Prisoners of a Parent’s Mind: On the Futility of Therapy in Alienation Cases

‘Thank you for sharing this, Karen. From the perspective of an adult alienated child, I will say your words are completely accurate. No amount of therapy for me or my alienated mother would have changed my father’s behavior or the circumstances. And my father would have had to cooperate and participate in years of intense therapy in order to change his ways. As long as I was under the influence of my father, no therapist in the world would have been able to get me to let down my defenses. In fact, I repressed my love for my mother as a way to survive emotionally, in my father’s care, and therefore became consciously unaware of my own feelings. From my child perspective, no one was as powerful as my father, and until he was removed from my life, I would live according to his wishes. And it’s worth noting that I was the least brainwashed : my sister actively rejected and “hated” our mother. I simply remained numb and neutral, obediently going along w/ our father’s plan.’  From A Mother Erased

On Saturday I wrote about the perils of therapy in alienation cases and about the way in which it is often recommended but rarely (if ever) seen to have any real impact without strong legal compulsions for behavioural change.  I decided that, in the climate of needing to educate and inform, that rather than a shooting from the hip style approach, this topic deserves a serious piece, in which the evidence is clearly laid out.  I was further encouraged to rewrite this by the comment left on the previous piece which is shown above, words from an adult who was alienated as a child from her mother and who is now herself alienated from her children. Evidence indeed that this is a transgenerational problem and that this is not something that we could or should simply avoid or walk away from. For too long now the issue of loss of a child after family separation has blighted people’s lives around the world and it is not the case that there is nothing that can be done about it. Much can be done, even in the most complex of family situations but what can be done is not therapy in any of its straightforward meanings.

I am a member of the International Parental Alienation Studies Group which is organised by  William Bernet M.D who is professor Emeritus at Vanderbilt University. He is a Psychiatrist who has written widely on the issue of parental alienation and who is co-editor of the Handbook for Mental Health and Legal Professionals (2013).  Professor Bernet has additionally co-ordinated the extensive bibiliography on research into parental alienation which is available to the public.  This database of information, contains the wealth of research into the existence and impact of parental alienation on children and their families and is a valuable resource for anyone working in this field or simply wishing to further understand the issues.  It is from this database, as well as my own research, which reveals a rich existence of peer reviewed articles and studies, that the evidence that therapy in its standard forms is unhelpful in cases of parental alienation, can be found.

I entered the term ‘therapy’ into the database this morning to see what it produced and found thirty nine research articles listed, some of which explain the ways in which the clinical picture found in alienation interlocks with different models of therapy. Anyone interested can do the same.  Additionally, I reviewed the evidence from The Handbook for Mental Health and Legal Professionals (2013) and found a whole chapter written by Richard Sauber devoted to the way in which therapy should interlock with the legal system in order to be effective. In his tables (pages 194-195) he shows the difference between ordinary forms of psychotherapy and court ordered work. In my experience this is the core of the issue which we in the UK have to get to grips with in order to routinely be able to intervene successfully in any intervention for parental alienation with the word therapy attached to it, Currently, as therapy cannot be ordered by the court in the UK, we have a variable range of approaches to supporting families in these circumstances, most of which involve parents consenting to therapy in its standard form.

Sauber outlines, in his chapter of the same book (page 194), the difference between court ordered therapy and standard forms. He discusses the way in which the role of forensic court appointed therapist must follow twin track requirements of the court guidelines and the ethical guidelines of their profession. This is indeed a complex matter and one which at least one of the governing bodies of counselling and psychotherapy in the UK have not yet recognised, although the HCPC, the governing body for Psychologists and Independent Social Workers has, offering a layer of protection for members acting as expert witnesses*.

Anyone therefore, who is acting as a therapist in parental alienation cases, is going to be challenged by the reality of what is required in the role if it is going to bring about successful outcomes for children. Perhaps this is why so many people offer standard forms of therapy and believe that if that doesn’t work it is because parents are simply beyond help. A popular and regularly recommended forms of therapy are family therapy, particularly systemic, however as shown by Woodall (2016) this approach is clearly not going to work where there is a necessary need to change the power dynamic and hold parent’s responsible for their behaviours. Anyone who has done even the smallest amount of research into the area, reading or citing work by the most recent authors  Gottlieb (2012), Fidler, Bala and Saini (2012),  (Baker and Sauber (2013)  Lorandos, Bernet and Sauber (2013), has to be aware that therapy in its standard forms is contraindicated in alienation cases.  So why does therapy continue to be recommended?

Perhaps it is because there are few people in the UK who really understand what is required and even fewer who are willing to undertake the work in the format which is necessary to help children. My view is that this is not because there isn’t the evidence for the what is really needed, there simply isn’t the appetite. Additionally, there may also be a risk averse population of therapists who, keen to ensure that they do not fall foul of the guidelines of their professional governing body, are reluctant to work in ways that are necessary with alienating parents, who are often an extremely adversarial and often litigious cohort of people.

The research evidence shows that the court is an essential part of the therapeutic process (Bala, Fidler and Saini 2012). Families in which parental alienation exists, will only change when there is scrutiny and external motivation. (Drozd as interviewed by Bala, Fidler and Saini 2012).  Thus, any therapeutic intervention which is delivered in such a case, must be constructed within the legal framework it is being delivered in and must be outwardly accountable. This is why the interlocking relationship of the court and the mental health services which support such families is necessary, in this field, one cannot work without the other. Whilst such therapeutic interventions may contain elements of different modalities, cognitive behavioural, dialetical behavioural, psychodynamic and solution focused therapy being only some of the strands of therapeutic approaches which are useful in such cases, all interventions are governed by the court and are different to standard therapy in that they are open to scrutiny and not governed by the same rules of confidentiality (Sullivan and Kelly 2001).

Most recently the issue of ethics and the mental health professional working with parental alienation has been raised by Dr Childress on his blog, where he points out that the core concepts of his reformulation of Gardner’s original concept of parental alienation, would necessarily lead to all mental health professionals who recommend standard therapy for alienation, being seen to transgress the ethical guidelines of the American Psychological Society. Whilst Childress can appear controversial in his approach to the argument, there is something in what he has done in reformulating the concepts and linking those issues seen in alienation cases back to the DSM V.  If, as he argues, all professionals working in this field were properly regulated by the research and an internationally recognised diagnostical framework, standard therapy for such cases would fall out of favour, because the evidence shows that it does not work AND it risks making things worse for children.

In the shadow of such a framework it would automatically be easier to increase the delivery of the interventions which are shown to work, which are combinations of systemic work which is psycho-educational in nature combined with compulsion towards behavioural change via contracting, goal setting and external scrutiny which is provided by the court.(Bala et al 2012). All such cases would be triaged and any in which the child concerned appears to fall back into alienated behaviours would be further assessed via psychological means to determine the presence or not of personality disorder. This strategic approach to evaluating and triaging cases means that those intractable cases which languish for years in court, with a revolving door of professionals, could now be resolved within the twenty six weeks now alloted in the UK for case management time in court.

The UK clearly has a long way to go before it reaches the point where this approach is routinely used in the court process but that should not stop us from highlighting best practice from other jurisdictions and demonstrating wherever possible that using these approaches works.  The closest that the UK can currently come to dealing with families in this combined therapeutic and court based approached is the use of transfer of residence, in which the primary residence of the child is changed and the underlying power dynamic is changed with it.  In the shadow of such action, much can be achieved, with parents often either coming to their senses or at least being willing to participate in therapeutic work. That should not mean however, that consent to participate should remove a case from court, far from it. All cases of therapeutic intervention should remain under the watching eye of the court until the child concerned is shown to be in full recovery from the alienation reaction and can be seen to move freely between parental homes. In some cases it may not be possible for this to happen. Where a parent is shown to have a personality disorder that is not responsive to therapeutic intervention for example, contact between the child and that parent may have to be restricted.

Any therapist who is familiar with the research and who has undertaken transfer of residence of a child will be very familiar with the psychological splitting of the child. This psychological coping mechanism, which leads to the phenomenon of the idealised/demonised division of feelings about their parents, causes children a great deal of harm. (Baker &Sauber 2013, Bernet et al 2013, Clawar & Rivlin 1991, Dunne & Hendrick 1994, Gardner 1998, Johnstone 2003, Kelly & Johnstone 2001,  Wallerstein & Kelly (1980) Waldron & Joanis 1996, Warshak 2001). A child who is saying on the surface that they hate their parent and using weak and spurious reasoning for doing so, who is seen to be involved in an overly close relationship with a parent they profess to love beyond measure and who is making proclamations of hatred or simply saying that they have no feelings about the other parent, must routinely be assessed for this phenomenon. Psychological splitting causes children  immense suffering (Baker 2007) and the core concern about parental alienation is in fact not even the relationship that the child loses with a parent (though that is terrible enough) but the psychological impact on their wellbeing over their entire lifetime. (Gottlieb 2012). This is reason enough to intervene and the evidence which is provided by studies undertaken by Amy Baker et al, as well as interviews with adult children who were once alienated and parents who were alienated as children who are now alienated themselves (see above comment), should provide mental health professionals with the impetus to stop this generational march of harm, by providing the right interventions, interlocked in the right way, with the legal system.

The interlocking of the mental health intervention with the legal process is key to the resolution of such cases and there is much that can be done in the UK immediately to bring about this change. It is not that the mechanisms do not exist to make this happen, it is that they are largely unknown and therefore little used.  Similarly, the lack of practitioner awareness, interest or committment amongst those who work in the court arena, in understanding and working with the issue of parental alienation, including how it is better dealt with in other countries, should not prevent us from highlighting wherever we can, the alternatives to the deeply sad and troubling outcomes which have been seen in too many of these cases over too many years.

*Taken From the HCPC standards of acceptance for complaints fact sheet:  Registrants often make decisions using their professional knowledge, skills and experience. Not everyone will agree with these decisions. We will not normally continue with concerns which challenge or second-guess registrants’ decisions unless there is evidence they have acted unprofessionally – for example, they have knowingly made a false statement or acted beyond their scope of practice. Similarly, we will not normally continue with concerns which challenge a registrant acting as an expert witness, unless there is evidence they have acted unprofessionally.

Baker, A. (2007) Adult children of Parental Alienation Syndrome:Breaking the Ties that Bind New York: W W Norton.

Baker, A. and Sauber, R. (2013) Working with Alienated Children and Families New York & London: Routledge

Clawar, S S. & Rivlin,  B V. (1991) Children Held Hostage: Dealing with Brainwashed and children. Chicago: American Bar Association Press.

Dunne, H. & Hendrick, M (1994) The Parental Alienation Syndrome an analysis of sixteen cases, Journal of Divorce and Remarriage 21 (3/4) 21-38

Gardner, R. (1992) The Parental Alienation Syndrome a Guide for Mental Health and Legal Professionals. Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics inc

Gottleib, L. (2012) The Parental Alienation Syndrome. Illinois: Charles Thomas

Johnstone, J.R.  (2003) Parental Alignements and Rejection : An empirical study of children of divorce. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law. 31, 158-70

Kelly & Johnstone (2001)  Rethinking Parental Alienation and Redesigning parent-child access services for children who resist or refuse visitation. Paper Presented at at the International Conference on Supervised Visitation. Munich, Germany.

Sullivan, M.J. & Kelly, J.B. (2001) Legal and psychological management of cases with an alienated child. Family Court Review, 48. 115-134

Waldron, K.H.  & Joanis,D.E. (1996) Understanding and Collaboratively treating Parental Alienation Syndrome, American Journal of Family Law, 10, 121-133

Wallerstein, J.S. & Kelly, J.B. (1980) Surviving the Breakup. How Children and Parents Cope with Divorce. New York: Hyperion.

Warshak, R. (2001) Current Controversies regarding Parental Alienation Syndrome. American journal of Forensic Psychology. 20 (31-52).

Woodall, N. (2016) Why Systemic Family Therapy cannot help in cases of Parental Alienation. Retrieved from, last visted 30.5.2016

41 thoughts on “Prisoners of a Parent’s Mind: On the Futility of Therapy in Alienation Cases

  1. Reblogged this on Parental Alienation and commented:
    Any therapist who is familiar with the research and who has undertaken transfer of residence of a child will be very familiar with the psychological splitting of the child. This psychological coping mechanism, which leads to the phenomenon of the idealised/demonised division of feelings about their parents, causes children a great deal of harm. (Baker &Sauber 2013, Bernet et al 2013, Clawar & Rivlin 1991, Dunne & Hendrick 1994, Gardner 1998, Johnstone 2003, Kelly & Johnstone 2001, Wallerstein & Kelly (1980) Waldron & Joanis 1996, Warshak 2001). A child who is saying on the surface that they hate their parent and using weak and spurious reasoning for doing so, who is seen to be involved in an overly close relationship with a parent they profess to love beyond measure and who is making proclamations of hatred or simply saying that they have no feelings about the other parent, must routinely be assessed for this phenomenon. Psychological splitting causes children immense suffering (Baker 2007) and the core concern about parental alienation is in fact not even the relationship that the child loses with a parent (though that is terrible enough) but the psychological impact on their wellbeing over their entire lifetime. (Gottlieb 2012). This is reason enough to intervene and the evidence which is provided by studies undertaken by Amy Baker et al, as well as interviews with adult children who were once alienated and parents who were alienated as children who are now alienated themselves (see above comment), should provide mental health professionals with the impetus to stop this generational march of harm, by providing the right interventions, interlocked in the right way, with the legal system.


  2. As far as I can see traditional therapy often ends up re-enforcing the message to the child that one parent is in charge and the other is the one that has a problem. As Karen said in another post it is madness to think that one parent is going to change their attitude by persuading the other parent to change theirs. All the child sees is that the parent they have rejected is under the spot light, the one with the problem, the one who has to change and that the parent with power is the one who really has power as even the therapist is inadvertently supporting that power.
    However, I have seen therapy work in one case without court intervention, but only because the therapist put the spotlight on the alienating parent who then “gave in” rather than lose face and the child responded quickly to that slight change in power balance.


    1. I think that must be a very rare situation Kat, – alienating parent ‘giving’ in. This one must not have had a personality disorder – Cluster-B type and also it can’t have been a severe case of alienation. I may be wrong but unless otherwise I have never heard of an alienating parent capitulating.


      1. I think it was a stroke of sheer luck, but the alienating parent did not capitulate only allowed very limited contact to be reinstated. As you quite rightly guessed the child was not severely alienated so that was enough. What I have seen of therapy since that case has left me in no doubt just how lucky that case was and how inappropriate therapy is in such cases.


  3. As you know Karen, getting past the HCPC barrier of proving that a registrant “acted beyond their scope of practice” is almost impossible. It relies on one having external ‘evidence’ of what should have been their ‘scope of practice’ and then getting the HCPC to agree they acted beyond it – the HCPC shields itself by the phrase always that the registrant was using their ‘skills and knowledge’ and doesn’t have to use external tools to identify what is going on for the child, even though using them would clearly show their own skills and knowledge was deficient. It’s Kafkaesque, and a Catch 22 situation designed to shield the registrant, rather than protect the child, even though the child has been, and continues to be, harmed by the registrant’s lack of skills, knowledge, experience or even common sense to alert their own management to their being out of their (professional) depth.


  4. Thank you Karen. I thank you for all the work you do. I am forever in debt to you. I am excited by all new advances in the parental alienation arena. I try to stay hopeful and positive. Simple question I have. Now that all professionals have failed us targeted parents, that be the court system, GAL’s, the domestic violence centers, the therapists, the so called expert psychologists, etc. From my experience all these so called professionals are in cahoots with each other, I am speaking from experience in the US. And the pain has settled in and for the children the behaviors are normalized. What can be done now that children who were teens are now in their early to late twenties? This is 12 years and still going and now it has become generational as grandchildren are born. The target parent is emotionally and financially spent. The children are adults and the bulb has not clicked on. The favored parents is still in their lives and they still depend on him. The extended family support alienating parent. I do not see a path to end it. What can be done for the adult alienated children? What can the target parent do, if any?


    1. It is a desperate situation, anonymous, but I believe change is afoot. Too little, too late for those of us who have been alienated for years when it was not properly recognised by the family courts. For me, I have very simplistic thinking about this which is what this blog is all about ‘the futility of family therapy in alienation cases’. I spent weeks with a renowned expert witness in PA 12 years ago in the US. A very good analogy is that of the child being trapped in a cult. All experts dealing with severe cases know this. The child has to be removed from the cult, end of…. There is no waste of time extensive reunification therapy with the ‘cult leader’ if you like. These alienators nearly always have a Narcissistic Personality Disorder (not always, just sometimes extremely bitter parents). They are not interested in ‘shared parenting’ – they are too arrogant and it is all about control for them. They really do not care about the welfare of the child and they are dangerous because even if they saw that child for a short period of time they cannot help themselves but alienate. That is there only agenda. There is no compromise for them – they want the other parent OUT of the children’s life. It’s an all or nothing situation for them. I will stop ranting now!! Bottom line is that I wholeheartedly believe that therapy is futile in these cases. However, I have no knowledge about the more moderate or mild cases. There may be hope that these cases are salvageable – I have not had any experience to cast any opinion on these cases. Karen would know as she has.


  5. In my humble opinion, targeted parents can (1)invest as much time as possible in educating themselves about the deeper mechanics and dynamics of PA and (2)await/spot the inevitable opportunity that will come at some point to emotionally support the alienated child. Whether that opportunity will be in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, or later, no one can say but if we leave a trail it must increase their future chance of recovery (whether the targeted parent does the rescuing or it is another person or persons).


      1. Thank you for your support, and comments EHFAR and Pamelaroche. Waiting for an opportunity for the children to come is one of my options. Waiting is missing a lot of their lives and there are still rough days. Can someone help me with this question? My baby girl is 24 and now she lives by herself though alienating parent is 100% in her life and bought her townhome amongst other things. Would it work if I send a neutral friend to talk to her? And if I send someone whom can I send since my side of the family is cutoff? Can I send a friend who early on helped with supervised visitations? I feel like this child could change. She was lead to fear me. She is scared of me. She maybe sitting on a fence. I am trying to understand how a grown child still is scarred of there parent. I feel a messenger on my behalf would be a good idea. Please let me know if this is a good idea. I thought about stopping by myself, but I think that will freak her out and I do not know what the alienating parent trained her to do if I were to stop by. They have viewed all my attempts as stalking. This was part of the alienation process. If anyone can comment on this would be greatly appreciated. I am extremely cautions about this. I want this to be a good experience for her so some seed may be laid or maybe something can start the reconnection.


  6. I don’t know how futile therapy for us “target” parents might be in extreme cases, but I do recognise the signs in others, like myself, who become debilitated by our perceived situations.
    This is a response to the anonymous person above whose anonymity I share; neither of us would want to be identified. I feel vulnerability comes with the territory.

    I think you have to think yourself into a stronger psychological state of mind. You have to change the way you think about yourself.
    At present you see your Ex as a 100% alienator who has total control over your 24 yr. old daughter. You are frightened about what your Ex might do or say should you make renewed contact with your daughter.

    You are understandably vulnerable. I have personal experience of being called a “stalker” by my daughter so I know how that feels. You are not alone with that experience.

    I would concentrate on your relationship with your daughter and forget about the one you call the “alienator”. By implying you are affected, either directly or indirectly, by the views and words of your “alienator” is giving them far too much respect and it is debilitating you.
    Skill up in, “the things I would like to say to my daughter”, “the things I would like to do with/for my daughter”. Find out about your daughter, then go fishing. It is just you and your daughter, nobody else matters.
    Avoid giving your version of history unless asked to talk about it because it will be impossible for your daughter to contemplate living with your reality. For the time being it’s all about starting up afresh in relationship terms.
    Clear your mind of right and wrong and replace it with intrigue, sensitivity, curiosity, and empathy.

    The barriers to renewing relationships are features of our own imaginations/behaviours. A door slammed in our face or a distressed phone call to the Police/ “alienator” made by your daughter, although painful to you, may be an opening into better relations. You fixed the door, you had a meaningful conversation with the police officer who listened to your predicament. You discovered the passion which enabled you to go back to her house and slip the letter you had spent six months writing and editing through the letter box, or maybe you handed it to her in person.
    Try to avoid putting the past right. Whilst concentrating very much on the here and now don’t miss the chance to recall good times you had with your daughter. That bike ride, walk in the park.

    I heard somewhere that about 80% of us go through some form of alienation type attack from our former partner. This is understandable given that most relationships end in some form of disagreement. The worst times are prior to separation and immediately after. The mastery of managing your “alienator”, and discovering the “alienator” within us is a humbling experience. Coming out the other side with relationships intact and mental health restored and strengthened is sometimes a torturous journey. In my case it is only partially complete. I have lived with it and breathed it and I now manage it.
    Here I have listed a few of the feelings most of us “target” parents can identify with. Whether legitimate or not they are all without exception, debilitating to us. They freeze/numb us from taking on the huge problem that we face……. namely a reconnect with our children.

    Regrets hang about me like a heavy chain upon my shoulders. My enemies dig ditches to separate me from my beloved children. My reputation as a good parent is in tatters. I dare not because my alienator would be displeased. My hands are tied. I don’t want to offend anybody. I am hoping. I need someone to understand me and put everything right. This doesn’t make sense; it is so unfair.

    Like most difficult decisions we make in life that effect other people we try to second guess what they might do in order to stay one step ahead of them. If we procrastinate too long events will have taken place that makes any decision, we make now meaningless. Don’t delay, make mistakes and more and learn to live in the new world, the one that you are shaping and facing. Don’t stay invisible for too long.

    Kind regards


  7. Anonymous- I can identify with every word you said. I was debilitated and crippled when my ex-partner pulled his heinous strategies. I had no idea the extent of his cruelties or game. I had always thought that I was strong, but his game was beyond anything I can handle. I was a fool to think I could talk to him and reason. He had accused me of false abuse allegations from day one. I was blindsided and I had no idea of this type game. He went to the domestic violence center and claimed I was abusive. Not only that I was unfit as a parent but also mentally incapable in my faculties and wanted to do away with me. Take all property and assets, the children and have me stay away from home, schools and miles away from him and the children. Then it got worst, when he did not get what he set out for. He took the kids and went to live with his family. He called the cops on me so many times and claimed false abuse and he coached the kids to do the same. It got so toxic to the point the kids were willing to hit me and push down the steps. Though abuse claims were unfounded, he never let up and the attacks continued one after the other. He took the children to get counseling for abuse when there was none. Everything that spewed from his lips was to repeat the abuse and support it. The more you repeat something the more it sticks; he was trying to erase good memories and fabricate things in the kids mind. There was no backing down from his game. He went to extremes to hurt and destroy me to ensure he wins. He knew me and used everything in his power to destroy me. It is as Karen writes, the alienator often knows you inside and out. It was an attack; a bomb that blew up and I did the best I could to survive and am still healing the after math. I do not know how I survived to this day, but it is certainly the hands of God. As you can imagine he used the kids to lie to all professionals, lawyers, school, therapists and judge. When you are falsely accused of abuse and even the outcome is unfounded, you are never cleared of the abuse. You are stained. The court system and counselors and all associated professionals helped to fail me and that was further support for the kids that supported the alienator’s abuse claims. I had to bow out. I had no money as I was a stay home parent to raise the children. Everything was taken from me. And I had to pay child support instead of getting alimony. I had to quickly find a job and an apartment to live. The story is horrible and is painful recounting. And I am only recounting my side I can’t imagine how the kids feel as they are the true victims. I was hurting from my trauma and hurting for what the children were going through. My story is extreme as many of us target parents go through some sort or a different variation of horror. The ex-partner was a bully who got their way.
    The alienating parent and his supporting family is still spinning things and making it very difficult and he is part of the children’s lives and they depend on him. I am gingerly trying to reconnect. Yes I am vulnerable and probably scared. I do not want to have to deal with the police all over again as that is too much emotional pain. I am trying to find my way back and be part of my daughter’s life. This proofed to be very difficult as they are still victims and brainwashed. I can’t tell if the bulb has clicked on yet. I am still blocked from her life. I am blocked from all social media and phone. If I manage to send an email there is no response. I am met with every obstacle imaginable. It seems everything is stacked high up against me and there is no way to penetrate.
    Reading your response, I do admit that I am scared. I am not sure how not to be invisible. I want to work with a coach on this, but money is limiting me. I am trying to be strong and heal for me and the children.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have heard of cases where the alienator seemingly takes apparent complete control and this is what you describe. A mortifying experience. It reminds me of mass brainwashing such that is carried out by leaders of extreme groups and sects. It is almost as if your children have been denied independent thought. I am truly sorry for what you are going through. I wonder what you can do?
    It seems as though you have an upward struggle to regain your parental role. Staying strong and confident will be only part of the solution.
    When my Ex was abusive toward my daughter and the authorities failed to do anything about it I deduced it was because she was a woman and women don’t do abuse in the eyes of the law. But now I think it was more a case of my Ex convincing the authorities of her important day to day parenting role. Either way although we don’t communicate on any meaningful level the kids have a life with each of us in our separate homes. A different and sometimes challenging life but one where each parent has a distant but grudging respect for the other.

    Given that your situation seems so extreme your idea about using a mutual friend to make contact could be a good one. If your children were younger and you could get legal and specialised help, then a complete reversal of care would help the kids re-align with yourself.
    You don’t earn Brownie points for being nice or soft or gentle when the other parent is so mean and cruel and selfish. I was wondering at what point along the timeline your Ex thought it was Ok to make false allegations against you so that he could take sole charge of the children. Has he chosen a replacement surrogate mother for your children?
    If your friend does make contact with your daughter be sure she is equipped to handle the situation sensitively. Perhaps you and her could visit an alienation specialist beforehand.

    At the moment you Ex’s allegations that you are abusive and should be rejected takes precedence over your statement that you are not. The children are trapped in the bind living under the protective guise of the parent who shuns you. The abuse allegation is a distraction and has nothing to do with the job of being a parent nor the notion that parenting should be shared and complemented.

    I see many parental alienation situations as mental health issues perhaps because I work in a care setting helping persons with educational disabilities. Part of our training involves the use of distraction techniques. When we find an individual’s behaviour intolerable, perhaps because of anti-social behaviour or aggressive displays we try to distract their attention away from what is troubling them. We divert their attention to things we hope will satisfy them and moderate their behaviour.

    I was trying to sense what it must be like to be your daughter. She will have some good memories of times with yourself, albeit suppressed by her father. At the age of 24 she must be aware of your situation, but as you say, given that she is living in a house provided by her father will still feel obliged to show loyalty toward his wishes and feelings. Can you think of any triggers that might release her?

    I have used some methods mentioned in Warshak’s book (Divorce poison) and particularly like the one he labels memorabilia. This is a way of reminding your child that you are sensitive to their needs and do care about them and are available. I was recently driving with my son and instead of talking about day to day things I studied the moving landscape and provoked memories from his youth placing him and myself in a happy setting. (E.g. Do you remember biking in those woods when you were 10. I think you still had the BMX ?) There are possibilities for you to develop these themes with your daughter. I also particularly like Karen’s “sowing seeds”, that’s planting ideas in your daughter’s head that you are Ok and safe as a parent. You may say that your daughter already knows this and of course that would be true; but that is not the point of the exercise. What she needs to know is that you love her and care for her and are always emotionally available……..this is what you are doing by observing your daughter and paying attention to her needs. You are offering hope of a “get out clause” in the contract of relationships.

    The “stalker” treatment is your Ex’s way of trying to block you out. Once you have decided that your alienator’s opinion is just that, and of no matter to yourself, you will be released to experiment without your straight jacket on.

    ………………….George had posted the letter to his daughter through the letterbox, he had been blocked on all social media channels so was reduced to sending messages incognito. He knew that his now mature daughter might tear the letter up and report back to mother who would then use nights in the slammer to remind him he had no business going anywhere near his daughter’s house). The letter itself was quite well disguised. It was essentially an advertising letter offering an opportunity to do paid work for three months in the Summer at Camp Wonderland, something George knew his daughter would love. There were opportunities for young adults to improve their C.V. and gain vital hands on experience working with disadvantaged children. This was just what his daughter had been looking for………………….

    Essentially my ideas are based on ignoring negative factors and building on the dream of how it should be. I apologise if this fails to take account of the realities of your situation and the people you are surrounded by who might disapprove or pity you, but in order to regain your position as respected parent you have to find a way to make what you do matter. It may be a long haul but I hope you gain confidence from trying different approaches. You are important, don’t stay too long affected by the character assassinations of others.

    Kind regards


  9. Thank you for your response. It helps immensely.
    “I was wondering at what point along the timeline your Ex thought it was Ok to make false allegations against you so that he could take sole charge of the children. Has he chosen a replacement surrogate mother for your children?”
    Very interesting questions.

    My Ex partner served with an exparte order of false abuse allegation on the day after I called him out that he was abusive. In the US an exparte order is a temporary order for protection of children until the hearing within 7 days. We had been arguing and having couples arguments. I told him to stop being abusive or I want a divorce. The next day he served me with the exparte order. That was the pivotal point that he snapped. That is how it all started. Abuse was unfounded but he lied to the kids about the outcome and told them that I was sick and needed help. He told the kids they needed to go the domestic violence center to talk to counselors and about how I treated them. I did not realize my expartner was a narcissist and potential have borderline personality disorder until much much later in the process. I discovered other disorders as I learned about PAS and alienators characteristics. He does have anxiety, depression, and panic attack disorders. He takes medication from a regular physician and not a psychiatrist. I was cutoff. There has been no communication since that day with the expartner. He has chosen no communication. He tried to erase me from the kid’s life. It has been very hard. It is very hard to express all the experiences I have lived in the past 12 years. It may be easier for others to write about. It has been a very extremely difficult journey. There were times I did not want to be here. It becomes easier when I read that it has affected others that way. Then I may have an avenue to pursue and find a way back to the kids.

    The surrogate mother. The best way to answer the way I see it. His whole family which I was very close with are on his side. These people were in my house all the time for all occasions, at least once a week sometimes more. We saw them frequently. So they sided with him and I could not understand that and still do not. Very hurtful and baffling. He took away that support system from me. This is his two sisters and parents and brother and his family. His brother later alienated himself and children from the bunch and no longer speaks to any member of his siblings and parents. The only person who was on my side was his brother’s wife and all hell broke loose because she sided with me. He replaced me with all those females. So the answer is the surrogate mother is his mother and two sisters. Though one sister he is close with more than the other. I think is my oldest daughter which Karen writes about as the “target child”. She was acting as the mother and still is to this day. She is still lying and helping her father to this day.
    My younger daughter who is 24 is afraid and has her loyalty to her dad. I don’t think she has figured out how to have me in her life. She is still pulled to alignment by her older sister. Her sister acts like a bully. I do not know what to do to free her. I was thinking to go with my friend together. If I send a friend am not sure what to say. I am not sure what to say in general. It will be awkward. What would be the reason for the visit? I send her messages all the time that I love her and ask her if she would like to go to lunch/dinner, have a cup of coffee, go for a walk together, run together, get our nails done, do some crafts together. But no replies. These are things she loves to do. I send her random emails about what I do or how am doing. I send her old pictures. I know she likes the pictures because she asked to send her some more. She doesn’t call me by mom.

    I do have a middle child who has a relationship with me. He decided in 2010 he wanted to have me in his life and it has been working out. We have a good relationship. Though the other parent and older sister hurl curve balls and spin things all the time. They do this to put pressure on him and attempt to pull him back to the unit. We never discussed the past at his request. I do not know what he believes. He doesn’t understand his sister’s behaviors and think that it is cruel. He thinks that they should have a relationship with me. I do not think he understands that his other parent is the driver of all this mess. My son works for the other parent and there is loyalty there. The other parent gives them so much money. He buys them with money. My son thinks his sisters are making their decisions independently. There were many times were his older sister and father would complain about me stalking them and harassing them and send their brother to scold and scare me on their behalf. ( the learned tactics from the other parent) But he learned that his sister is a liar. They keep him in the middle. They tell him not to tell me anything. It is hard for him and there is a lot of pressure to pull him back in the fold. He is dependent on his other parent since he works for him. He has not broken free. He does not recognize the other parent games and manipulation. The other parent is scared and insecure of being alone. He will do anything to keep the children to himself.

    The more you respond the more I learn. Thank you again for your help and empathy. I am very grateful for all this. it is like soaking in some sunshine or having Gods hand patting me on the back and embracing and comforting me.


  10. In the fall of 2007, towards the end of a year all of us would prefer to forget, Judy, then aged 12, her mother Laura 38 and her father Maya 43 were all at their wits end. Laura and Maya had recently separated and were living in homes but a stone’s throw apart. Judy had recently started high school and was encountering new challenges and added pressures from relationships with new classmates and extraordinary study demands from teachers.

    In addition to these pressures she was feeling the fall-out from the acrimonious break up of her parents’ relationship. Laura had aggressively gained control of day to day procedures as they affected Judy’s life. Judy would receive ear bashings that would cause her to become quiet and withdrawn but she would also be explosive when she found her mother’s behaviour intolerable. In these battles Judy would always be the eventual loser being overcome by her controlling mother who would forcibly impose strict boundaries for Judy; Laura had a guilt edged sword which she wielded toward those whom she wanted to control.

    Maya was an altogether quieter person, some would say timid and weak. He had learned over the years that it was pointless to disagree with Laura. He was simply ridiculed and made to feel small and pathetic. Sometimes he would be told so.

    Judy’s relationship with her father began to deteriorate. She would accuse him of being a stalker, she would declare to his face, “you don’t love us any more” and “I don’t have to come and see you”. She would talk loosely of paedophilia as if men who hung around waiting to talk to their children were of malicious intent.
    It was a close run thing but Maya managed to maintain his relationship with his daughter. He absorbed a lot of hurtful comments from the mouth of Judy although he suspected Laura was behind most of Judy’s tirades directed toward him. Mostly he simply missed Judy not being around. He began to lose touch of Judy’s day to day life, her needs, fears, desires and friends.

    The legal stuff and the social service paraphernalia was of no help to Maya. He quickly realised their objective was to choose winners and losers and this was no way to mend relationships. They didn’t seem to understand his predicament nor what Judy was going through. Judy would scream at her father, “your trying to send Mummy to jail!” As much as Maya wanted to explain to Judy that the purpose of going to court was to resolve the situation and put in place a “family plan” that would ensure Judy got to live with both her parents, Laura obviously didn’t see it that way. Otherwise why would Judy be coming to her Dad’s house to tell him off for wanting to send her Mummy to jail.
    What followed was the doldrum years, a period when Maya was cast adrift, though he never really left. He was like an annoying itch that Laura could never rid herself of. Maya clearly wasn’t the bad guy Laura made him out to be, but somehow making out that he was the bad guy kept him at arm’s length. That way at least she wouldn’t have to deal with such a disagreeable adult. Besides which Laura was frightened that if Judy became attached to her father she might never see Judy again and that would break Laura’s heart.

    Fast forward to 2015, the children are now young adults.

    So far as Laura was concerned she had done a good parenting job in difficult circumstances. To some extent a couple of boyfriends and a semi-reluctant brother of hers, Norris had performed the duties of a surrogate father for Judy. Maya hadn’t faired quite so well. He was distraught at the loss of his daughter and her changed behaviour. For the first couple of years after separation he was living a blur. He was in a dark place and depressive mood. His work, financial and social life all suffered. He attended regular counselling sessions and would switch between therapists in search of the holy grail. He found companionship on the website in the non-personal wanton judicial rights of single parents and discarded fathers. He called this the invisible placard.

    Judy seemed okay, not that you could tell at first sight. She had done well at school. She presented well and was articulate. Over the years she had come to accept her lot. What fate had dealt her was simply that. Her Dad had gone missing and there was nothing that could be done about that; she was angry for sure and felt cheated but it was all too late now. Where the hell had he been?

    Up State New York in a roadside motel bar Maya had met an intriguing man who was speaking in riddles. He said his profession was “dam buster” but you could tell from the soft unblemished state of his hands that he had not been anywhere near breaking equipment nor pics and shovels. He said to Maya, “I couldn’t help noticing that heavy weight around your shoulders and was wondering if I could do anything to take it away from you?” Maya looked up in surprise, he didn’t know how visible his pain was.

    Maya told the gentleman how recently he had been so close to having a conversation with his daughter. He had done all the hard work researching how it would be possible to catch his daughter on her own in public and away from her mother, so he would stand a good chance of gaining an unchallenged conversation with his daughter. He had rehearsed over and again what he would say and had an almost inexhaustible list of answers to any of Judy’s responses. On the evening of graduation day Maya milled around with other delighted parents and students in the College pavilion. Speeches had been made and he caught site of his daughter from across the room. He couldn’t believe how much she had grown and what a confident young lady she had become. Maya began to have misgivings about his planned surprise reunion. He didn’t want to spoil Judy’s day. What if her mother was here as well? Judy might run away and then everyone would think he had done something wrong. There would be repercussions if Laura got to hear of his whereabouts. Judy turned to look across the room and caught sight of her father. She looked shocked and puzzled at the same time. It was all too much for Maya he gulped and turned away like a shamefaced schoolboy, as if he had done something wrong. Maybe he was a stalker after all?

    The gentleman ran a warm finger down the side of his cold beer glass and commiserated with Maya. I have heard of such places he said, where waves of optimism meet only to be smashed against the rocks when fear and doubt strike so mercilessly. I can see you are a kind and loving man so I will do what I can to help you, but the rest is up to you, if you want to become a dam buster like me you will have to be prepared to cover new ground, be adaptable and believe and trust in yourself, take risks. You have had some nasty body blows. I want to help you improve your recovery rate.

    The gentleman was a practicable man. “I am going to give you some tools”, he said.

    “These are blinkers; they protect you from what other people are seen to be doing with your life”
    “These are ear muffs, they block out all the verbal messages that so offend you and give you so much cause for alarm”
    “Here is a pen and paper. I want you to write down what you think might go terribly wrong if you do set up a chance meeting with Judy and then want to bottle out at the last minute. Who are these invisible protagonists who you let control your life?” When your list is exhausted you can dispose of it. It’s only causing you trouble. Keep the pen handy it may come in useful at a later date.
    “This is a box labelled, “fund of knowledge and skill set” it contains all the thoughts, training manuals and reference papers that have been made to date on your specialist subject”.
    This is your heart, it was so battered and hurt I had to take out the immune system and reset it completely with something altogether more resilient. I hope you don’t mind.

    Kind regards


    1. there’s an old saying….he who feels it knows it. of course, “he” means he or she


    2. I had to come to this story over and over again. Crying each time. There is a connection; it is as thought Maya and I are brothers sharing the same fate. It is like reading my story that I have not written. If my brother fares well so well I.


  11. Ok so, briefly let me suggest something else. Your eldest daughter is very controlling over your 24-year-old whom you are currently trying to regain a relationship with.
    The eldest daughter will likely have taken on what was your role in the family. She has been “parentified”. She is being just as controlling as your former partner was making sure in no uncertain terms that your 24 yr. old does as she is told and rejects you.
    From a family dynamic perspective, it would appear that the key to releasing your 24 yr. old may lie in improving your relations with the older daughter.
    Your older daughter will be in need of you as a parent as much as your 24 yr. old. She will also be justifiably jealous if you are devoting all your energies to connecting with your 24 yr. old and not her.
    How about an “amends letter” to your older daughter?
    I am assisting someone at the moment who wants a relationship with two of his estranged children but not the third (the eldest). I see this as an almost impossible task and one that makes the “alienation” situation worse because it accentuates rivalries within the family unit. (Especially as he appears to be rejecting the child who has been parentified……………no surprise that the parentified child is angry, hurt, feeling abandoned)
    Ref; Sibling rivalry. Faber & Mazlish.

    If you can release the eldest daughter from her unhealthy attachment to her father then your 24 yr. old may follow suit. All your children need to be loved and attended.

    Kind regards


  12. I was looking forward to your response.

    I concur that my eldest is parentified. I know she has been hurt tremendously. I have been working to free both daughters from the unhealthy attachment, but to no avail. I love them both equally. I miss them so much.
    I realize if I reach my eldest the younger will follow suit, but I have not figured out the key to either of the girls freedom. Nothing has worked. The alienated child drama still continues. How do I take my role back from her?

    Please do tell what an amends letter looks like. I have written I am sorry emails and letters before. I am not sure what to write in an mends letter. I understand my daughters are hurt and trapped. It is as though we are frozen in time. I try to be empathetic. But I don’t know what works as I am not a therapist. I don’t have the skill set to deal with all of this. This parental alienation is so vast and it is like an octopus with so many tentacles and it has taken shape with a life of its own. Since I have not been in their lives it has fortified and taken a stronghold. I am getting stronger each from my own hurt. I read blogs and learn as much as I can.

    Anyway, I thought to try something new with the younger daughter and if she comes around the pressure will be on the eldest to come around. Maybe I am being very hopeful.


    1. “I try to be empathetic. But I don’t know what works as I am not a therapist. I don’t have the skill set to deal with all of this.”

      My humble (not to mention unqualified) opinion is that you already have the knowledge and skill-set required to do your best with your situation….that the road to empathy with both daughters begins with understanding and managing your own emotions. Knowing what makes you tick will help you determine not only (a) what makes – or doesn’t – make them tick but, more importantly, (b) what makes your ex tick. A “switch” of targeted parent has to be a worse situation than the current one?!


  13. EHFAR-if I knew what to do I would not be in this predicament. The ex is a vicious person with mental disorders no doubt about that. I am not equipped to deal with mental disorders. I am not sure I understand if you are being supportive or judgmental. If all targeted parents knew what to do there would not be parental alienation and no victims from family separation. Divorce would be a very dandy done deal.


    1. Hi Anonymous – let me first say that my (professionally) unqualified opinion is based on having “walked the walk” of a targeted parent for many many years now and, further, I can identify with each and every word of the post to which I replied. Feelings of isolation, helplessness and confusion about what to do (or not to do) regarding, what appears to be, a spiteful ex with an acute personality disorder is something I know all too well….someone you may once have loved with all your heart or, in some cases, may even still love.

      The vast majority of clinical psychologists, social workers and judges have far less knowledge than you when it comes to dealing with personality disorders – is that not why the PA landscape is the catastrophe that it is….as the epidemic continues spreading? When they begin to acknowledge this fact things will improve in this area.

      As long as there are emotionally damaged parents in this world, will there not always be PA? I believe that, with support/guidance, most targeted parents already have the tools, within themselves, to manage THEIR OWN lives amidst the PA chaos. Also, that the best chance our adult children have, for the future, is that if/when they need us to help them recover from the emotional abuse to which they’ve been subjected, we’ll be best-prepared to answer that call.

      At the start of my “PA-road”, had I known myself a little better, I would have empathised a lot more with our children’s plight and, thereby, minimised the damage my ex has done over the years. It’s that self-knowledge that now has me empathising far better with not just our adult children but also my ex. If there is to be a happy(ish) ending I have to be responsible, determined and creative enough to find a workable solution that leaves me with “peace of mind”. The alternative is to forever remain a victim of my ex’s whims…..accusing, blaming, complaining and criticising traits over which I have little influence and once overlooked as harmless.

      For all the above reasons, I’ve always only ever had one vision of the best solution and future……that our adult children do not continue the PA-cycle with their own children. That, one day, they understand and realise they didn’t have a “good” parent and a “bad” parent but, just that, one parent was unwell. My hope is that that understanding will enable them (and their spouses) to avoid the same fate as parents, themselves

      Do you have a clearer understanding of whether I’m attempting to be supportive or judgemental?



        At the start of my “PA-road”, had I known myself a little better, I would have empathised a lot more with our children’s plight and, thereby, minimised the damage my ex WAS ENCOURAGED AND PERMITTED TO DO over the years.


  14. Thank you for that EHFAR. I understand and thank you for your support. I feel you can’t look back and change things. When a bomb goes off and someone keeps attacking you there is no time to think to be empathic or think about how someone tics. This is until the dust starts to settle phase. It was blow after blow. He was relentless in his blows and every single time I countered his blow his next blow would be more extreme. I thought i was a strong women, but I went in survival mode and I could have been a statistic. I was empathic to the children’s plight but I was in survival mode. I had I known about PA and how I should react in a PA situation and had a team of experts to help i would have fared much better. Yes my responses to the children back then could have minimized the damage, but I was in survival mode. in the beginning being empathic to the children and thinking about their plight got me deeper in emotional woes. The ex partner would not let up as he was in the driver seat. I had no money to do anything about it. Projecting his illness on me is what he was doing. He went too extreme actions to paint me as unfit, abusive mentally ill parent which is what he is. It is a role he knows all to well and projecting it was way too easy for him. I did not know these things then, but I do now.

    I have been recovering and healing, but I miss my children so much. I too want some type of happy ending, and if not a workable solution as you mention. I am just soooo tired and weary of it all.


    1. Try not to be hard on yourself as, going forward, you have better uses for that energy

      This excerpt from Eckhart’s Tolle’s “A New Earth” has helped me understand mood-management (ie. the management of emotional pain) and that all moods are transient by nature……

      According to an ancient Sufi story, there lived a king in some Middle Eastern land who was continuously torn between happiness and despondency. The slightest thing would cause him great upset or provoke an intense reaction, and his happiness would quickly turn into disappointment and despair

      A time came when the king finally got tired of himself and of life, and he began to seek a way out. He sent for a wise man who lived in his kingdom and who was reputed to be enlightened. When the wise man came, the king said to him, “I want to be like you. Can you give me something that will bring balance, serenity, and wisdom into my life? I will pay any price you ask.” The wise man said, “I may be able to help you. But the price is so great that your entire kingdom would not be sufficient payment for it. Therefore it will be a gift to you if you will honor it.” The king gave his assurances, and the wise man left

      A few weeks later, he returned and handed the king an ornate box carved in jade. The king opened the box and found a simple gold ring inside. Some letters were inscribed on the ring.

      The inscription read: This, too, will pass.

      “What is the meaning of this?” asked the king. The wise man said, “Wear this ring always. Whatever happens, before you call it good or bad, touch this ring and read the inscription. that way, you will always be at peace.”

      Hopefully, in time, you’ll also benefit from the above as I continue to do


      1. I find a lot of wisdom in Sufism EHFAR and the saying ‘this too will pass’ has brought me through a great deal of difficulty in my own life, I very much like this advice which is rooted in the peace which comes from our ability to be utterly in the moment, something which is stolen away when alienation strikes. Practicing this kind of mindful being in the world is such an important part of surviving the torture of alienation. Thank you for your wisdom and care. K


      2. Thank you, Karen – they say that “when the student is ready the master/teacher appears” and I’ve found enormous comfort in reading/listening to the wise thoughts of many authors (including you).

        Yes, at times, our naive unwillingness to accept the present moment wastes so much energy and generates so much unhappiness for all concerned. Resisting “what is” (as opposed to “what was” or “what could be”) and creating the unhelpful stories we tell ourselves over and over again by way of negative thoughts in connection with past memories and future dreams. Not recognising the difference between the present moment (that we cannot change) and the present “situation” that, inevitably will…..a moment that’s often offering us an opportunity to improve a flaw within ourselves that will make us a better/happier person than up to that point in time

        I think one of the most damaging aspects of PA is the way in which it deludes so many of us into believing we’re alone (that our individual situation is the only one of its kind that ever occurred in a domestic relationship) and, I believe, it’s this mental and emotional isolation that fuels the, equally delusional and debilitating, feelings of inadequacy and helplessness that follow. That’s why so many that come on here find a great deal more spiritual nourishment than elsewhere – the work you do is invaluable.

        The following is another excerpt from A New Earth, which is pertinent to PA and false allegations of whatever kind. Had I already known it, I would have spared myself a lot of pain and wasted energy (not to mention staying focused on the most important issues)…..

        – “IS THAT SO?”

        The Zen Master Hakuin lived in a town in Japan. He was held in high regard and many people came to him for spiritual teaching. Then it happened that the teenage daughter of his next door neighbour became pregnant. When being questioned by her angry and scolding parents as to the identity of the father, she finally told them that he was Hakuin, the Zen Master.

        In great anger the parents rushed over to Hakuin and told him with much shouting and accusing that their daughter had confessed that he was the father. All he replied was, “Is that so?”

        News of the scandal spread throughout the town and beyond. The Master lost his reputation. This did not trouble him. Nobody came to see him anymore.

        He remained unmoved. When the child was born, the parents brought the baby to Hakuin. “You are the father, so you look after him.” The Master took loving care of the child

        A year later, the mother remorsefully confessed to her parents that the real father of the child was the young man who worked at the butcher shop. In great distress they went to see Hakuin to apologize and ask for forgiveness. “We are really sorry. We have come to take the baby back. Our daughter confessed that you are not the father.”

        “Is that so?” is all he would say as he handed the baby over to them.

        Hopefully, the above will make sense to other readers….that the “truth” on a given issue can be so subjective/overvalued and, more importantly, the truth of that issue (from person to person) often changes frequently over time


      3. Thank you for the wisdom, “this too will pass.” I have so much work to be done to healing.


      4. Anonymous – you’re very welcome…..we all have a lot of healing to do and, furthermore, really are “all in this together”. As we heal, our offsprings’ odds of future healing increase exponentially

        Following “this too will pass”, the final (and very resonating) parable in the ANE trilogy is……..

        – MAYBE

        The deeper interconnectedness of all things and events implies that the mental labels of “good” and bad” are ultimately illusory. They always imply a limited perspective and so are true only relatively and temporarily.

        This is illustrated in the story of a wise man who won an expensive car in a lottery. His family and friends were very happy for him and came to celebrate. “Isn’t it great!” they said. “You are so lucky.” The man smiled and said “Maybe.”

        For a few weeks he enjoyed driving the car. Then one day a drunken driver crashed into his new car at an intersection and he ended up in the hospital, with multiple injuries. His family and friends came to see him and said, “That was really unfortunate. “ Again the man smiled and said, “Maybe.”

        While he was still in the hospital, one night there was a landslide and his house fell into the sea. Again his friends came the next day and said,“Weren’t you lucky to have been here in hospital.” Again he said, “Maybe.”

        Sound familiar?!?


      5. Having bought Amy Baker’s ‘Adult Children Children of PAS’, almost a year ago, I’ve only recently begun reading it. 50 pages in, all I can say is…….wow!! And, highly recommended for those looking to understand their plight at a depth that will provide hope for the future where all those affected are concerned


  15. Let me start by saying I am not a qualified therapist. I have been through a difficult time separating from my former partner (I think this is one thing for sure I have in common with others on this blog) and I have fared better than most.
    This blog is somewhere I feel most comfortable because it allows me to express my feelings and know that readers will empathise with me and some will identify with my experience.

    It is true that these days I try to help people who are also struggling with relationships due to family break up but I defer to others whose superior knowledge and fleet of thought often outstrips my mental capabilities. I am neither a neuro-scientist nor a family lawyer. I am an emotional person with an interest in self-help and parenting techniques. I have described myself as a behaviourist often responding counter-intuitively to what would seem to be logic. Enough about myself.

    I came across the “amends letter” when I read the book “The Prodigal Father” by Mark Bryan. It is a soul searching read about a father coming to terms with his life and fatherhood. In it there are some beautiful quips. On page 101 he states, “you can focus on the problem and the problem gets bigger or you can focus on the solution and the problem gets smaller”. He covers many of the topics we discuss today although the terminology is dated. The book pre-dates “alienation”; instead he uses the term, “estrangement”. On page 5 he talks about how a father becomes disengaged from his children. He talks about forgiveness and reframing the past; some excellent lessons in humanity. You can look at this book in several different ways and some would reject it on the grounds that it is not relevant to their situation, but I defy anyone to reject the beauty, courage and awareness of human spirit and all that is good in it which defines our best resolve to make reparation despite the frailty of human condition.

    He devotes a whole chapter to making amends with his Ex…………”a man may see his Ex as a barrier between him and his children, he may not see her as a valuable and vulnerable human being anymore”
    When we pigeon-whole our former partner as “super alienator” or narcissist it does not help our relationship. It defines our desire to pass responsibility for our predicament to our former partner. It immobilises us from making positive change.
    You may have to grit your teeth when writing the amends letter because it goes against the grain. (Your current line of thought is that it is your Ex who is the problem; the one who is stopping you see the children and polluting their minds).
    I adapted the “amends letter” to state my desire to have my children spend more time with me. At that time I was only seeing my children at weekends and thought it was high time the children got to stay with their Dad mid-week too. Although I sensed my Ex would reject my letter I nevertheless went ahead and posted it through the letterbox.

    The immediate response was fairly predictable; what I had thought might happen.

    We have a mutual friend who told me my Ex was incensed that I had had the nerve to write to her asking for more time with our children. Apparently my Ex had been in her house raising the letter above her head, clenched fist; furious. I had obviously touched a raw nerve. Nevertheless, many months later my son appeared on my doorstep on a Wednesday evening asking if he could stay the night; he had brought his school bag and a change of clothes with him.

    So I can vouch for the amends letter. In my case the effect was delayed by several months and I did have doubts about its effectiveness but in the end it worked.

    In effect it had re-established in my Ex’s heart some trust in me.

    I am not going to tell you any more about the “amends letter” because I want you to read the book and fully appreciate the reasoning behind it.

    Lastly, you said you might take advantage of seeing your 24 yr. old to re-establish a relationship with your older parentified daughter. I think after reading the book you might want to focus directly on your Ex. (the narcissist?) and the daughter who has been parentified.
    In my research I came across a website,
    It describes the best way to treat a narcissist. It says that praise is important. This also supports my idea about sending an “amends letter”.

    I hope you follow my reasoning here. I want you to feel empowered and that you do have some control over your situation.

    Kind regards


  16. Wow. it feels good to have someone believe in me and think I am worthy and to help me. This blog has been a tremendous blessing, a safe heaven to learn, grow and help form people who have trodden in my shoes. I am most thankful.

    After the separation, I continued to love this man for many years after the fact of what he did. I begged to stay together as opposed to getting a divorce, but my communication seemed to only have fortified his position and game. He had one thing on his mind and that was to annihilate or eradicate and remove me from his life as if though I never existed. late in the game I learned to compartmentalize him; he is a closed chapter sitting on the self. To go back and draft an amends letter to him is going to be tough. It is like going into the forest all dark with no light shedding in and the witch and wolves and whatever lies therein is lurking to get you. I hate to admit it but am scared.

    Anonymous- I have some homework to do. If I need help or have a question, or perhaps a review of an amends letter may I send an email to you? Or where can I post a question?


    1. Hi, later this week I will create a new page on here which can be used for discussion between everyone whilst I am having a rest. That way discussion can be ongoing in one thread so that you all know where you are.


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