On the last track we discussed the difficulty of treating BPD clients. We examined the reputation of BPD and maintaining optimism and patience. We also covered dealing with abusive BPD clients and Steps for Relating to BPD Clients.
On this track... we will discuss borderline parents. We will explore how BPD affects children and look at "take aways." The case study on this track involves Faye, the child of a borderline parent. Faye was initially diagnosed as having BPD herself. Later, it became evident that though Faye was exhibiting common BPD behavior, she was not borderline. As you listen to this track, consider ways the information can be applied to your BPD client.
#1 BPD Affects Children
Let's examine how BPD affects children. As you know, BPD behavior can have a direct affect on children during the developmental stages. These affects can then spill into adult life. For example, Faye agreed to continue therapy due to her recent suicide attempt. During therapy, Faye’s descriptions of her mother, Ruth, led me to believe that perhaps her mother was a borderline personality. Unknowingly, Faye described her mother’s splitting or seeing things in terms of black and white.
Faye stated, "I could never do anything right for my mother. It was like I was the black sheep of the family. That’s why I left home so early. My mother still bad mouths me at every opportunity to anyone who will listen. And she refuses to see her granddaughter. But my brother, Harold, man! He’s a different story! He used to fight with my mother when he was a teen. Both his wives have left him! He is a damned drunk who can’t even hold down a job! But mom adores him. Harold is the perfect son as far as mom is concerned. If he forgets her birthday, she says ‘Oh, well Harold’s just too busy.’ Every time he loses a job, mom bitches about the poor management skills of his boss!"
Other information Faye gave also indicated her mother’s impulsive sexual behavior, suicide threats, and frequent mood swings. Clearly, her mother’s possible BPD behavior affected Faye. Think of your Faye. How does your client’s borderline parent affect him or her?
#2 Take Aways
In addition to learned BPD behavior and how BPD affects children, the third topic we will look at is take aways.
--1. Faye experienced take aways from her mother Ruth. Faye’s take aways were behaviors and perceptions that resulted from being raised by a borderline personality. For example, Faye developed her own splitting into black and white perceptions. She stated, "Now I see my mother just like she sees me. I see her as a worthless piece of crap. I can’t even remember seeing any good in her at all. And a few weeks ago, I noticed myself doing the same thing to my kids, treating one like gold and the other like dirt."
--2. Another "take away" that Faye had was a fluid perception of herself. By fluid perception I mean Faye frequently changed her thoughts and opinions.
--3. Faye’s third "take away" was a belief that she had no influence over her own actions. As you may guess, the "take away" of believing she had no influence over her own actions led to risky and seemingly impulsive behavior. For example, Faye had been arrested for drunk driving three times.
Clearly, children learn from their parents. Consider your BPD client. How much of his or her behavior was learned from their possibly borderline personality parent or parents?
If your BPD client possibly has a borderline parent, the following Revealing the Truth technique may prove beneficial.
Technique: Revealing the Truth
To help Faye understand how her mother’s borderline personality affected her and gain acceptance, I asked her to try the Revealing the Truth technique. Faye chose to write a letter to her mother telling her how she truly felt. Two other exercises that can be used in the Revealing the Truth technique are writing a false eulogy for the borderline parent and writing a false eulogy for an ideal parent. Faye understood that she would never actually send the letter, but rather, would use the letter as a tool to differentiate her own emotions.
In Faye’s letter, she explained the reasons for how she felt and indicated some feelings of grief. Some of Faye’s points included emotional experiences, needs and wants, positive interactions, acknowledgement of Ruth’s limitations, and realistic expectations for the future of their relationship. In a later session, Faye stated, "I haven’t really accepted my mother’s behavior or disorder yet, but at least I know that I need to accept it to move past it."
Clearly, Faye had begun to accept Ruth’s borderline personality and how it affected her as an adult child of a borderline parent. Can you relate Faye’s experiences to a BPD client you are treating?
On this track... we have discussed borderline parents. We explored how BPD affects children and take aways.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Fruzzetti, A. E. (2012). Risk factors affecting children of mothers with borderline personality disorder: Comment on Stepp, Whalen, Pilkonis, Hipwell, and Levine (2011). Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 3(1), 92–94.
Macfie, J. (2012). Do mothers with borderline personality disorder oscillate in their behavior towards their children? Implications for interventions: Commentary on Stepp, Whalen, Pilkonis, Hipwell, & Levine's article “Children of mothers with borderline personality disorder: Identifying parenting behaviors as potential targets for intervention”. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 3(1), 98–100.
Stepp, S. D., Whalen, D. J., Pilkonis, P. A., Hipwell, A. E., & Levine, M. D. (2012). Children of mothers with borderline personality disorder: Identifying parenting behaviors as potential targets for intervention. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 3(1), 76–91.
What are two topics discussed concerning borderline parents?
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