightened and the queen who is empty. Any one can turn into a witch - angry when they have their feelings, and unfortunately children are in the firing line as they cannot get away. The author compares what these children go through to concentration camp victims. This is a self-help book which is very useful for adult children if they have support.
3 people found this helpful
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Michélle Picôt
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Priceless...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 5, 2016
Do yourself a favour & don''t be put off by the price! It''s worth it''s weight in platinum. This book has provided me with priceless clarity & validation. Only wish I''d been given a copy at birth. Would have spared many years of confusion & anguish. Deep gratitude to the...See more
Do yourself a favour & don''t be put off by the price! It''s worth it''s weight in platinum. This book has provided me with priceless clarity & validation. Only wish I''d been given a copy at birth. Would have spared many years of confusion & anguish. Deep gratitude to the author for this bible of the Borderline Mother, & to my counsellor for being the first to identify my mother''s disorder, enabling me to dig deeper & find this book.
14 people found this helpful
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Matt Twain
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Get this book sooner rather than later
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 7, 2018
This book was expensive but worth every penny, I wish I bought it a long time ago. My mom is undiagnosed and so I wasn''t sure this would be a fit for our situation, but reading it I couldn''t believe how accurate it was. Some of her behaviours that I didn''t even know were...See more
This book was expensive but worth every penny, I wish I bought it a long time ago. My mom is undiagnosed and so I wasn''t sure this would be a fit for our situation, but reading it I couldn''t believe how accurate it was. Some of her behaviours that I didn''t even know were related were explained in this book. I cannot recommend it highly enough, and thank you so much to the author for publishing this.
4 people found this helpful
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Greta
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
If you had a BPD or even a bit of a Narcissistic Parent this book is helpful
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 29, 2019
I really liked all the use of fairytales to depict certain aspects of behaviour, as well as to describe the experience of growing up with a parent with this illness. Was really helpful in validating what I experienced growing up and it gave me a less clinical/medical...See more
I really liked all the use of fairytales to depict certain aspects of behaviour, as well as to describe the experience of growing up with a parent with this illness. Was really helpful in validating what I experienced growing up and it gave me a less clinical/medical understanding to what BPD. It also help me understand more why I responded to certain situations in a particular way. Overall this book is just really validating to a child or adult with a parent with this condition.
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Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Do not hesitate purchase this book! It is amazing.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 31, 2018
I was hesitant to purchase this book due to the price - was not even sure if it would be useful with my line or work. This books is actually hands down the most insightful helpful book I have purchased. It is well worth the cost!!! Easy to read and digest and so informative...See more
I was hesitant to purchase this book due to the price - was not even sure if it would be useful with my line or work. This books is actually hands down the most insightful helpful book I have purchased. It is well worth the cost!!! Easy to read and digest and so informative and enlightening. I am already wanting to buy multiple copies to share with others whom I think may appreciate it. Best book I have read in years and years!!!!
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