Alienation from the self and the soul and from other people

This week I have, like others been deeply shocked by the stories coming out of some parts of the world where men and women are being killed without mercy by people who believe that they are omnipotent.  Watching some of the news coverage, in which the stories of these killers are illuminated, I was struck by the way in which a sense of overriding power and righteousness underlies this willingness to end other people’s lives without a backward glance.  And I began to think about the comparisons in this kind of behaviour with those parents who alienate their children from their other parent without guilt, without mercy and without any sense that what they are doing is wrong.  Whilst some might say that killing people is not the same as alienating them, rejected parents on the receiving end of this living bereavement might beg to differ.  What is clear to me, in analysing what makes people kill either the body or the hope of ever having a relationship with a child again, is that there exists within these people a powerful alienation reaction which causes separation from the self, the soul and from all other people.  To kill someone or remove a child from the life of a loved parent one has to be without compassion.  This week then, we are looking at killers without compassion.

We are not meant to be on this earth to hurt or harm each other, that is not the natural instinct that we possess.  We are tribal people, we are herd followers, we are instinctively driven to love, care for and support our fellow people. Whatever one believes in spiritually, or whether one holds no such beliefs, it is one of the driving forces of humanity to be good to each other and to help.  Whilst there are existentialist arguments about meaningless and pointlessness which tell us that our life on this planet is random, we as human beings create our own purpose, our own meaning and our own reason for staying alive. And much of that is built on loving each other or the hope of loving.  From the love we give to our children which is selfless (in the main), to the love we share for our tribe which drives us to care for the sick and the elderly, our societies are knitted together with love and respect and a sense of fairness and justice.  Yes there are exceptions and yes there is injustice but always there are people fighting against it for a fairer world for our children to live in.

Consider then the alienating parent who deliberately drives the child away from the other parent and effectively poisons and breaks the child’s mind.  This is not love although it is often mistaken as such by the alienating parent, which gives us something to think about when we compare the actions of the alienating parent to people who kill and harm others supposedly in the name of love or righteousness.

Those who kill people are alienated from their own selves, from their souls and from the other people, they have to be because killing people requires one to be without compassion.  Only when one is possessed of such a powerful sense of self righteousness without any ability to walk in the shoes of the ‘enemy’ can one act in such cold, cruel and barbaric ways.  It is not for us to act as decision makers over the lives of others and to believe that it is requires that one is removed from normal levels of compassion, of love and of connectedness to other people.  Looking at the severe alienating parents who are often loners or controllers or distorted in their beliefs about other people, it is easy to see the traits that they share with those who kill because they truly believe they are better than or more righteous than all others.

Self righteousness is a key feature in many severely alienating parents who display a sense of omnipotence and a belief that they and only they can be right in what they are doing. For practitioners working with these people, danger is never far away because these are the people whose vision is so distorted that anyone who does not agree with their view is automatically the enemy.  And anyone who is the enemy is in the line of fire.  These are the people who make allegations without a second thought and who will drag their children, the other parent, practitioners, wider family and anyone else who gets in the way, through the mud in order to be right.  These people are often suffering from personality disorder, sometimes severely and these are the people who will, if we let them, kill the souls of the children they are using as weapons in their own war of righteousness.

There is a coldness about such people which is discernible within moments of being with them.  These are the people who make the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. Usually high functioning, these alienating parents are also often controlling and cold before separation though it is often the separation itself which flips the switch to murderous intent.  Though these people can be utterly charming and on the surface co-operative, investigation into their background will often show a trail of destruction in the places where they are present; children’s schools, GP surgeries, the life of the rejected parent.  Investigation, which confirms the initial sense of creeping coldness, allows action to be taken to help the child and the action is almost always in these cases removal.  A parent who is willing to kill the child’s mind, hope and belief that the other parent loves them and is a good person, is not a parent who is loving the child but harming them badly.  Investigation into the alienating parent’s history will often show a similar trail of destruction caused by their own parents.  Sadly, this kind of killing is often generational and normalised, alienation from self and soul and other people being a way of life for some families.

And so as the week wears on and the stories continue of cold blooded killings around the world I will be thinking more about those cases in the severe or pure catagory and how to help families affected in this way, the alienating parent as well as the rejected parent and most of all the child.  Because to be condemned to live life alienated from self and from soul and other people seems to me to be the most appalling fate and to not feel compassion for those people is to mirror their condition and become like them.

For if our lives are about love then we cannot close out the killers from the love we can give, indeed it is the only weapon that we have against something that most of us do not understand.


  1. The message of this resonates with me-to be aware of the harm and danger of this type of person but also to extend love or forgiveness insomuch as that is what we choose to be ourselves. I have chosen to forgive my father for the terrible harm he caused, but I forgive while also telling my truth.


  2. Ten years have passed since my divorce, the separation from my children, and the harrowing experience of the family court system. At the time, a certain leader in one of the fathers groups advised fathers not to use contact centres. He said quote, “you are losing them anyway” I ignored his warning, went through the devils labyrinth, and 18 months later I was eventually given a contact order for one and a half hours, once per month. That piece of paper cost £53,000, but that’s another issue.

    At the end of each contact session my two children never wanted to leave. My 9 years old son would often jump into the back of my car and say, “take me home with you dad” To solve this problem, the children were not allowed to walk outside with me. I had to stay in the room when time was up. The lady in the contact centre would call through the door, “come on children, your mother’s here.” My 8 year daughter would wrap her arms around me and refuse to move. The supervisor had to take them by the hand and lead them downstairs. This pattern of behaviour continued for a couple of years until the children accepted the inevitable and stopped hanging on to me. My son in particular seemed keen to go home and I started to wonder if that earlier advice about losing them was correct.

    The court order expired when my son reached 16, but my ex wife still argued with the manager of the contact centre. She said she wanted proof in black and white, which I duly provided. The children could now visit me any time they wanted, so I moved house to be closer to them. For the next two years my daughter came round most days, sometimes with a friend, and I would cook a meal while she practiced her cello or did homework. My son came round maybe once per week with his guitar and we played music or had a game of chess. Everything was good and I felt happy to be a part of their lives once again.

    However, I noticed marked aloofness in my son which I put down to his age and perhaps being a teenage boy. My daughter was the opposite, being very friendly and keen to chat. She took up with a boyfriend and I made them both welcome and cooked for them often. Then a few months ago she told me has had dropped the boyfriend and found a new one. That’s when she changed and seemed to be distancing herself from me.

    A few weeks ago she announced that she intended to go to Australia with her new boyfriend, and possibly stay their permanently. What I found remarkable and upsetting, was not that she was going to Australia. Many teenagers go off exploring. It was the matter of fact way she told me. No sign of agonising over the decision and she pointed out that if I felt bad, then that was something I had to deal with. I am now back under the doctor with anxiety and palpitations and booked in for CBT sessions. Painkillers, cigarettes and whisky get me through the day. It feels like I am back to square one, trying desperately to keep the relationship alive.

    I have come to the conclusion that we have all been traumatised by the whole experience of separation. In my children, this seems to manifest in emotional detachment, which I understand is a protection mechanism caused by repeated trauma. In simple terms, they have had their souls ripped out. As for me, the emotional pain is intense every waking moment. I am now wondering if that earlier advice about not using contact centres was correct. What are your thoughts on this matter Karen?

    Looking at the national picture, I have to wonder how many children have been traumatised by forced separation from a loving parent. I am no psychologist, but this isn’t rocket science. The intellectual elite must understand what they are doing to the nation’s children. I cannot believe this is an accident. According to F4J, 200 children are separated from a parent every day of the week. By my calculation that is around 50,000 children per year in this country alone who have had their souls ripped out. The impact of divorce and separation is creating millions of low empathy children who will grow into heartless adults, devoid of feelings or compassion. At the end of the day, isn’t the ability to feel what makes us human?

    It seems logical to conclude that if we continue on our present course, at some point in the future the low empathy zombies will eventually outnumber the humans. Then we will have a problem of biblical proportions.


    1. I reach out to you. I have no idea if this will do anything that you need. But I could comment into the 500-words mark and not tell you a thing you don’t already know. So instead, know that I care and if I can listen you and maybe talk, I will.


  3. Barry, my heart goes out to you. Perhaps you can take some comfort in knowing though, that although an alienated child can show complete lack of empathy for the targeted parent (I see this in my sister), that same person can be quite capable of feeling empathy for other people-their own children, siblings, even strangers).


  4. Barry, my heart goes out to you. Perhaps you can take some comfort in knowing though, that although an alienated child can show complete lack of empathy for the targeted parent (I see this in my sister), that same person can be quite capable of feeling empathy for other people-their own children, siblings, even strangers).


  5. Barry, your detailed account is deeply moving, and wider projection of how this will affect our society, equally sobering.

    I’m myself absorbed with the struggle to try to prevent the development of the type of situation you describe with my eldest daughter, who indicated some years ago that she was completely struggling with the capacity to feel after having been overwhelmed by the alienation process at that point.

    Yet I do wonder if we need to tease out the differences between male and female alienators. The women above, and often on this blog show the deepest level of compassion and understanding. I would suspect this is helped by the reality that they have had the experience of a child being physically part of them for 9 months. Obviously, this is something we men can never have, however subsequently close we become to our children.

    I can’t help feeling that these factors do inform the way alienation has developed. It does appear to me that there has been a widely embedded profound but largely unspoken psychosocial assumption that the children are somehow an extension of the female until the start of adulthood (and often consequently, for life). Therefore, when the woman feels she needs to separate, the children ‘need’ to separate with her, according to this assumption – for both their sakes.

    Where there is not an essential psychosocial assumption of children belonging equally to BOTH parents from the beginning of their lives – how can there be real grounds for shared parenting after separation? This view also underpins separation itself, increasingly easier to achieve in the era since WW2 as female independence gradually seems to have taken over to become the highest consideration – so that breaking up a relationship which still functions very well on many levels, now becomes acceptable, where it rarely would have been before this time.

    I agree entirely that those situations where alienation is worst inevitably display personality disorder, but yet feel convinced that the alienation phenomenon has revealed wider psychosocial deficiencies which have perhaps been in place all along, which urgently now need to be addressed.

    This would seem to explain female alienation – not so sure it explains male alienators – but perhaps it does…because the model outlined assumes that equal emotional responsibility is inherently impossible…i.e. that it has to be either one, or the other – so occasionally enabling a particularly aggressive male to able to turn the tables on a more fragile female?

    Also, this model seems to explain the absolutely exceptional level of pain caused to women who do end up suffering this incredible loss of their children.

    Most of all, then, what I would have thought is required – is some honest debate about the nature of bonding between parents and children, especially as concerns the impact of our biology. I can’t say I have ever heard any such proper discussion, apart from the kind of informal comments that get passed around in regard to situations of separation, which in my experience almost inevitably seem to reveal this attitude of the primacy of the mother, so excusing and supporting the typical female alienation (and thus, perhaps, male alienation) whenever it happens.

    Wouldn’t schools be a essential place to have these types of discussions, too?


    1. Woodman, as a man, I cannot respond to your comments about how mothers feel following separation or alienation from their children. I have no doubt that the emotional pain is intense and long lasting, but since we do not have an instrument to compare the level of emotional pain between men and women, I cannot see the point in having such a discussion.

      There are too many variables to take into account and I suspect it would lead to a never ending argument about who suffers the most. At the end of the day, it’s about the degree of emotional bonding that has developed over time and for a variety of reasons.

      As one enlightened American of Italian descent remarked during a recent talk, “if you love too much, you will hurt too much” That one liner explained a great deal to me.

      In my case, my ex wife suffered with postnatal depression for an extended period. She did not seem to care about anything, refused to go to the doctor, and told me that her PND was my fault. It was almost three years before she returned to normal and during that time I was holding it all together. The net effect of that experience was to strengthen the bond with my children, and the reason why I am hurting so much today.

      In any event I do not believe schools would be a suitable forum to discuss parental alienation. Most children are not affected by this phenomenon and in any case, the female dominated education system is unlikely to be gender neutral in such matters. My past experience dealing with many school issues has not been good and I now see them as part of the problem.


      1. Hi Barry,

        Since the majority of alienation seems to be done by women, and there is consequently so much rightful anger against these women as a result, isn’t it ESPECIALLY important for us men to take the time to listen to the experience of those women who have been alienated by men?

        Why? Because apart from contending with the ongoing alienation factors in our own life, surely a major concern needs to be to find and work on PREVENTATIVE strategies against alienation in general?

        Your descriptions suggest, as I sense most of us here will have been, a deep sensitivity to our female partners. However, in order to tackle widespread alienation I would say we need to go a step further; to become more sensitive to the concerns of ‘women as a group’. This is because tackling alienation means getting women as a whole, very very concerned about this. To my mind, this will not happen unless we can start to demonstrate our concern for the well-being of women more generally, and the first step in that will be to care as deeply as is possible for those women who have suffered the alienation experience with us.

        Your description confirms the personality disorder of the alienator, as with most of us, it would seem, and I have insisted previously that the wanton destruction of family needs to be understood as a mental health issue – however, I am also increasingly convinced that the alienator is only able to do their damage firstly – because of wider societal ambivalence toward the father role…and secondly, because of the overwhelming move toward individualism.

        I’m not suggesting to set out to specifically discuss parental alienation in school (although the chances are that it will often need come into the discussion) but rather these wider issues about the nature of the family…i.e. discussion about the role of the father in particular. I appreciate the female staff domination issue, and agree that so far it has been part of the problem – but when being required to facilitate open discussion, bias would start to become obvious here (teenagers tend to have good b/s detectors!) and so be self-defeating. In addition, properly developing the ethics of family – way before young people get started on this – would only increase, in my opinion, not decrease – sensitivity for non-heterosexual considerations, too.

        Can any of us ever recall being asked to give consideration to the ethics of family, in school? Surely it could be brought in to the Religious Studies arena, as an area of cross-cultural examination?

        I’m just beginning ‘The Father-Daughter Dance – a book clearly deeply sympathetic to men and bringing some counterbalance to the overwhelming importance of the female in the history of psychoanalysis. Not only that, but as the introduction states, it is the precisely female dominated sons who are likely to develop the whole range of misogynistic attitudes towards women (for example, as experienced by women here) and more generally resulting in far less satisfactory gender relations.


  6. Barry, no consolation, but if i was to find out my lad was off to australia and believed he was capable of building a new life over there, or would have help to do so, then i would be happy for him….because hopefully that would also take him away from two of the sickest people on the planet(and i dont include myself in that number – i am just sick to death of those two and their cultural, political, social facilitators)

    The Uk is listing beyond recovery. But there wont be a call from the captain to abandon ship. ….for their is profit to be made in destruction

    …family life blown, ripped, smashed apart. No industry, nor likely to be. Communities, social cohesion, gone. Escalating social demands and pressures on the pot, a gorgeous poverty of invented needs, and with no lower rungs on the housing market for the unemployed or minimum waged slaves and the swathes of people distracted, desperate, dependent, soul/brain removed via previous family separation and attachment distortion traumas, roots severed, history lost, identity removed, dehumanised.

    I’d be packing her suitcase pal…..and looking to get over there myself too.
    If i had the money/ability to go and set up a new life, somewhere which could be a welcome escape for my lad in the future, i would.

    Can anyone actually see life in the UK getting better for the vast majority of people whichever social group they belong to as they battle it out between themselves for, scraps; unless they are filthy rich and can evactuate, abandon ship at the drop of a hat?

    Sometimes the silver linings to the biggest clouds are a whole new world beyond the darkness and shadow we view from…..although Oz is at the mercy of the same cultural/ideological forces…. she maybe better off out there….than fighting for a place on a carley raft as the mothership begins to submerge.

    Must hurt like hell Barry. It feels in a way that being alienated my laddo fucked off to Mars not Oz. ….and didnt take his god dam walkie talkie. WTF. anyway…..

    One of my ex girlfreinds brothers is out there….he is a builder, same age as me went out there over a dozen years ago, he works hard but has made a great life for himself, his wife and now young bairn. Got one or two other old school mates out there too..who have made a good life for themeselves and young family.

    If she goes, make sure you dont flood communication channels and block them up, make sure those channels are open and fresh/flowing….t’internet/skype can do a lot to alleviate the pain, and keep well in touch….dont wreck those channels if they present or can be opened up and established… flow….and light speed prevails, in touch, any distance, no distance… mind, in soul, in thought, in the pulse, before your eyes.

    And when….get togethers in person occur, here, there or inbetween…how precious and deeply felt will those hugs be?
    The joys and sorrows of arriving and departing, such is life.

    We never really leave, we’re always arriving and departing in someway….we always will be, long after humanity has evolved into something else, we remain eternal and actual in contrast to nothing, all of us, forever present, in the now, the moment, our gift, our blessing, our love, our awe, our appreciation, our wonder, our wishes…..may they be the best.

    Thats not to say bend over and take it up the jacksy. Not at all. ….but as yoda would say, may the force be with you. ..and gandalf, what will you do with the time that you have?
    …and that force is Love, and that time…is eternally the moment in your possession.
    Distance is no match for love when the light of the heart prevails.


    1. Carl, Of course you are right, and I should be responding in a positive manner to my daughters announcement to leave for Australia. The problem is that this has opened old wounds and the trauma caused by the initial separation is back as strong as ever

      The other reason why I am finding it so difficult is not what she told me, but the manner in which she told me. I did not detect the slightest bit of empathy on her part or concern over how this would affect me.

      This could be due to her young age, the new boyfriend, raging hormones etc, I don’t really know, but I suspect it has much to do with emotional detachment caused by our earlier separation when she was 8 years of age. I see the same signs of emotional detachment in my son, despite the differences in their personalities.

      To me, emigrating to Australia is like emigrating to Mars. I have checked the ex pat forums and learned that many other families have the same problems. For the wealthy who can afford several trips per year it may not be a problem, but for ordinary folk the cost of travel makes it a relationship killer. Phone calls come frequently at first but over time tend to peter out.

      Hopefully I can get our relationship back on track before she leaves.


  7. In the middle of the last century Boulby did some work on what he called “attachment”. Although he concentrated on the bond between mother and child (and most research since has stuck to this sexist attitude toward parent/child relationships) he did say that the parent/child bond was not dependent upon the sex of adult or child (or at least implied by his son at a later date); in fact I think he said children could happily form attachments to, say an adult of a different species.

    In my mind, the damage done by an adult who makes poor “attachments”, say through either absence or broken and distorted malfunctioning relationships over a sustained period; can be healed.

    The catalyst and motivator for this healing is the adult in question. In this case the one we refer to as the “alienated parent”.

    At any point in time there is an opportunity to draw a metaphorical line in the sand and re-start a relationship as if nothing has preceded and all that remains is the future. When we are in this state of mind, perhaps in present moment thinking or making tentative projections into the future (e.g. a planned trip to a distant Country) our thinking releases us from the pain of unpleasant historical events.

    Whilst the mind is consumed with trying to right the past it becomes troubled because the past cannot be changed and certain memories arouse feelings of “guilt” because there will always be the unanswered question, “what if I had done things differently”, “if only”. By the same token we could also waste time fretting about the future, “am I doing the right thing”, “what will happen if I do this”.

    The alienated parent may naturally be concerned about the lack of positive feelings towards themselves displayed by their children. There will always remain chances and opportunities to heal the apparent rift. More than this, when trust is built up between parent and child the child will start to mimic the behaviours of the re-connecting alienated parent.

    Typically, as the alienated child and parent attempt to re-connect the adult will attempt to explain the past from their perspective. They will show complete indifference to the child’s perspective believing it important to resurrect and re-script past events in their favour. Inevitably this only leads to arousing the feelings in the child that initiated the alienation all those years ago.

    In my own case, my daughter has told me she is not coming back (she is 18 and at Uni), but I feel confident that when I mention things that might attract her she will return as if nothing has happened, if only to be comforted, reassured and recharge her batteries in order that she might take the world by storm again. She says she is not coming back because she has no friends here. She says she feels angry and bad tempered when she is here. Nevertheless I feel confident that given the right incentive she will return, and with a smile on her face. The bait to bring her back could take several forms….perhaps a holiday, the promise of a favourite meal, an activity that she loves………there are things that a father might provide that only I can give.

    There is going to be a lot of negativity from the alienated child; watch it fly past your shoulder (don’t catch it unless you are an expert at dealing with hot potatoes) as you touch your child’s world in a way that is meaningful and helpful to them.

    Our physical lives are destined to move from birth through to old age and inevitable death, always going forward. On this journey we can deal with our emotions, choose our behaviours, make our intentions unique and special, build and create, listen and support. Do we possess the self-control to do this in spite of temptations to lure us off track?

    Nothing restricts us more than the unwelcome baggage we haul with us to future destinations.

    Kind regards

    I am reminded of a case where an alienated father is overjoyed by a visit from his estranged son and family. The son now has a wife and family of his own. The alienated father is ecstatic but also bewildered by a visit from his son and family. He is trying to work out why his estranged son has chosen to visit him having been away for so many years. After a very pleasant visit lasting the best part of the day the son and his family leave on apparent good terms.
    A few days later the son phones his estranged father only to tell him that he does not want to see his father ever again. He says the reunion has confirmed his original thoughts.

    From the child’s perspective.

    1. Is the child’s intention on visiting his alienated father to hurt him further for his absence during his upbringing?
    2. Is he trying to say to his father, “look at me; this is what I have achieved in spite of your prolonged absence”
    3. Is he trying to make his father experience some of the emotional pain that he experienced as a child?
    4. Is he laying blame firmly at the foot of his alienated father?

    Needless to say the father is devastated and even weeks/months later remains deeply troubled by his dear child’s visit. He once again returns to a former grief that he experienced many years ago when both his sons were told to tell their father that they now had a new father and they did not want to see him again.
    What is the father’s next step? How can he build on what seemingly is another devastating blow to his ego? Can he heal himself enough to try and make this relationship work? How long will he let his grief consume him (because if he lets it, it might devour him up)? Can he truly believe in himself long enough to regain his faith in all things? When will his self-confidence and self-esteem return…..has it been stolen or is it a sleeping giant within him waiting to be aroused?


  8. Dear Karen, the killer you describe is devastatingly my husband’s ex-wive’s profile. I am not an expert like yourself but am certain that this case is pure alienation with pathology, no empathy, no boundaries. Years in unsympathetic courts have left the children raw and hostile (shared residence order, but they have ultimately refused to come). Small ‘victories’ in the court decentigrate rapidly and seem to lead to even further alignment with the mother. The moral dilemma we face now as the children are in the early teenage years, is are the children more harmed emotionally if we take up yet another legal battle knowing they will be severely subjected to escalating extreme pressures and psychologically damaging behaviors if we do so? I’m not implying that we would ever give trying to maintain relationships! But in severe alienation how can one decide what path is less terrorizing for the children? Every move inflicts so much widespread pain.

    Thank you for what you. Your dedication is unrelenting and your blog serves as a sanity check in times of crisis.


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