This week I have been cleaning my house and the metaphor of cleaning and clearing is one which remains with me as we journey on towards our new service for alienated parents, a project which has been a long time in the making but one which we are clearing for take off come autumn. This week I have been focused on healthy living for alienated parents and coping when the psychological pressure is high. This weekend, as I mop, dust, clean and sort, I am thinking about the ways in which the alienated parent’s journey has distinct stages and how our work alongside parents has to make the most of their strengths whilst we help to reduce their weaknesses. Cleaning and clearing, readying for creative activity, is part of a cycle of change and when we work with alienated parents, change is what we are working to achieve with them. This weekend then I am thinking about what we do before we create the dynamic change that shifts the blockages and brings children back to a place where their relationship with their parent is normalised. This weekend it’s all about the clearing house.
Cleaning and clearing are an essential skill for alienated parents because it is the junk and the jetsam attached to you which creates the opportunities for the alienator to drag you down. Know what your weak spots are and you can avoid the traps set for you by the alienator. Understand what lies beneath and you can avoid some of the worst that happens when a child becomes trapped in the psychology of the alienator. In essence, strengthen your self knowledge and you will understand how the alienator alienates you. It doesn’t give you the guarantee of protection from the alienation, but it reduces the risk and it keeps you whole and healthy.
And so for me the metaphor of cleaning houses, of tidying and dusting and cleaning up the junk is the first image that I work with when I meet a new client. Exploring what is in the attic as well as the basement and what those things are doing there gathering dust, allows me to begin to understand the person I am working with and to get a sense of how this person has been brought to this point by the alienating parent.
There are internal and external ways that an alienator alienates. Some are conscious and some are not. Much of what is going on is about power and control and how the outside circles are utilised to increase the power that the alienating parent has over the children. It doesn’t take much to understand (in the UK at least), how a parent can garner such control by using the external lines of support available. Control can be garnered in an instant by an allegation against a parent and enmeshmed professionals, trained in one way of thinking, are very easy to fool when the conditions are so perfect. Control is often already held by one parent over the other though and when the family separates, that control is simply assumed and maintained and where possible increased. Understanding who has control, how they got it and how they maintain it is the second area we work in when we are readying parents for the journey ahead.
I work with some parents who become very forlorn at the prospect of cleaning up their internal house. Their focus is all upon the other parent and the hopeless of their situation and how it cannot change. When the locus of control lies in the hands of the other parent, stasis occurs in the mind of the alienated parent and a learned helplessness sets in. These are the parents who become morose and glum and who feel that there is no point unless someone can make it all change. Someone, anyone, so long as it is not them. Cleaning up these people’s houses takes a very long time indeed. And their lives, alongside the alienation become grinding and somewhat grim as the pain of the power that the other person holds over them slowly crushes their spirit.
Other parents know exactly what I mean when I talk about cleaning up the house and dive straight in there polishing and practicing and holding up the gemstones for me to appraise. These are the parents whose lives are diminished but not dimmed by the loss of their child, these parents take knowledge and swallow it whole, sifting and processing at speeds of light. These parents find the journey in working together interesting and they jump in with both feet and learn to swim as they go along. Working out which person is which is not difficult when we begin with the task of house clearing, it is a good way of assessing the needs of the parent as we progress on.
When the junk is jettisoned and the silver is polished then is the time to think about what we are going to do with it all. After all, its well and good to have a tidy home and to know where everything is, but what is the point of that if we are not going to do something with it? When the house is cleared and strengths are shining, then it is time to take action. And action, in the form of doing something is the next step in the journey of fighting alienation.
In every respect this formula is about getting ready for action and then taking it. It is about doing, not talking, it is about taking control and self help. As we work on our new service for alienated parents everywhere, clearing our house in preparation for action, the parallel process is again in evidence. Change comes from doing something and from changing the locus of control over your life from being held in the hands of someone else to being held in your own hands. Too many alienated parents, when we first meet them, are dispirited, disinvested in their journey and heading towards despair. That is because they have learned to believe that nothing will change because nothing can be done.
Something can always be done, even if it does not bring your children home straight away, something can always be done.
We look forward to helping you help yourself to do it in the coming months. Get the dusters and the mops ready, we’re coming in.