Deadly Child’s Play


The consequences of some childhood imaginative play can be so destructive when carried into adulthood that we have no real choice other than to call it deadly.  My mother’s play fit this category.

For all the writings that attempt to describe and explain the behavior that some Borderline Personality Disorder parents, particularly mothers, engage in with some or all of their children, fit this category.

The reference for this post about the symptoms of dissociative disorders in children can be found below.  There is only one single aspect of the material contained in it that I wish to address right now:

4. The child’s belief in alternate selves or imaginary friends that control the child’s behavior may reflect disorganization in the development of a cohesive self.


I am also writing a reply to a comment my second to the youngest (1961) brother wrote today.  I believe that my mother suffered from a pre-Borderline Personality Disorder condition from the time she was no older than 6 years old.  I believe that what went wrong for her prior to that age had already spawned this condition so that without immediate and adequate childhood intervention, the course of the progression of her mental illness was – by today’s enlightened standards and knowledge about the disorder – entirely predictable.

She was, therefore, already mentally ill when my father married her.  The ‘up side’ of her disorder allowed my mother to appear as a vivacious, charming, stunningly gorgeous catch of a wife.  That she was too vivacious, charming, stunning and gorgeous could not have alerted anyone at that time to the terrible troubles that lay down the road of her life – and down the road of anyone’s life that she captured in the web of her illness.

My mother had a mind that could ‘think’ only in terms of the imaginary world of her early childhood.  My father fit the image of her perfect imaginary Perfect Husband – with only one fixable flaw.  As she used to tell us, he did not smoke a pipe.  That was easy.  She convinced him to start smoking one.

The birth of a son for a first child also fit her perfect imaginary world image of motherhood.  EVERYONE wanted a boy to be born first.  It amazed me that my oldest brother’s wife could hear the hysterical tone of my mother’s psychotic mind in the ‘voice’ used to comment in my brother’s baby book.  My brother and I were evidently still so captured in my mother’s web, even three years ago, that we could not detect that crazy woman’s crazy voice.  My astute objective sister-in-law sure could!


So, yes, in response to my brother’s comment, my mother did become the woman she already was when my father married her – just more so.  By the time I was born, through complications of my being a breach birth that nearly killed the both of us, and due to a psychotic break that seemed to have happened to her while she birthed me, Linda, the first born daughter and second child to be born into this perfect imaginary married life of motherhood for my mother, was assigned a role all of her own.

I need to mention that according to the way my mother described all during my childhood how I tried to kill her before I was born, that the devil sent me to kill her — that part of the psychosis could easily have happened with its resulting consequences no matter which sex I had been born as.  After all, back then she had no way of knowing if I was a boy or a girl until I actually appeared.  Which brings me to the clearest way I have yet found to explain and describe what happened to me next – and through contamination, to my siblings.

My mother did not have imaginary friends from childhood that controlled her as the above number 4 symptom of childhood dissociative disorder suggests.  She formed her imaginary mental and emotional structure, I believe, while playing alone with her dolls.  They were her initial imaginary friends, and she could, of course, control them absolutely.  When she began to have children of her own she simply slid her imaginary friend structure over on top of us.  With one exception.

For whatever reasons, no doubt stimulated by the difficult circumstances of my birth, I was NEVER my mother’s imaginary friend.  I was her imaginary mortal enemy – so bad that I was assigned the status of being so evil that I was not human.   I was a demon, the spawn of the devil, the devil’s child.  I strongly suspect that her psychotic break in labor was facilitated by the use of the anesthesia used at that time for women in labor, Twilight Sleep.  This drug combination is know to have induced severe nightmarish hallucinations that were SUPPOSED to be ‘not remembered’ along with the pain of birthing.  For some women, particularly those with pre-Borderline or other psychosis-related underpinnings, administration of this drug became their demise.

In taking a short-cut here, I can clearly see the pattern my mother applied to her children as we were forced to assume the cloak of her imaginary friend/enemy projections upon us.  First born (1950) son was the Hero, second born (1951) daughter the sworn mortal Demonic Enemy Satan’s Child, third born daughter (1953) God’s Child, the Angel Saint, fourth born daughter (1955) the Fairytale Princess, fifth born son (1961) the Alaskan God Son.  I cannot yet name imaginary friend status of the sixth son (1965).

My mother had no conscious capacity to recognize these patterns.  I think my father believed her fantasies without question, as well.  I doubt he had any more of a capacity to recognize what he was dealing with than she did.  She was his wife, the mother of his children, and he evidently believed her — lies about Linda.

I see us all in a police line up.  I see us all having our mug shots taken, and instead of our actual name and identity being recorded, we each have our chosen imaginary friend – or enemy – designation attached to our existence in my mother’s – and my father’s – world.


We were all simply a part of my mother’s mentally ill child’s play.  I differ from authors who might suggest the ‘imaginary’ role belonged to my mother – witch, waif, etc.  The imaginary designations with their resulting and correlating treatment we received from her, belonged to her broken mind.  The source of all of our suffering, including to a large extent the suffering of her imaginary Perfect Husband, came from whatever combination of trauma and adaptation to trauma and neglect that my mother made well before she was six years old.

Because my mother was by physiology a female, and raised a ‘traditional doll playing girl’, her psychosis centered around home and family.  Had she been a boy, who knows where her psychotic imaginary play would have taken her in adulthood.  Perhaps she would have been likely to murder us, chop us into little pieces and store us in a wall, bury us in the yard, or eat us.

Fortunately, that’s not the story being told here.  What I know of what happened to me was on the level of soul murder, and that’s bad enough.  Because the imaginary friend status assigned to my siblings was not enemy, they were able to ‘escape around the edges’ and form some self of their own.  My history with her was of her continually controlling me and abusing me as much as she possibly could.  When it comes to being able to empathize with my mother enough to truly understand her underlying unconscious motives, nobody who did not share my mother’s psychosis can ever know what it all seemed like and felt like inside of herself.  I probably come the closest because she so pervasively invaded and obsessively controlled me.


Herein lays the difference between siblings that are not often apparently abused by a mentally ill parent and the Chosen One that is insanely and chronically abused.  My mother did not have the ‘benefit’ of knowing who her imaginary enemy was until I was born.  Once she KNEW, she then had a specified target upon which she could focus the full destructive intent of her psychosis.  And believe me, that’s exactly what she did.

All the moving around we did, what my mother refers to in her letters as “shifting” from place to place, simply HAD to happen as a result of the unanchored mercurial madness of her extremely disturbed mind.  It began very early in her marriage and became far more pronounced with the progression of her illness once we reached Alaska when I was five.

This “shifting” deprived all of us of any stable footing beneath our childhood feet.  Coupled with the toxic contamination of being raised by an unstable mother who was obviously capable of severe depressions and violent rage attacks, all six of her children can no doubt say that they “did not have a happy childhood.”  This does not mean that there were not positive aspects to our childhood, because there were.  Yet each of our separate, individual experiences of our childhood, even with the underlying madness, depended to the largest extent upon which one of my mother’s inescapable imaginary friends – or enemy – identities we had been assigned at our birth.

Excluding and excusing my father from responsibility for either his active or passive participation in my mother’s madness places him on the level of being a child rather than of being an adult.  He was no doubt a traumatized adult, but as one of my commenter’s wisely points out, he WAS an adult and we were his children.  At the same time that he might have been my mother’s imaginary husband, he was our very real father, as she was our very real mother.

There is no judge and jury here.  There is no real question of accountability.  It’s far too late for that.  My intention is to uncover what I can of the clues, the evidence and the seeming facts about my childhood of unimaginable suffering.  That it could have been worse is obvious.  That it never got any better is equally obvious.  I am, at best, simply a survivor of a childhood that should NOT have been allowed to happen.  And it wouldn’t have, if anyone, anywhere, had cared enough to pay adequate attention and take some appropriate action on behalf of my parents’ traumatized children.


Because the early experiences of my mother’s own childhood left her with a disorganized-disoriented insecure attachment disorder, focusing on fighting her ‘war’ against the enemy that was me allowed her to find a purpose (other than homesteading so she could have her imaginary Kingdom) that to some extent allowed her to organize and orient her inner life.  Hers was a war waged in the private confines of our home.  It was a war of terrorism.  It was a clandestine war, as most wars against innocents are, with me as the victim because my mother lacked the capacity to know I was her precious little girl, not her enemy.

Main Entry: clan·des·tine
Pronunciation: \klan-ˈdes-tən also -ˌtīn or -ˌtēn or ˈklan-dəs-\
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle French or Latin; Middle French clandestin, from Latin clandestinus, from clam secretly; akin to Latin celare to hide — more at hell
Date: circa 1528

: marked by, held in, or conducted with secrecy




Guidelines for the Evaluation and Treatment

of Dissociative Symptoms in Children

and Adolescents

International Society for the Study of Dissociation

Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, Vol. 5(3) 2004

Digital Object Identifier: 10.1300/J229v05n03_09 119


Please follow (above) link to read this entire article and to find the exact references the authors are referring to in this section of their article (below):

“There is no consensus yet on the exact etiological pathway for the development of dissociative symptomatology, but newer theoretical models stress impaired parent-child attachment patterns (Barach, 1991; Liotti, 1999; Ogawa, Sroufe, Weinfield, Carlson, & Egeland, 1997) and trauma-based disruptions in the development of self-regulation of state transitions (Putnam, 1997; Siegel, 1999).

Newer theorizing ties maladaptive attachment patterns directly to dysfunctional brain development that may inhibit integrative connections in the developing child’s brain (Schore, 2001; Stien & Kendall, 2003).

From the vantage point of treating children and adolescents, a developmental understanding of dissociation makes the most sense.

That is, dissociation may be seen as a developmental disruption in the integration of adaptive memory, sense of identity, and the self-regulation of emotion.

According to Siegel (1999), integration is broadly defined as “how the mind creates a coherent self-assembly of information and energy flow across time and context” (p. 316).

In other words, Siegel sees the development of an integrated self as an ongoing process by which the mind continues to make increasingly organized connections that allow adaptive action.

Children and adolescents may present with a variety of dissociative symptoms that reflect a lack of coherence in the self-assembly of mental functioning:

1. Inconsistent consciousness may be reflected in symptoms of fluctuating attention, such as trance states or “black outs.”

2. Autobiographical forgetfulness and fluctuations in access to knowledge may reflect incoherence in developmental memory processes.

3. Fluctuating moods and behavior, including rage episodes and regressions, may reflect difficulties in self-regulation.

4. The child’s belief in alternate selves or imaginary friends that control the child’s behavior may reflect disorganization in the development of a cohesive self.

5. Depersonalization and derealization may reflect a subjective sense of dissociation from normal body sensation and perception or from a sense of self.


  What are the Causes of Borderline Personality Disorder?

  Conditions Related to Borderline Personality Disorder

  Treatments for Borderline Personality Disorder

  Getting Help for Borderline Personality Disorder

  Life With Borderline Personality Disorder

  Symptoms of BPD

  Diagnosis of BPD


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Baby Brain Development


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