Borderline Personality Disorder: What a parent can learn from a therapist’s experience.
I was lucky enough to attend a really fascinating workshop on this personality disorder recently and I realised that as a therapist the insights gained were incredibly useful in themselves but I also realised that there was a lot of learning for mothers (caregivers) with children.
It is important to realise that people suffering with borderline personality disorder have invariably experienced early neglect, early emotional or sexual abuse and that they subsequently have defences in place which they now need until the experience and defence can be thought about in a safe place with a professional. These compensatory ways of behaving may take the form of addiction, for example, drug, alcohol or sex addiction. As a therapist (or loved one), it’s important to keep in mind that these defences bind a very fragile sense of self together and without these their fears of breaking down or going mad might really happen. As the early trauma was likely to have been experienced so powerfully and violently, without proper understanding of the new personality structure and without the right containing therapeutic space, removal of the defence would leave a very exposed and vulnerable childlike person.
The learning for parents (caregivers) is that it is crucial to be aware of how we are and how we respond to our children. For example, a baby will know if they feel they need something or don’t feel good. Perhaps they have a wet nappy, perhaps they feel a need to be held close and soothed or maybe they are hungry. A baby will try and let you know and they will let a sound out. It is important that the emotion of the baby can be put into you as a parent and it is important that we, as parents manage what feels unbearable and that we don’t fall apart. Hopefully we can communicate this feeling back in a more organised way – one which has meaning, is helpful, is soothing.