Print Friendly, PDF & Email


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 CoachA.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.

  • BPD Coaching With A.J. Mahari

    For your BPD daughter, her experiences are her own and her feelings will be driven by thoughts that may well be distorted. It sounds as if the punishment she chooses to give you, among other things, involves not letting you see your grandson. Sad as it may be for you right now, knowing you cannot change or rescue your daughter, and that you want to be able to see and support your grandson, it will be important to validate your daughter’s feelings and to accept that, for now, (until she gets some professional help) your daughter is not going to be able to consider, respect, or care about your feelings as it is only natural to want her to do. Remember that painful though it can be supporting and validating how your daughter feels even when you don’t understand or you know that she has some cognitively distorted reactions unfolding will help you to accomplish your immediate goals.

    As much as you may want to protect or rescue her and/or your grandson from what might be the consequences of her actions, to your grandson, in her marriage or her own life generally, it is now up to your daughter to seek professional help and take responsibility for her own actions. Unless and until she does this, the best you can do is radically accept that she has BPD and what the reality that means to the ways that she relates to you knowing that when a mother has done her best and not in any way abused her daughter, that is the best you can do. Even mothers need to step back emotionally at times and while being compassionate and supportive detach with love.

    In seeking to accomplish immediate goals it is not realistic to think that you can create any change in what your daughter thinks, does, or feels. It is also not realistic, right now, to think that you can succeed in having your daughter understand how you feel or where you are coming from. Any feedback you might have sought to give her in the past is likely experienced by her as invalidation, judgment, and rejection and/or abandonment even though you have actually tried to help her and not invalidate, judge, reject, or abandon her.

  • BPD Coaching With A.J. Mahari

    What is very central and key for any loved one of someone with BPD, and for you as the mother of a daughter with BPD, is to first learn how to not react to your daughter and then secondly practice your coping skills in not reacting to your daughter. There are many different ways to learn more about how to cope most effectively and how to not react or have your buttons pushed by your borderline daughter. Along with things others have written on this topic and things I’ve written and done audio programs about on this subject, this is what I help many parents of those with an adult-child of BPD with in my BPD coaching as well.


    It is not easy to not react. It takes concerted effort and practice to not react. It is important to be mindful of what your goals are however. Once you’ve identified your goals the next step is prioritizing those goals and keeping them central in your thought process when you communicate with your daughter so that you will not undertake any communication or action that will undermine your own goals. Radically accept who and how your daughter is right now. Let go of any illusions, notions, hopes or dreams about effecting change in her. Freeing yourself from any ideas or beliefs that you are somehow responsible for your daughter’s choices or her actions will give you the perspective that you need to be clearly focused on achieving your goals.

    “My biggest concern is my grandson. Everyone walks on eggshells around my daughter and let her “get away” with totally unacceptable behavior. I fear any attempt for me to point out how unreasonable my daughter can often be would end up with me never seeing my grandson, and therefore keeping him from the rest of the family (especially my son, his uncle, who he adores, and my son’s family). I want to give my grandson some kind of a safe haven from the turmoil that is in his home.”

    The BPD CoachA.J. Mahari responds:

    The most effective way to be in a position with your daughter to be able to give your grandson some kind of a safe haven from the turmoil he experiences at home would be to not confront your daughter. Radically accept that it is her responsibility to want to seek help and find help for herself. Radically accept that for now nothing may change in her life or in the ways that she relates to you. Within the parameters of reasonable and consistently applied boundaries stay focused on what it sounds like your two main goals are:

    1. To not be drawn into your daughter’s emotional chaos and splitting being mindful that you cannot change her or rescue her
    2. To be able to manage communication with your daughter regardless of which side of a borderline split she may be manifesting so that you can continue to see your grandson

  • BPD Coaching With A.J. Mahari

    With these or any other goals you might identify validate your daughter’s concerns as a means of keeping the peace as best you can so that you can see your grandson. Offer support to your daughter without questioning her and having identified your own emotional needs and boundaries have a pre-planned exit-strategy for any breakdown in communication or escalating behavior on your daughter’s part that can be exercised in a way that you make about you and not about your daughter. So if a visit or conversation begins to escalate and your daughter becomes reactive and either acts in or acts out, you can extricate yourself from the interaction in a way that is you making a statement about yourself as opposed to confronting your daughter about anything she is saying or doing.

    When someone with Borderline Personality Disorder is actively engaging in the defense mechanism of splitting, acting in on one extreme and acting out on the other, the loved one is put in a very painful no-win situation.

    It will be beneficial for you to open to radically accepting that, with your BPD daughter, you are more often than not put in that no-win situation by her actions, words, and behavior as they manifest from one extreme to another while you firmly understand that the change that one hopes can be sought in this situation and situations like it in so many ways, that must come for the person with BPD him or herself, will one day be sought after by your daughter. In the meantime the no-win situation she holds you in is one that you cannot change. But, you can change how you react to it and how you choose to cope more effectively with it.

    © The BPD Coach A.J. Mahari and Touchstone Life Coaching September 17, 2009 – All rights reserved.

  • If you would like to ask the BPD Coach, A.J. Mahari, a question, please email her at with your question. Please also indicate if you would be okay with your name being used if A.J. responds to your question here. If not, please suggest a pseudonym that you would like your question attributed to.

All responses given by The BPD Coach, A.J. Mahari, are meant to convey general information and are not intended to be in anyway a specific recommendation or commentary on any personal life situation. Coaching is not therapy. It is also not a replacement for professional therapy. Coaching can be an effective adjunct to professional therapy for those with Borderline Personality Disorder and/or their loved ones.

Mother of BPD Daughter coping with bpd splitting by A.J. Mahari BPD Coach