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Some people have BPD in the family whereas I came from a family of BPD. Children do learn what they live. The effects of Borderline Personality Disorder on family members is far-reaching and profound.

Both of my parents had Borderline Personality Disorder. It is also believed that my maternal grandmother also had BPD. I was also diagnosed with BPD at the age of 19. I recovered at the age of 38. I am sure that if someone were to go through my whole family history, sadly, what has been defined in the last 20+ years as BPD would likely be found throughout many generations of my family.

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In my unfortunately rich experience with Borderline Personality Disorder – on both sides of it – I’d have to say that despite any genetics involved the perpetual abandonment, lack of nurture, lack of mirroring, lack of validation, constant criticism, anger and rage, abuse, and so forth really lays the foundation for each generation to be as afflicted as the one that attempts to raise them.

Borderline Personality Disorder can definitely be accurately described as a relational disorder. It manifests in and through relationships in chaotic, crazy-making, intense and very unstable ways. In the sea of family BPD there is really no such thing as being or feeling connected. The experience is one of broken mutuality (Bradshaw), enmeshed family dysfunction, and a love-hate that the word toxic barely begins to describe.

The unresolved abandonment trauma and its legacy sets up an on-going intergenerational dynamic of an astounding lack of affect synchrony (Viviane Green in her book “Emotional Development in Psychoanalysis, Attachment Theory and Neuroscience”) that is so needed by a young developing infant if one is to have a chance at developing a relatively healthy personality.

When one lives in a BPD family one learns that love is war and that connection represents a primal threat to one’s actual or perceived survival. Nothing is real. Nothing is. Everything goes. Everyone takes turns taking hostages. Punishment is as common as the air that one needs to breathe. Oddly enough it becomes equally as sustaining.

Life in a BPD family is a nightmare. There are no boundaries. Boundaries are not understood. Boundaries are not allowed. The BPD family relies on the enmeshed and toxic bonds of perpetual betrayal. Betrayal teaches the young developing borderlines how to manage the split reality of “I-hate you, don’t-leave-me” and “get-away-closer”. It helps one navigate the crazy-making duality of aloof-closeness and/or intimate-distance.

Life in a BPD family teaches one that emotional availability is a powerful tool with which to manipulate, punish and control. It teaches that helping others really means controlling them to be the way that you need them to be for you. It teaches one that they only exist in and through the existence of the other and that when the other is disapproving, distant, or maybe just not paying enough attention, one is invisible, non-existent and absolutely not ever safe.

There is nothing to trust in a BPD family. Really the only thing that there was to hold onto, aside from false hope against all hope that one’s needs might someday be met, was the full-on raging chaos. The raging chaos of utter despair disguised as want, dangled as the rarity of recognized need, was the salve that soothed the absence of a self that was so dissociated from yet so palpable as to be the pain filled numbness of a living death.

© A.J. Mahari July 8, 2008 – All rights reserved.

BPD Family