In the spirit of New Year this first post is a handy guide to your resolutions if you are an alienated parent. Based on the premise that you cannot change anyone else, you can only change yourself, understanding this guide is written to help you to understand those questions that you ask yourself again and again – ‘what did I do, why has this happened to me, how do I change what feels impossible to change?’
Many people will tell you that you didn’t do anything wrong, that it is bad luck that this happened to you and that you cannot change things because the power lies in the hands of the other person. To which I say ‘piffle, piffle and triple piffle.’ If all you do is lie down and give in then all you are going to get is more of the same that you have already suffered. If all you do is project blame and wring your hands and say there is nothing you can do then all you will get is what you have always got. There is no one magic key to resolving the situation you are in but there are a number of things that you can do and keep doing that will, eventually, bring about change. Stasis is your enemy in alienation, as is a lack of self knowledge. When you are in this situation you need to be light on your feet and quick as a flash, you need to know that the problem is both ‘out there’ and ‘in here’ which means that the alienating behaviour is located in the other person but the way that you react to it contributes mightily to it being pronounced and prolonged or softened and shortened. When you are hit with an alienation reaction in a child it can feel like the winds of hell are howling through your world but it is not that, not really. When you unpick the component parts of an alienation reaction you will find multilayered behaviours, thoughts and actions that combine to create the rejection both in the alienator and the alienated. Alienated parents are often like people who have been mugged, unsuspecting, shocked and somewhat in denial. unpicking, understanding and uncovering the reality of what has happened to you is your task at hand. In all cases of alienation there are patterns of violence at play which create particular dynamics. Changing those dynamics is a key part of changing the landscape for your children. Therefore, starting with yourself and moving outwards, just like peeling the layers of the onion from the inside out, here is your handy guide to getting going on your road to recovery. Here are your first 20 ways to leave your mugger.
1. Understand what drew you to this person in the first place – good looks, charm, feeling like the centre of her universe? When you fell in love with her did you suddenly find she had gone off you and was onto her next ‘fix’ of undying love and attention? If so, your mugger is a narcissist and your first task is to understand that whatever you do and however you do it, you are never going to change this baby, she is in it for herself because she is unwell, all you can do is learn how to manage her. Get started by reading everything you can about narcissism.
2. Know that this person knows you better than you know yourself, that is how they managed to do what they have done. Make like the wind and get to know yourself as fast as you possibly can.
3. Get a buddy, a helper, a mentor. Someone who can walk and run alongside you on this path. When you are hit by an alienation reaction it can become so absorbing that you can lose friends and family simply because you cannot stop talking and thinking about it. Find someone who is willing to go through this with you, preferably someone who really understands it.
4. Review your previous relationships, was this one like others you have had or was this one very different? What is it about this person that stands out differently from the rest.
5. Do not waste time hoping this will go away, it won’t. When alienation strikes it is here to stay, especially from the day your child says he doesn’t want to see you anymore. Act fast and act now.
6. Recognise that this is happening because of the person you had your child with not because of your child. Alienation is a reaction that occurs in the child but is caused by the actions of a hostile other parent. Love your child, be very aware of their other parent’s behaviours.
7. Accept that you cannot change the other person you can only change yourself and that when you change yourself everything else automatically changes. In physics every action has an opposite and equal reaction, the same is so of human relationships, believe it, change it do it now.
8. Understand the grieving that you inevitably are forced to go through when your child rejects you. Understand that the unending nature of this grief is directly related to the power that you give to the other person. Understand at its deepest level, what this actually means. The next point helps you to do that.
9. The grief you suffer is unending when all that you do is focus upon the power that the other person has over you and your child. When you grief is linked to the power that you give away you will always be faced with the same drop off the cliff, the same silence, the same sense of powerlessness. That is because you have given all of your power away. Power over your child is held by the other parent but power over you is held by you and you alone. If you hand your power to other person and allow them to hurt you with that as well as the power they hold over your child, your grief will be unending. You are not powerless. Understand that and believe it.
10. When you continue to hand your power to the person you are no longer in relationship with you are in fact still in relationship with them. Why are you still in relationship with them?
11. Chances are you are still in relationship with them because they are holding your children hostage. Are you going to be the kind of person who negotiates with kidnappers or are you going to refuse to pay the ransom? Know which you are and know it now, it shortens your journey to recovery.
12. Know that your child is in the position that you were once in. How did you escape? Who helped you? Who is going to help your child to escape?
13. You cannot slip out the back in this one, you have to stay present but there are times when you need to rest. What do you do that rests your soul? Do it now, do it every day, this is marathon and not a sprint.
14. Know that not everyone understands what you are going through. When you meet that person who asks you what you have done to cause your children not to want to see you, silently bless them for reminding you that there is a dual role in alienation, that of being alienated and that of educating others about alienation. And then tell them that your child’s other parent has caused your child to reject you and educate, educate, educate.
15. Send your child letters, emails, text messages and other communications and keep them appropriate to the position they are in. They do not know they have been kidnapped so do not spend your time telling them that they have been. Tell them that you love them, that you are coping, that you are well and waiting. Time will come for perspective work, but not whilst they are still in thrall to their kidnapper.
16. Keep a close eye on what the other parent is doing but do not stalk, threaten or crowd them. Make it your business to know, however you can get to know but you only need to know in so far as it impacts on your children. Any further and you are falling back into the trap.
17. Get fit and stay fit. Stay sharp in your mind. Stay focused and stay well.
18. Identify yourself as an alienated parent and make it your business to know how to be a powerful alienated parent (following this guide is one of your first steps).
19. Get the best lawyer/attorney/barrister you can afford and find yourself a powerful mental health practitioner who can educate your legal team if necessary. If you feel that your team is not in there fighting for you but is instead falling for the other side’s narrative, get rid of them and start again. If you are going to do the right thing for your child you need to be punching well above your weight on all matters legal, you run your team and they work for you. Within the protocols of any given legal arena, make sure your people are always working for you and your child’s best interests.
20. Withdraw your projections of blame but know where the cause of the alienation arises from. When you project blame constantly you can mislead people into thinking that you are the cause of the problem. When you know where the problem lies and allow others to see it, you are well on the way to establishing the reality and you are already building a road home for your child.
This are just the first steps in managing alienation and coping as an alienated parent but they are critical steps that you cannot and must not avoid if you are to help your child to escape the trap they are in. Knowing when to step forward and when to step back, knowing when to push back and when to let go and knowing the rules and ropes of being an alienated parent will make the experience so much less painful than it is when you are at sea and lost in a bewildering fog of fear.
Understanding your experience as part of a pattern of violence is perhaps something new to many of you but if you follow the steps above and begin to unpack and unpick what has lead you here, I promise you will find exactly those patterns which are at play in family violence. If you begin to look upwards you will see the generational patterns and if you look inwards you will see the psychological patterns. Looking back you will find historical patterns. Your task is to make sure that the patterns you create going forward are not those of the past but new patterns for the future which leave your mugger behind and which bring freedom for your child (and you).