I have been thinking this week about the drivers of the feminine and masculine principles, namely the need to care for and the need to protect. Now these two drivers are, I accept, stereotypically attributed to men as protectors and women as carers and in this gender fluid world we live in we are so not allowed to talk about this.
But I am going to.
I am going to because I consider that the two things are very much overlooked and I consider that the alienation project, which is to eradicate a parent from a child’s life, is undertaken most effectively by using these twin principles. This is how.
When fathers are alienating mothers they most often concentrate upon the stereotypical feminine qualities of caring. They allege that the mother is not a naturally maternal woman and that her caring capacity is questionable. They often insert their own mothers into the role of primary carer into the life of a child and on closer examination it is possible to see that they are often in thrall to an idealised image of their mother as the embodiment of maternal care. It is not unusual for alienating father to be in an enmeshed relationship with their own mother and for the paternal grandmother in these circumstances to be controlling. Boundary violation, in which the paternal grandmother is seen to question the mother’s femininity, for example if the mother works outside of the home, is common in these circumstances. Thus the concept of the feminine role being that of the caring parent is core to many alienation cases where dad is the alienator.
Running parallel to that is the concept of father as protector and the way that this is used by mothers who are intent on alienating a father from a child’s life. The task for the mother who is alienating is to turn the positive masculine drive to protect and turn it into a negative drive to control. This is done by sleight of hand and support from the women’s rights dominated sphere of family services. An action which is seen as protective in one environment, can so easily be turned into one of control in another and the landscape of family separation is fertile for such actions to take place.
I was considering these drivers of care and protection when I listened to a wise and battle scarred father talking about the way in which men are completely unconscious of the reality of what happens to them after separation. He spoke of how men are utterly bewildered when their drive to protect, which he felt was an instinctual driver which is kicked into action when a child is born, is silenced by the women dominated family services surrounding separated families. He spoke of the way in which men are castrated from their power to protect their children by the separation protocols which are woven invisibly into the fabric of our family separation legislation. And he left me with the dawning recognition that what I see in so many separated fathers, is the severance of their sense of self in relationship to their children and an alienation from their internalised experience of being a father.
Consider this. A child is born, the hormonal reactions throughout the birth of the child cause the attachment process to be triggered between the child and mother and the child and father if he was present at the birth. Down the line, hormonal reactions and mirror neuron activity plus a strong cultural as well as instinctive driver to care and protect your child kick in. One day someone comes and plucks that child out of your arms and tells you that you will not see them again until someone other than you decides that can happen. Mother OR father, you are going to hurt are you not? (never mind what it does to the child). And yet we are routinely allowing this to happen to parents and children and we are routinely aiding and abetting it through the absolute lack of understanding of what is happening in our family services.
I work with dads who alienate mums and mums who alienate dads and I know that alienation begins not after separation but beforehand in the relationship as it is set out almost from the start. I also know that to alienate a parent fully you have to strip them of their belief that they have the right to parent. So many of the parents I work with (but dads in particular) are utterly divested of their sense of fatherhood. Lost and bewildered souls who spend a lot of the early days wandering around looking as if they have been hit by a bus. They have.
The first thing that happens to many fathers who end up alienated from their children is that their drive to protect their children is reinterpreted by the mother as being a drive to control. Reinterpretation of a need to protect as coercive control places all of the control into the hands of the mother. In this way all subsequent services and all subsequent outside practitioners, will view the father as controlling and the mother as vulnerable. From that point it doesn’t matter how much a dad wants to care for his child (or protect him/her either), when you are down on the list as a controlling dad, you have pretty much begun the downward slide into alienation from your fatherhood. And the double bind that you are put in is that the more you deny your desire to care and protect your child is about trying to control, the more you are viewed as a controlling father who cannot show remorse. It is clever, it is silencing and it is alienating behaviour right from the off. Fast forward three years and these dads are those who are without a relationship with their children.
And it works in reverse too because the family services which surround the separated family, which are so steeped in the political ideology of women’s rights first, are more likely to fall for the notion that a mother who works outside of the home is somehow not a real mother. And if children say they don’t want to see their mum then she must have done something really really bad, mustn’t she? Popular stereotypes about absent mothers are that they are drug addicts, they have mental health problems, they are cold and uncaring and cruel. What they most often are are alienated, forced into the position of targeted parent by the cunning use of stereotypes which play on the belief systems of practitioners.
Just like the deadbeat dads who are anything but.
I know I go on about this kind of thing a lot but honestly, alienation begins early in families and our beliefs about what good men and women do play a powerful part in aiding and abetting it.
Alienating the drivers of caring and protecting children is one way of achieving it. How that is achieved by alienating mothers and fathers is different but it plays on stereotypes of what makes a good mother and what makes a good father (and in the case of fathers, it turns what is felt and experienced as a positive driver by so many men into a negative trait so that the very role of fatherhood is in question right from the off in separation).
It is all about power and control, who has it, who wants it and what each parent will do to get it and hang onto it.
Because the hand that gets to rock the cradle, most definitely rules the world of alienation.