Next week I am going to return to the subject of empathy and the alienated child but this week I thought I would indulge myself slightly with an exploration of life as PA specialist. I am doing so, in the full conscious knowledge, that working with Parental Alienation on an every day basis takes its toll and that, for me at least, continuous self supervision as well as external supervision is an absolute necessity. Supervision, is the process by which therapists externalise their personal and individual responses to the issues that people bring into the consulting room. This process is one in which therapists obtain clarity and perspective and it is the way that we prevent ourselves from falling into the trap of using ‘similarity heuristics’ (assuming this case will unfold in the same way as a similar one) and ‘affect heuristics’, (relying upon how we feel about people we are working with to make decisions about their actions). Supervision in my work, involves my own personal processing, external processing and writing this blog. It is often, through writing about my work that I uncover for myself what I am feeling about the work that I am doing.
This week I have been processing some thinking and feeling about the work that I do and the world in which I do it. This 360 degree review enables me to understand the ways in which the person that I am intersects with the work that I do. I have been thinking particularly about my decision to leave the charitable world behind and how this has removed me from the circle of charities which sit around the government. This decision was probably the best I ever made in terms of my ability to focus upon my work as an alienation specialist. However it is clear that I cannot remove myself entirely from that world, just as I cannot remove myself from the world at large and in reviewing my writing over the past few months, although I am no longer active in government, my voice has never been silent for long about the way in which those organisations set up to support mothers and fathers are part of the problem and not the solution.
I have also been thinking about the ways in which I continuously analyse and refine my understanding of why this country is such fertile ground for alienation reactions in children and the demand that places upon me to speak up about the political environment in which I do this work. Concentric circles is an image which is always true for me in doing this work, worlds within worlds and the potential ripple effect that can be created by one tiny change somewhere within.
Some in the fathers movement, I am told, find my voice a bit scary and feel that I sometimes go overboard in my drive for transparency. Some in the womens movement find me objectionable and compare me to Erin Pizzey for whom they appear to reserve distaste. Reading other people’s words about me on sites like Mumsnet makes me smile, so many assumptions, so many well defined belief systems in which I do not belong. Life in the thick of it can sometimes be lonely when one does not align onself with this side or that and everyone often ends up finding something wrong in what I do.
But I am not writing this blog for your sympathy, I am writing it to process some of the things which have floated to the surface for me this week as I have gone about my work with families and alongside that, as always, have been observing the developments in the field of family separation and parenting in general. For I am constantly scanning, constantly processing the political landscape as well as my own internal world, so that I can understand always, as closely as possible, what life feels like for the families that I work with.
Bobbing about on the surface this week has been a powerful awareness that not everybody thinks and works like this. I suppose I have started to realise that I have mined deep under the surface where not everyone wants to go. I was pondering on this over the weekend, when thinking about how the world in which I now work bears no relation to the world of the family and parenting sector that sits around government. In fact this world and that world are so different as to be unrecognisable, which leaves me struggling to map the cognitive dissonance that this creates. I have always known that the concentric circle of charities sitting around government is a world in itself in which smoke and mirrors are used to great effect and money is spent often purely so that government can tell the world that it is doing something about X Y Z every five years or so. But I don’t think I realised until quite recently how little this circle actually bothers or cares about the work that it does (or even, for that matter, how little government bothers or cares).
The shock that arrives when one realises that these charities are simple reflections back to government of how they would like things to be, as well as bottomless pits sucking up funding to build empires over which CEO’s on inflated salaries can preside, is jarring to say the least. The realisation that actually nobody cares and its all just a wheeze to make a good living is a somewhat bleak outlook. The fact that others do not see this or conversely, they do and want a part of it, is something I have gotten used to. But its a grim reality to face, especially when one knows that these concentric circles are the core of the damage which is being done to families in this country.
Just outside of the charitable circle sits what I call the ever hopeful band of brothers. These are the chaps I think I scare the most in my writing. I think they know that I do some good therapeutic work and I think they know that I am a voice that they want to listen to but I also think they are nervous about me being a bit edgy, a bit much, a bit too over the top. This band of brothers are those who were most likely to prick up their ears and be interested in last week’s launch of a ‘world leader’ backed website which promised equal parenting. I’ve been thinking about them since last week and wondering how, when they work in this field, they are not underground digging with me, they are the ones I most expect to be by my side. But they are not. Some of these brothers are closed in their minds because of the lens that they look at life through. Some make assumptions that are on par with the labels that mumsnetters like to stick on me. Some have absolutely no idea what I am talking about, even when I spell it out word by painful word.
Alongside the band of every hopeful brothers sits the self satisfied sisterhood. I think we all know who they are, I named most of them in the comment thread last week and sat and mused on the power of these women. Self satisfied they really must be, not only did the coalition government water down every single positive proposal it came into power proclaiming in this field, it got rid of the funding to the ever hopeful band of brothers too, leaving the path clear once again for the sisters to reign supreme, recyling their illusions and carrying on their merry way regardless.
And then there is the family justice system, with all of its attendant bits and bobs, the Solicitors, the Barristers, the Mckenzie’s the Guardians, the Social Workers and the Expert Witnesses, oh yes and of course, the Judges. At times I weave my way amidst this assortment of people who form the outer circle and I wonder how, when each of them plays a role in the drama of the lives of the people they serve, they can do that without taking a step back and wondering how it all fits together. Maybe they do, some of them write blogs too, perhaps that is their way of dealing with their place in the process. Perhaps they go home and kick off their shoes and pour a glass of wine and think no more about it. Perhaps.
Which leaves us on the outer edge, sometimes I think this is the sanest place to be, or at least the most honest. Sadly, because of ripple effect, from government at the core to the outer edges, its also often the place where the most madness arises.
And its that madness that I work in every day, with families where alienation strikes. Far from the hallowed halls of power, distanced from the mirage of charitable care for what happens to real people and dislocated in time and space from the band of ever hopeful brothers and their equivalent self satisfied sisters. Floating like flotsam and jetsam, in the maelstrom of family separation, fed from by the family justice system, including the likes of me, are parents and their children for whom the process of separation has created opportunity, motive and method to kill the love a child feels for both parents. Its a godawful sphere of existence and its a godawful place to be working, but this is where I spend most of my working days, doing what I can to help.
Feeling sorry for me yet? Wondering if I have entered into the one way street of delusion never to return? Fear not, this is merely me, mapping out the terrain of family separation, in at the thick of it, the only place it is possible to gain the knowledge and the power to effect change in my view.
Which leaves me with me. At the end of the day that’s all I’ve got really, when it comes to doing this work, my knowledge, my skills, my perspective and me. On this blog you get a very heavy dose of me, sometimes disguised, often toned down, sometimes so blatantly in your face I can almost see you wincing as I write the words, but me, always me. Because if I wasn’t me in this work, if I dressed myself up as something other than me, put on my fancy suit and pretended to be not me, I would be doing you all a disservice. I have been me at tea with Ministers and me with CEO’s of those charities I am so dismissive of, I have been me with the Family Justice System and me with the ever hopeful band of brothers and resolutely me with the self satisfied sisters. And most of all I have been me with those families I have worked with, always just me, as I have already said, its all I have got and at the end of the day, its all any of us really have.
So what makes me a PA specialist I wonder to myself as I work out how to finish this musing, what turned me into this person who spends her time peeling back the layers of the onion and writing about it as well as working with families to create dynamic change? Well I never really set out to be such a person when I began this work 14 years ago, I never meant to be someone who spends her time investigating and analysing the field of family separation as well as working with those most affected by it. I suppose I was drawn deeper and deeper into it the more we began to turn over the stones to find out the truth of how this country treats separating families. Now I cannot stop and just like the digging that I do with the families I work with, my digging on a meta level continues, taking me places that I didn’t want to go to even though I had heard they were there.
And for now that’s where I will leave this post, as it has again performed for me the task of externalising my inner narratives and my internalised reactions. It may be one of my more obtuse posts, some of you may wonder about the purpose of it or not bother to read it at all. Others may be interested to know why my writing ranges far and wide across themes and perspectives and why I am continuously and determinedly transparent. I think its that last word which for me, is what keeps me sane in this mad world and which prevents me from the worst of the second hand shock syndrome which can affect those of us working in a mad world within mad worlds. Transparency. I am who I am and you can rely on me being that consistently until the bitter end. You may not like some of who I am or you may like parts of me but not others, but you can rely on me being me absolutely to the end.
And in the thick of it, where your child is turning into someone you don’t know and the person you used to love has become someone you never knew existed and the justice system has its hands in your back pockets and the ever hopeful band of brothers and self satisfied sisters continue their conjoined dance and the charities that are supposed to support you turn out to be less interested in you than the tick in the box that will garner them another big hand out and government appears to be listening and then at the last minute throws you the crumbs of the promises they once made.
I will still be here, warts and all, just me, being me.
(I want to be clear when I discuss with you the band of ever hopeful brothers, they know who they are but you may not and I don’t want you to think I am talking about the whole of Families need Fathers when I write these things because I am not. There are many associated with this band right across the country in the England, Wales and Scotland too. These brothers, in their regional incarnations, are wonderful people, they provide endless support to families, careful advice and outstanding pastoral care. Some of them are the most incisive thinkers I have ever met, its not those brothers that I speak of when I speak of the ever hopeful ones. The ever hopeful ones are those who still believe that change is coming, the ones who still believe that the Children Act has been changed, the ones for whom, the reality that since their joining with Gingerbread in the Kids in the Middle Campaign, nothing, but nothing has changed hasn’t sunk in yet – oh, apart from the single parent lobby getting stronger perhaps. Those are the brothers I am speaking of and it is with sadness and affection I write about them as much as frustration and despair).