Understanding the Borderline Mother


Christine Ann Lawson.


Understanding the Borderline Mother, using the four facets of the borderline mother as told by Anne C. Lawson in her book detailed below; Childhood trauma and other complex issues are covered within these pages.

Many mothers have children to feel complete, fill a gap in their life or to be the friend that they never had in their own childhood. Abuse can rear its ugly head in many ways as inept and unfulfilled mothers take out their own untold burdens and pains on their children. This can take the form of sexual, psychological, physical and/or neglect and abuse behaviours towards a child. Therapists work with the aftermath of these parental behaviours in an all too often stream of complex and psychologically damaged adults.

A common thread that runs through therapy rooms, is of clients experiencing a ‘feeling’ of deep unhappiness. They rarely know why, what or where this feeling comes from.

A maternal rupture in childhood is one of the most common reasons that clients frequent the millions of counselling rooms across the globe. Working with a core belief about themselves, often snags at the thread.

If a maternal relationship is fractured it can leave a psychological imprint on the development and expectations of the child. Many relationships in adulthood feel the brunt of a borderline parent. As the dynamics reveal themselves repeatedly, the adult child may never feel able to be loved completely or to be good enough, continually trying to please people and unable to find their own path to happiness and fulfilment. They will see and feel gestures, actions and nuances in people that others would possibly not be so quick to recognise. This might manifest as a look, a glare or a knowing that they fall short of good enough.

I remember saying to a friend once

‘I’m so sorry to hear about your mother’s death.’

‘Well I’m not, she was a nasty piece of work, I’m free of her forever.’ she replied with a short sharp answer, smiling.

This was inconceivable to me, having felt nothing but warmth and unconditional love from my own mother. I guess it relates back to why mothers have their children in the first place; this can fall into a myriad of often, unspoken categories.


Jacob had many books, he loved books. They were his solace, his refuge. His mother hated him reading because it took his attention away from her and her endless stream of hopeless boyfriends. She had been in trouble repeatedly, with the school authorities for keeping him home from school and had no choice but to allow him to go every day. Jacob found comfort and support at school, he was safe there. He could lose himself in the school library, in amongst the high rows of book filled shelving. He loved the smell of the library and the lady behind the desk was kind, she always smiled at him and made him feel nice.

One warm Tuesday afternoon, Jacob came home from school and he noticed a strange look on his mother’s face as he locked eyes with her. She had a smug look about her and said to him,

 Not so cocky now are you, we’ll see who’s boss in this bloody house. You might have a bit more time for me now.’

Jacob was confused at first as he saw smoke out of the kitchen window. He ran to the back door and out in to the garden where he saw that his beloved book collection was smouldering as it slowly turned to ash. Rushing in, back through the house he ran up the stairs, two steps at a time in to his bedroom. His shelves were bare and his books all gone. He fell to the floor and cried deeply and internally at another refuge, gone.

Well into his forties and sitting nervously in front of a psychotherapist, Jacob tentatively recalled how he had always hated his mother’s behaviour. He stated that he loved her but could never understand why she did the things she did. This passed on in to all of his adult relationships, he trusted only a few people and was never very good with females.

One of the best books on the market for helping those affected by borderline and narcissistic traits in mothers is called Understanding the Borderline Mother. I have recommended this book to literally hundreds of clients over the last twenty four years. It beautifully illustrates the four fascinating aspects of a Borderline Mother, in terms of The Queen, The Witch, The Hermit and The Waif. Each facet conveys a different message to her children and evokes a different response.

Sue J Daniels
MBACP & UKRC (Snr Accred)
EMDR Accredited Practitioner
Professional Counsellor &
Trauma Specialist

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