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BPD Coach, A.J. Mahari, responds to a mother of a daughter with Borderline Personality Disorder about coping with her daughter’s splitting, acting in and acting out and her concern for her grandson along with her own pain. Loved ones of those with BPD can and will benefit from radical acceptance practice and detaching with love.

“I have an adult daughter who has BPD. She refuses to go see someone about her condition. The situation is escalating and reeking havoc in her marriage and in her family life (she has an 11 year old son), and certainly with her extended family.” 

“She switches from “acting in” but completely avoiding me or giving me the silent treatment, to “acting out” with horrible diatribes and being completely disrespectful. I have read much that you have written about BPD and I have found your material to be among the best at explaining to family members what’s going on inside the head of a BPD, and how they are experiencing feelings of abandonment.”

“My question has to do with how I react when my daughter is both “acting in” and “acting out”. During the “acting out” phase, she tells me she hates me, that I love her brother and his family more than her and her family, and she is beyond disrespectful, rude and hurtful. She takes reality of a situation and completely distorts it to match how she feels. I simply don’t know how to handle these outbursts. I try to depersonalize them and to tell myself that she has a mental disorder, but it is crushing to me. She is rude, disrespectful and hurtful. In the “acting in” phase, she totally cuts me out of her life, never answers phone calls, and distances her entire family from me often times with me not even knowing what has precipitated this “acting in”. She keeps my grandson from seeing me. The stress of life seems to overwhelm her at every turn.” – Mother of BPD Daughter – U.S.

The BPD Coach A.J. Mahari responds:

In response to your question as to how you react when your daughter is consumed by the defense mechanism of splitting that is central to Borderline Personality Disorder, it will be important for you to learn to not react at all. Of course one has feelings in the face of such punishing and inappropriate behavior. Coping with your borderline daughter’s acting in or acting out can most effectively be stabilized for you by radically accepting that this is how your daughter is, right now. Even more than depersonalizing her acting in or acting out, you will benefit from having a neutral emotional stance that allows you to meet any and all turmoil with compassion and understanding but also without reacting to it or feeling responsible for it. Detach with love.

I can understand how emotionally, your daughter’s behavior is crushing to you. Validate your own feelings inside and keep that process to yourself in the presence of your daughter. In relating to your daughter it will be important to not express your feelings and to not lead with your own feelings. When your daughter is acting in or acting out she will not be aware of how it effects you. Those with BPD have no time for and less awareness of how their actions effect others because they are so busy reacting to their own perceived abandonment and/or rejection sensitivity. Sadly, if she feels judged or let down by you she, like many with BPD, will likely seek to punish you. She will react to how she feels and perceives her interactions with you. What she reacts to, more often than not, will not be rational in the here-and-now. You may clearly understand that intellectually. It is just as important for you that you allow that intellectual understanding to reach your emotional understanding as well.


&copy A.J. Mahari, September 17, 2009 – All rights reserved.

Mother of Daughter With Borderline Personality Disorder – Coping with Splitting