An Encounter with a Pigeon

Having a frozen shoulder is a somewhat life altering experience. Life altering because of the limitations it places upon me physically and because of the way in which it causes me to think, deeply, about the ways in which life flows regardless of blockages, breakages and entanglements.  However limited our physical selves become, life flows on through us. However closed the doors in the minds of alienated children, life flows through them still. Life is the flow, love is the healer, blocks and barriers are the emotional entanglements that are created as those we are in relationship with, become caught in the nets of the stories that are woven by generations before us.

A frozen shoulder means that I cannot drive at the moment and so I spend much of my time on the train, travelling the length and breadth of the country to do my work.  This week, as I sat eating a sandwich  on the station at London Bridge, a pigeon hobbled its ways towards me eyeing up the crumbs.  I watched the pigeon as it focused its gaze on the food and I thought about the way in which it, regardless of the fact it only had one foot, was likely so old that it was past reproducing and spent much of its time starving, was driven on by the life force still flowing through it. As I did so I dropped a piece of egg onto the floor and watched how much the pigeon enjoyed eating it. Who knew that pigeons would eat egg I thought.  Who knew that pigeons and people would have so much in common?  As I surreptiously fed the pigeon, we eyeballed each other in a moment of silent communication and the flow of the life that caused me to give what I had to a creature many would consider to be vermin, showed me a profound truth about life.  We are but conduits for the life that wants to be lived and our purpose on this planet is not to harm or hurt each other but to help that life flow as freely as it possibly can. Life is not for gathering good fortune to keep to ourselves, it is not about hoarding or having but about being. It is about being in relationship with each other and about sharing, it is about passing on the love that is the healing force so that we all can move closer to the joy of living. A joy which is most truly expressed when love flows and the next generation is open to the full force of what life can offer. We are not meant to live our lives closed, fearful and blocked.

But closed, fearful and blocked is what so many families feels when alienation strikes. Alienation is in its very essence a blockage which is created by the entanglements that come from wounds that may not even originate in our own generation. Parents who alienate their children are often acting out scripts from someone else’s play and are unconsciously maintaining the entanglements they grew up in, weaving these into the consciousness of their own children in a repetition compulsion which marches in time to someone else’s drum. Helping children who are caught in this way is about liberating them from these entanglements and freeing them to flow again. Helping the parent and perhaps the grandparent from whom these blocks originate is part of how we do this work.

Over the past few weeks we have reunited five more children with parents and the way that we have done this has been all about clearing blocks and untangling the threads which have kept the child captured. In a recent reunification which Nick and I undertook together, the movement of the children from hostile and rejecting to laughing and flowing took under two hours and demonstrated the power of working with transgenerational forensic understanding of what causes the blockage of alienation and what is necessary to free the flow of love in the children again.

Because the flow of life is never more fully expressed than it is when it is flowing naturally through children. It is never more alive, more creative, more curious and more full of possibility that when a child is open to all of the forces flowing through. Like a river in full flood, the power of life running through a child is a force to be reckoned with. When the damming of the river of life, through the obligations to carry other people’s burdens and other people’s difficulties, slows that flow and changes the course of that river, alienation grows and the child’s energies become channelled into something else. That something else is most often that which emanates from someone around the the child through whom life is not flowing. Influences, conscious or otherwise, live in the unspoken, unlived life of the unhealthy parent and are passed on to become webs of beliefs and behaviours which limit the child and close them down to become aligned in this way or that, to serve the needs of the parent. Life when it is stoppered up this way begins to stagnate and the child closes down, restricting their lives to the world in which their parent is confined, surrounded by fear and defences and blame.

It is not possible to free a child from alienation without paying attention to the source of it. Neither is it possible to free a child from alienation without bringing love to a broken family system.  Therapy, in which a family sits in a room with a person on weekly basis cannot bring the healing forces into play and talking doesn’t do it. Healing alienation is about doing and being not knowing and it is about an active process not one which is observational and static.

Some recent successes in our reunification work have shown me that children do not have to lose a parent to regain the one they have rejected. Recent work has shown me that alienated children can be freed to relate to both parents and that doing that work is not about working in the here and now but in the past, with transgenerational trauma which is carried forward into subsequent generations. The successes we have had recently have demonstrated clearly to me that when the blocks and the barriers are cleared, love flows through the children again and their capacity for allowing that to happen is undiminished. Clearing fear and providing hope brings change to families in these circumstances and where that happens the division into good and bad falls away in the consciousness of the family. I am excited by these recent successes, which for me are reflected by the encounter with the pigeon this week which was made possible by my frozen shoulder which I could see as a bad thing but which increasingly I know to be necessary for me.  Necessary so that I could slow down and be. Necessary so that I could stop and listen. Necessary so that I can learn.

Life wants to be lived and healing families where alienation strikes is about untangling the past and letting life flow.  And where life flows, love goes and it is that love which heals the wounds that fear creates.

As recent reunifications have shown us, if we hold the alienating parent still and give them the opportunity for healing, put children in a situation where they can experience the full flow of love from the parent they have rejected and give the child permission, they will emerge, intact, with their hearts wide open.


Reunifications as described above, can only occur when the compulsion for change in the alienating parent is co-created by the mental health intervention supported by legal means. Parents who influence their children, either consciously or otherwise, will continue until they are prevented from doing so. This is why ‘therapy’ without the compulsions created by the court process, does not work. Love flows where the child is liberated but the child cannot be liberated through therapy alone. Whatever you read in this piece above, do not forget that our experience at the Family Separation Clinic, (where we are working with alienated children and their families daily) is based upon our use of therapeutic strategies which are combined with forensic analysis of generational trauma and the court process. Never let anyone tell you that therapy alone can heal this problem, it cannot. The problem is most often rooted in generations past and the behaviours seen in parents who cause this in children are complex and interwoven with the acting out of fear and control. To resolve it requires an understanding of the concentric circles within which the child is located and the courage to use the strongest compulsions for change. 




  1. I hope you heal quickly. Take care of yourself and get the right medical people to help. More importantly rest as much as you can.
    I’m in pain at the moment because I’m not with my children. I understand pain. I empathise and will keep in my thoughts and prayers.
    Dr Elizabeth Hersey


  2. Karen, we have seen my stepson (16) twice in the last year and a half. Late last year, his mother seemed to be encouraging him to reach out to my husband and she finally was able to get him past his refusal to come over to our house. His first visit was 2 hours long and it was after not seeing him for a full year, with the limited contact during that year being entirely hostile. When he came over, it was as if we were catching up after a 2 week absence. He was happy, polite, eager to please and when he left, he hugged my husband and said he loved him. They had contact almost every day after that, for a couple weeks, and he came over again and presented in the same manner as the first visit. That was 5 months ago and we are back to hostile, or no response to efforts to communicate. I’ve thought a lot about why he can so quickly change back and forth and have concluded that it must be related to where his mother needs to him to be. I don’t know whether to be sad or hopeful about it, but either way, it’s striking and strange.


    1. Ive experienced that many times over the years , will make some massive progress and we almost start to feel things are going to be ok , then out of nowhere my daughter retreats and we are back to square one.

      I have spent hundreds of hours pondering this and ,as Karen says , the alienating parent has very deep issues and when she feels loss of control of the child then they may need to snap them back.
      With the childs ultimate aim being survival they quickly revert back to the state that is safest in the alienators home, to reject the other parent and feed the alienating parents narcissism.

      All you can do is ignore it , i fell into the spiders web and the more you fight it the worse it is.
      I repeat mantra like how much i love my daughter , how much i care for her and how much i will always be there for her , how i think of her everyday etc.

      The alienating parent doesnt realise they have issues at all , you have issues and they are protecting “their” children from you.
      Its frustrating as i believe it could be reversed easily with a willingness from all parties , it would ultimately be life-changing for generations.

      Must add that i have zero certification on any of these matters , just my own judgements and views from experience and reading.
      People like Karen are pioneers in this field and invaluable to our future global society.


      1. Yes, we realize at this point there is nothing we can do except keep the door open for my stepson, communicate that periodically, and hope that as he grows up and becomes more independent, he begins to find his own sense of self. Last year, when his mother seemed to want him to come over, she gave my husband a long, pre-rehearsed speech about how she thought the boy needed a man in his life, and she wanted to go back to regular visitation, and she didn’t want to go to court … how she and my husband both “now had other people in their lives” and she was “done” with their conflict. It gave us a window into what goes on in her mind, since there had been no court for over a year, no communication of any kind that would indicate “conflict”. He had totally dropped the rope, but she evidently had not realized that. It was an interesting monologue that helped me understand where she comes from, most of which is not based in reality. I do believe that on some level, she wants my stepson to have a relationship with his father – sometimes. Of course, all that came of that was two visits and we are back to radio silence.

        Anyway, it’s a sad situation for my stepson – I imagine he will be alienated from his own children at some point in time, unless he begins to develop some self-awareness. Honestly, for us, it’s much more peaceful now that we are not dealing with that ongoing toxicity. Gives us time to heal and develop some perspective and keep an eye on the long-term rather than being caught up in fear and anger and unwinnable conflict.


  3. This just seems to confirm that alienators will tend to be people who have managed to “wrap their parents around their little finger” as children growing up, failing to receive the proper discipline needed. The court is simply acting as that ‘firm substitute parent’. Occasionally parents will continue to be highly defiant, I guess, but for the vast majority, I would imagine that this firmness, together with the therapeutic support, is all that is needed to turn things around.

    Even though the alienation may continue desperately for years otherwise, in fact the corrective measure seems remarkably straightforward. It suggests that we could deal with this huge problem relatively easily if only the political will was found to do so.


    1. I agree with most of your points but i suspect the one about “wrapping the parents around their little finger” may need further analysis
      My experience would suggest the child had dysfunctional parents , a total lack of pure love , they perhaps learned to manipulate to get “things” to substitute that need for love and acceptance but that would be tragic whereas your suggestion alludes to control which is quite the opposite in my belief.

      But yes , i agree with you and Karen , clear boundaries with therapy could turn things around for all involved if the motivation was there from all parties.


      1. Hi – yes, you’re quite right, that is the situation which I am describing. But we also need to recognize that all those within a family will quite naturally vie for control from the earliest time onward, and that is an extremely necessary process. What we are after, I believe – is a healthy and dynamic balance of control.

        However what often happens is that one member (usually a parent) oversteps the mark in some significant regard (abuse). Those affected, when children, are likely not be able to counter this at the time. However, a combination of the desire (a) to ‘get even’ (‘natural justice’), and (b) to prevent further abuse – will be profound. A reaction may start to build in the child. An abusive parent may start to compensate for their actions by weakening in certain areas (an element of guilt?) and the child may sometimes begin to be able take advantage of this.

        It is extremely likely that a pattern of behaviour involving unresolved anger and fear may be set in place in terms of desire for an ‘uneven balance of power’ – which transfers to future family environments.

        I think it almost certain that situations of parental alienation involve such trans-generational issues which need to be examined in a Family Therapy and/or Personal Therapy setting in order to stand any chance of being properly resolved. The overwhelming task is to get the individuals involved to accept such a situation, which of course they will be highly resistant to!


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