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Psychological Healing
in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

Questions and Answers

I appreciated your article on Borderline Personality Disorder. I have been dealing with a mother with Borderline Personality Disorder for a long time. She has not been diagnosed by a professional, but I have talked with professionals who have said she probably has that. I have also been diagnosed with tendencies towards Dependent Personality Disorder. I have been working hard to maintain a relationship with my mother, however I sometimes feel emotionally abused by her. I understand much better where she is coming from after reading your article. I have . . . attempted to set boundaries and be less attached and to not take things personally from her. It is very frustrating to me that she can say whatever she wants to me without any regard for my feelings but when I try to tell her she’s hurting my feelings she basically tells me I deserve it and that she has a right to talk to me however she wants. I have been a very good daughter to her. I want to love her without enabling her and have been trying to set boundaries for many years, but struggle with enforcing boundaries because I don’t want her to view me badly. I struggle with the knowledge that everyone is entitled to their own opinions and freedom of speech but her speech hurts me. I understand I can’t change her and that I have to tell her what I will accept but when I try that, she tells me that if I wouldn’t have done this, that, or the other thing, she wouldn’t be acting the way she is and never acknowledges that she is hurting my feelings and always makes an excuse for it. How do I maintain a relationship with her without allowing myself to be emotionally abused? How do I allow her to have her opinion but still express mine? Also, I am getting married [soon] and a lot of her anger is directed toward my husband. How do I protect my marriage?

Outline of the Answer
• The Bible
• Honoring Love
• When Parents are Enemies of Love
• Praying for Enemies
• A Relationship of Truth
• Stop Being Nice
• You Go Where You Are Praying

 
Throughout the Bible, we are told to “honor your father and your mother” as a reminder of one of the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 20: 1-17). Many parents, however, try to use this commandment to demand a child’s obedience to their every whim, and many children blindly try to follow this commandment without understanding the implicit meaning behind it.

Therefore, let’s look at the psychology of it all.

 
Honoring Love

What is the purpose of honoring our fathers and mothers? Well, by honoring them we make it possible to learn from them, so as to acquire their wisdom and their love for God. This therefore shows that the assumption made in the commandment about honoring parents is that fathers and mothers love God, are living holy lives, and care for their children and want their good. Hence, to honor your father and your mother is to honor their love for God.

 
When Parents are Enemies of Love

So what happens when parents don’t really want the good of their children? What happens when parents constantly criticize their children, abuse them, and essentially stifle any good that the children could achieve? In short, what happens in dysfunctional families when parents don’t really love their children? Well, parents such as this don’t love their children because they don’t love God either. These parents have broken the first commandment, and, to their children, that makes them enemies, not parents.

Read about common mistakes
made by many parents

Trying to honor parents such as this amounts to trying to carry out a fraud. After all, how can you honor your enemies?

 
Praying for Enemies

Nevertheless, even though it is foolishness to honor our enemies, we still have to pray for them. Christ told us to pray for our enemies, and, through His own behavior, He showed us how not to do it.

  

Praying for your enemies does not mean accepting everything they do.

  

Praying for your enemies does not mean ignoring the danger they cause to you and to others.

Praying for your enemies does not mean forgetting the harm they have caused.

Praying for your enemies does not mean that they will escape divine justice.

Praying for your enemies, as Christ made perfectly clear right from the Cross, means that you care about their salvation and wish for their repentance. Even as He was being crucified, Christ was not plotting revenge on His enemies; instead, with a broken heart flowing with mercy, He yearned for their repentance.

 
A Relationship of Truth

Consequently, considering what you have said about your mother’s treatment of you, the only “relationship” you can have with your mother is a relationship of truth. See the truth, then: understand that she does not love you. See it clearly.

If you don’t see it, you will be endlessly trying to appease her, to do something to make her love you. You will be dependent on your hope for her love. You will be like a dog begging for scraps and dying of hunger because the scraps are not real food.

If you do see the truth, you will realize that making her love you is impossible. She will never love you unless she changes psychologically; she will never love you unless she sees the truth of her own brokenness and wants to be healed.

You can’t make her change, and you can’t heal her yourself, but you can stop encouraging her to remain the same. So how do you stop encouraging her? Stop being nice.

 
Stop Being Nice

Christ wasn’t “nice” either. He loved us—He spoke the truth—He was the truth—but He wasn’t nice. To be nice is to accept anything, even sin itself. Why? Well the deep unconscious motive for being nice is fear, the fear that if you speak the truth you will offend someone who will then reject you and abandon you. To love is to speak the truth and, with non-judgmental bluntness, to call a sin a sin.

  

Imagine your mother talking to a friend, complaining about how difficult it is for her to have a problem daughter like you. If the friend were merely nice, the friend would say, “There, there, you’re doing your best to be a good mother.” But if the friend were to speak the truth, the friend would say, “Well, no wonder your daughter has so many problems! Look at how miserably cruel you are to her!” So there’s the difference between being nice and speaking the truth from a heart filled with love.

  

So stop being nice and start being genuine.

To be genuine with others, though, you have to do your own psychological work first, so that you can be genuine with yourself. You can find help in doing this by reading and studying the entirety of this website; you might also need psychotherapy. In any case, once you can see how you deceive yourself, you can help others see how they deceive themselves.

Mind you, being around your mother while you are still in the process of your own healing can be psychologically precarious and dangerous. Your best protection, at least temporarily, may be to distance yourself—emotionally, and even physically if necessary—from your mother. In addition, if you enter psychotherapy, you can rely on frequent guidance and coaching from your psychotherapist about what to say and do in regard to your mother.

 
You Go Where You Are Praying

Just keep in mind that as you change and become more and more genuine, your mother’s behavior might start to change as well. So pray constantly that you can speak always from a place of love, and pray constantly for your mother’s enlightenment and repentance. In the physical world we go where we are looking; in the spiritual realm, we go where we are praying. So if you’re not praying for what you want, you don’t really want it.

As for your marriage, everything depends on your husband. If he is psychologically strong, confide in him and ask for his help in maintaining a distance from your mother and in your becoming more genuine. And pray together for the strength to resist your mother’s subversion. If your husband is not psychologically strong, well, beware, because your mother will prey upon his weakness to undermine your marriage.

What to do when your spouse
is a BPD individual

 


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Recommended Reading
 
A treasure of a resource for psychological and spiritual healing. Information gathered from my websites (including this webpage) is now available at your fingertips in book form.

 

Falling Families, Fallen Children by Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D. Do our children see a mother and a father both living in contemplative love for God with a constant awareness of His presence and engaged in an all-out battle with the evil of the world? More often than not our children donít see living faith. They donít see protection from evil. They donít see genuine, fruitful devotion. They donít see genuine love for God. Instead, they see our external acts of devotion as meaningless because they see all the other things we do that contradict the true faith. Thus we lose credibilityóand when parents lose credibility, children become cynical and angry and turn to the social world around them for identity and acceptance. They are children who have more concern for social approval than for loving God. They are fallen children. Letís bring them back.

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Where Catholic therapy (Catholic psychotherapy) is explained according to Catholic psychology in the tradition of the Catholic mystics.