Is it possible to understand alienation, never mind cope with it and heal from it? My answer is yes, it is possible to do all three and in doing so, it is possible to pass on the skills that you learn as parent to others too.
Whilst many parents have not the first idea how to approach coping with alienation or healing it and from it, most will turn to the text books in an attempt to understand it for themselves. In a world in which fear, uncertainty and sadness has taken hold, the words of professionals who understand and show that they understand, is a life line to hang on to, sometimes the only thing that keeps a parent sane.
Because the world of parental alienation is a little like entering the twighlight zone for first time parents facing rejection. It is a little like finding out that a world exists within a world, a subterannean nightmare like place where nothing is as it seems and you, as the targeted parent, are to blame for something that you cannot even understand.
Understanding parental alienation from the perspective of those professionals who write about it however can lead newly rejected parents into difficult territory. In places where parental alienation is not accepted as a reality, where mental health professionals or family court practitioners dismiss it, offering up your new found knowledge is a bit like handcuffing yourself putting yourself in the cell named blame and locking the door behind you. Whilst you might be absolutely certain that you have the answer to the mystery that has been plaguing your relationship with your children, the uninformed and often disinterested professional will simply see this as confirmation that you are what the alienating parent says you are – controlling, obsessive and blaming. Understanding alienation as a rejected parent therefore, has to be used in a sophisticated way, it has to be part of a longer term strategy, not a rush to convince all and sundry that this is the reality.
Your strategy, as a rejected parent, has to be woven from your understanding as well as your ability to cope. It is of little use understanding what is happening to your children if you go under because of it. Arming yourself with understanding is your first step but coping is your foundation stone. Healing, yourself and your children is the outcome of the work that the first two elements of your strategy make possible.
Linda Gottleib is a US family therapist. Her view is that the best therapist for children who are alienated from a parent is the rejected parent and I agree with her. No-one other than the alienating parent knows your children as well as you and no-one could, in real time, deal better with the way that alienating children will duck and weave their way through fantastical scenarious that are ever exaggerated and often simply nonsensical. Therapists who work with only with rejected parents on the premise that it is they who need to change are doing parents an enormous disservice. Those who work with every member of the family and with the rejected parent to skill them to be their child’s own moment by moment therapist, are those who hold the key to empowering parents to cope and heal themselves as well as heal their children.
Alienation is a horrible phenomenon when it strikes. It damages children in the here and now and it limits their life chances in all areas of social relationships. It also damages perspective in children and causes in them a curious sense of tunnel vision, in which they are unable to experience very much other than their feelings and their belief system (which of course is a reflection of the alienating parent’s world view). To challenge this in your children is terrifying in the extreme at times as they appear to wield such power over you. But submitting to their disdainful rejection of you is folly and will not change anything at all. If they can they will do the work of the alienating parent and annihalate you. If you let them you will lose them. It is in your interests to withstand their attacks and survive as well as nurture yourself and thrive. To do so is to build the path that leads to their freedom.
If you are facing with alienation know these three things.
1. You are your child’s best hope for the future – never ever let anyone persuade you otherwise.
2. Professionals don’t always know or want to know about alienation. Learn how to work with your mental health or family court practitioner in ways that educates and enlightens them rather than irritating them so that you fall into the trap of them seeing you as the problem.
3. Get help if you need it. You need it if you are constantly obsessing, depressed and unable to face life, running round in circles feeling helpless or finding yourself being blamed in the court process.
Understanding Parental Alienation – learning to cope, helping to heal by Karen Woodall will be published shortly.
A brand new resource for all families affected by parental alienation will be launched soon, watch this space.
Skype Coaching for rejected parents is available from the Family Separation Clinic using the whole family model of assessment and treatment for parental alienation developed by Karen and Nick Woodall.