The Peculiar Task of Learning to Live with Two Parents in One Body

This week I continue my focus on children in recovery from alienation. This is a different aspect of the work that I do and one which I have recently been immersed in having helped a number of children to move from living with one parent to living with the other.  This means that I have been able to focus upon the ways in which children recover from alienation as well as actively help to bring about the emergence from the alienated state of mind.

Children who are alienated live with only one parent inside of themselves. This is an odd statement so let me explain what I mean.  As a psychotherapist I am focused always upon understanding the felt sense of the lives that  that children live. The felt sense being that intrapsychic and internalised world of feelings which children are submerged within.  Children are not adults.  Therefore there is a vast difference between the felt sense of children and the felt sense of adults.  (When I talk about adults here, I am talking about adults who have achieved a sense of independence and a sense of individuated self which they can experience as being their own personality.  There are some adults who cannot experience themselves as separate individuals, these people experience their internalised world as being submerged with or indistinct from the world of their children or other people or somethings things or places or feelings which they cannot understand. These people are those we would say have a psychological issue or a personality disorder).

Generally speaking then, children experience world in a vast and unboundaried way when they are young and as they grow older they learn to differentiate between ‘me and you’, ‘here and there’,  ‘before and after’ and so on. Gradually, the edges of their felt sense begin to sharpen and children begin to be able to define and experience inside of themselves, the difference between what I feel and what you feel.  Gradually children learn that the world of feelings can be managed and shaped and differentiated. As they grow, children no longer become overwhelmed by their feelings and no longer spend their time using their feelings to manage the world around them. They become used to translating their feelings into words instead and communicating with other, separate individuals, who may have feelings similar to or different to their own.

All of this however, occurs in the relationship with people around them and if the child is in good healthy relationships, with adults who are differentiated and aware of their own sense of self, they will begin the process of shaping their own sense of self within their own personal boundaries. If they are not in relationship with healthy adults however, or, if one emotionally unhealthy adult gains power and influence over them, their capacity for differentiation of their own sovereign sense of self is lost. These are the children who float in a soundless, boundless sea of emotional reaction. These are the children who become easily alienated. These are the children who do not ever gain the capacity to define and shape the internalised world which brings the developing self to the fore.

When we work with alienated children we experience the internal splitting off and externalisation of negativity onto the rejected parent. At once the child shuts the image of the parent they are splitting off into a box in the mind whilst simultaneously projecting hatred onto the thought of that person in the external world. And I say thought of that person for a purpose, because severely alienated children will project so much hatred onto their thoughts of the rejected parent that they will seek to silence anyone who even brings the thought into their conscious mind.  When the alienation is complete, the child has therefore accomplished two extremely difficult psychological tasks, they have split off an internalised object (the relationship they once had with a loved parent) and denied it to the degree where it is repressed into the unconscious and they have projected so much hatred and negativity onto it that they can no longer bear it being brought out of the box in their minds to be examined.  Using objects relations theory we would say that they have created a defence mechanism against the impossible position they are in when they are being pressured by a parent’s negativity about the other parent (both internalised objects in the child’s felt sense of the world).  By splitting off one object and putting it into a box in the mind, piling on a whole lot more negativity and hatred and then shutting the box tight for good, the child hopes to resolve the dilemma of not being able to love two parents in one body.  When this psychological work is complete, the child then experiences only the one parent in the one body in the form of that parent as an internalised object in their felt sense of the world.  Think of the child as one of those dolls which have smaller and smaller dolls inside them. In a healthy child the two dolls inside will be representative of the two parents, they will each bear the felt sense or feelings the child has about the parent or the feelings which the parent evokes in the child. In alienation, the child puts one of these dolls into a black box and shuts the lid. If they are left without help, the black box with the shut tight lid, lives in the unconscious world of the child until the psychological development of the child disturbs the box and it opens. When it does, out come the butterflies and moths, the feelings both good and bad that the child has shut away.  The child who has grown older without help to open the box, can become overwhelmed by the guilt and the shame of the knowledge that they took part in the wilful attempt at murder and repression of one of the two parents which lived in their psyche.

Children who have one parent introjected (experienced inside) which they are conscious of and which they project all good things upon and the other which is denied, split off and repressed,  do not know that they have two parents inside one body and do not know as a result that they have two sides to their selves. This is a difficult scenario for a child who then encounters the reality that there are two parents in the one body, two objects they must relate to in the internalised (felt sense) world.  This is why resolving the split off state of mind, the body in the box dilemma as I think of it, is so important.  Confronting the body in the box (who is thankfully still alive) is an enormous task if it is found spontaneously (which happens when young people’s brains grow to be able to hold perspective). Suddenly the splitting off of a parent seems faintly ridiculous or surprising or just plain weird. Conversely it feels overwhelmingly shameful and impossible to ever put right.  When the mind swings into trying to find perspective, living with two parents internalised in one body becomes an incredible struggle as children try to find out which one was right all along and which one was wrong.

And therein lies the absolute nub of the problem that faces children who have been alienated, they have not learned that both parents can be people who do good things sometimes and bad things sometimes.  Arrested in their development (or more realistically speaking regressed in their development), these children live in  good/ bad worlds. Finding out that they have two internalised objects internalised not one, can be a terrifying thing for these children who often spend a lot of time trying to externalise one of the objects in order to put it into a box again.  This is the scenario of children counter rejecting, if one parent caused them to hate the parent who has just reappeared then that parent, not the previously repressed and split off parent must be bad.  The peculiar task for alienated children is that of learning to relate to two people outside of themselves when they have only been used relating to one inside.  Finding the second parent is still intact when they spring out of the box is a relief to a child but preventing them from putting the other into the same box is a delicate task which requires focused attention and time.

Which is why alienating a child is abusive. Not because this is a contact problem in which the child is not seeing a parent but because it is a mental health problem which can take some time to rectify.  Whilst it is relatively easy to spring open the box for the child either by confrontation with the split off object (rejected parent) by force or by stealth, stopping the child from shovelling the other parent into the box instead is a real therapeutic task which requires patience and skill.  Helping the child with the peculiar task of relating to two parents inside the one body is about knowing about how a child’s mind works, how it recovers and what it needs in order to find and maintain balance over time.

The more I know about what it takes for children to recover from what has been done to them the more I know that alienation cannot continue to be ignored.

One day children will not be asked to murder one parent and put them in a box and hide them away in their minds in order to survive. One day, more of us will know how damaging that is and prevention rather than cure will be what we are really interested in.

Until then,  we press on.

21 Comments

  1. Karen you have no idea how much you are helping me understand what has happened to my son.   I have not seen him in 19 yrs. Thank you soo very much for your work!! I read ALL you write intently. You are a GIFT to this world!! Love  Thank you!  Thank you!!! Bobi ( I am also RoBobi on  instagram) San Ramon California

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so sorry you haven’t see your son in years. I am working on the same. I have a beautiful son and daughter I haven’t seen in 7 years, as well as two grandchildren. I will pray for healing for your family.

      Like

  2. Another excellent reflection on the effect parental and cohort family alienation can have on the life of such a “psychologically raped” child.. To comment that it is an abuse is such an understatement. The Mexican State Legislature have equated this as a serious criminal offence. It seems that the child psychology and psychiatric fraternity-cohort in Mexico have provided immeasurable empirical evidence to declare such a criminal act is of the highest order with prison sentences of up to 15 years, equivalent to mafia levels of extortion in relation with international drug dealing with attempted murder and murder in the second degree!.
    I wonder when the UK in particular the legislature in England and Wales will recognise this. Currently they are turning a blind, colluding, and corruptive eye from the perjury of local authority representatives and officers for the Court, to, sadly as provided by Court transcripts in many cases, Courts themselves. But for how much longer and how many more millions of children and families are to be effective but criminals perpetrating such psychopathy.
    Samaritan work has become much more hurtfully interesting over the last years especially here in Cornwall where sadly the levels of suicide in young men under 40 years of age is the highest in the UK and up to 20% of these are duet to our inability to promote the necessary legislation enacted on alienation as is the case not only in Mexico but also Brazil and Italy.

    Like

      1. …”despite a little pressure”……Oh dear how wrong you are going to be when the factual information which is being released to the national media now and over the next twelve months, owing to the irresponsible debacle this current Parliament is enmeshing itself in promoting such abuse against our children 4 million since 1989 (ONS 2014). And please don’t anachronise the fictional incompetence of those supposedly in which we trust to provide their assumptive “evidence”
        In Latin American nations where they have a responsible relationship for the best interest of their children, the act of alienation is deemed a criminal deed as it is a serious psychological abuse of the highest order perpetrated by persons whom are now recognised by the most revered child psychologists and psychiatrists are suffering from DSM 5 psychoses. This is the reason why such nations, including Mexico have criminalised such psychopaths for up to 15 years as they recognise the crime which is perpetrated against children and is a hideous and nefarious act of psychophilia ( a perversion of the mind and is equivalent to paedophilia) and murder in the second degree.
        The laws in England and Wales believe that children are allowed and with joyful glee to perpetrate this criminal act to 4 million children (since 1989, ONS 2014) within the chronology of the “devils act of defamation against children”, the Children’s Act 1989, (specifically Section 8) which allows children to be tortured into making false declaration not out of their own doing because of the criminal mind of those who rape their minds of love and engagement they once enjoyed with their alienated all parents and close cohort family.
        We of Amazing Grace 2015, do challenge anyone of those who wish to perpetrate such an atrocity against any child and should be arrested by HM Constabulary for colluding with those who promote others who actually alienate. We do not accept that Cafcass nor Children Services have the authority to determine those who alienate and as such we wish for those who are professional psychiatrist to investigate every child who has deemed themselves by their family to have been mentally tortured to hate and for them to be provided with the requisite support and love including a transfer with immediate effect the custody to their non-alienating family. We believe that unless a parent or family cohort member has a criminal conviction of child abuse the assumption of parity of responsible parenting has to be a right as in those countries aforementioned and Italy, and any person enacting such alienation has to be committed for investigation for criminal procedures by the CPS for appropriate action.
        In Latin American nations where they have a responsible relationship for the best interest of their children, the act of alienation is deemed a criminal deed as it is a serious psychological abuse of the highest order perpetrated by persons whom are now recognised by the most revered child psychologists and psychiatrists are suffering from DSM 5 psychoses. This is the reason why such nations, including Mexico have criminalised such psychopaths for up to 15 years as they recognise the crime which is perpetrated against children and is a hideous and nefarious act of psychophilia ( a perversion of the mind and is equivalent to paedophilia) and murder in the second degree.
        The laws in England and Wales believe that children are allowed and with joyful glee to perpetrate this criminal act to 4 million children (since 1989, ONS 2014) within the chronology of the “devils act of defamation against children”, the Children’s Act 1989, (specifically Section 8) which allows children to be tortured into making false declaration not out of their own doing because of the criminal mind of those who rape their minds of love and engagement they once enjoyed with their alienated all parents and close cohort family.
        We of Amazing Grace 2015, do challenge anyone of those who wish to perpetrate such an atrocity against any child and should be arrested by HM Constabulary for colluding with those who promote others who actually alienate. We do not accept that Cafcass nor Children Services have the authority to determine those who alienate and as such we wish for those who are professional psychiatrist to investigate every child who has deemed themselves by their family to have been mentally tortured to hate and for them to be provided with the requisite support and love including a transfer with immediate effect the custody to their non-alienating family. We believe that unless a parent or family cohort member has a criminal conviction of child abuse the assumption of parity of responsible parenting has to be a right as in those countries aforementioned and Italy, and any person enacting such alienation has to be committed for investigation for criminal procedures by the CPS for appropriate action.
        Irrespective of the current justice department’s declaration, I would request that you return to the summary made by the then Rt Hon Ken Clarke, Secretary of State for Justice which he declared in his summary statement to the Family Justice Review in November 2011; he got it right as he is not one of the 91% rabid feminist politicians who hates families.
        Irrespective of the current justice department’s declaration, I would request that you return to the summary Rt Hon Ken Clarke Secretary of State for Justice declared in his summary statement to the Family Justice Review in November 2011; he got it right as he is not one of the 91% rabid feminist politicians who hates families. Times are now changing; I suggest you investigate the legal protocol of how the Mexican legislature made legislation to criminalise alienation.

        Like

      2. I think you may have misunderstood my intentions.

        As an alienated parent of a daughter in her late teens there is nothing more I should like to see than a law in place to prevent this awful situation from occurring.

        My comment was related to this petition for which I received the government’s reply a couple of days ago. I was disgusted.

        I would like nothing more than to see the alienating parent punished for the abuse administered to both of our children over the last five years. As Willow says, there is so much work to do and I follow Karen closely.

        I have two close friends working in the courts to support alienated parents on a daily basis and I know the challenges facing them.

        But for the level of aggression I felt in your post I am in agreement.
        Best wishes.

        Like

      3. Signed. Sadly there are not enough of us to force parliament into seeing this for the problem that it is but Karen and others like her have made an important start. Someone has to start somewhere.

        Like

  3. An amazing article.

    And Bobi, 19 years. Such a long, long time. If I have 19 years left I really will be an old, old lady. I am thinking of stopping all attempts to keep in touch with my 36 year old daughter. I only send birthday cards as it is but it all seems so very pointless. There is a part of me that thinks if I stop even that, there will never be a chink of light if she ever wants to reconnect. But most of me thinks that she will never contact me so why do I keep sending anything at all? She has made it perfectly clear that she never wants to see me again and, after my sister contacted her at Xmas because my dad (her grandfather) was very ill she replied : “The fact remains that some relationships are just not healthy for either party and unfortunately that will never change. I wish you all the best for the future and as I said earlier my intention was never to hurt grandpa and rest assured I will not be in contact again.” She made herself perfectly clear.

    Like

    1. I am just thinking holistically if we acted as Mexico, Brazil and Italy do on anti alienation legislation your life would be so wonderful with 100s million others in our world.

      Like

  4. There is a lot to take in here.

    Richard Warshak talks about the importance of nurturing critical thinking in children as a protection against alienation. I encouraged my daughter to think for herself, to ask constructive questions, because these are good skills to have in life. I wasn’t planning ahead against parental alienation – who does? I hardly knew what it was – but I could sense that there would soon be trouble, including separation and probable contact difficulties. When she was four or five we had some interesting discussions about good and bad characters in books or in real life. She would ask if someone (on one occasion, the government) was good or bad and I would say, well, maybe sometimes good, sometimes bad, and try to give examples. Perhaps this helped to protect her from going too deeply into alienation when the court proceedings were escalating conflict, I had little or no contact, and she was under strong pressure from her mother (and, shamefully, from the CAFCASS officer) to reject me.

    Now I am ‘out of the box’ again and have some small presence in our daughter’s life, but her mother still has control over her and makes no secret of her contempt for me. On a recent visit, I sat talking with our daughter, while her mother sat next to her chatting with a friend on her mobile, having face time, pointing the phone at me and mocking my appearance to her friend. Our daughter (she is now 11) pointedly ignored this and listened to me. A good sign. On another occasion I was reading her the Benjamin Zephaniah poem “I love me mudder”, and when I read her the line, “She shout at me daddy so hard some time,” I saw her flinch (the poem portrays the mother sympathetically on the whole, loving but tough and resourceful).

    I am careful not get into conflict with mother in her presence, but our daughter knows that her parents stand for two radically incompatible versions of reality. In one, I am a dangerous, abusive man, whom the court has rightly refused the right of contact (except I have got a toehold again, because mother needs money and other help sometimes). In the other, I am a loving father who has been wrongly shut out. How is she to reconcile the two? I can’t ask her to reject her own mother (counter-rejection, ‘shovelling her into the box’, in your words). It’s not possible at present, but nor would it be right if I could. But there is no question of me ever assenting to the ‘truth’ of allegations that are both very serious and completely false. For her part, mother cannot back down from them without being revealed as a cruel and controlling fraud. Our daughter knows what those allegations are, because she was coached to make them.

    For the time being, I make the most of what contact opportunities I have, like someone visiting a relative who lives under a totalitarian regime. I gave her a picture book for older children by Peter Sis, ‘The Wall’, in which he depicts his childhood in communist Czechoslovakia and how at first he believed the state propaganda, and how his parents were too scared to contradict it, as the authorities encouraged children to denounce their parents (just as the CAFCASS officer helped her to draw up the allegations to present to the court). Gradually news gets in from outside, from the West, and young Peter and his friends realise that the regime is lying to them, but to resist is to face severe reprisals. That is the situation our daughter is in, and I support her as best I can. Is there anything else I can do to help her?

    Like

    1. My ex dil also makes no secret of the contempt she has for my son. She also portrays herself as ‘a good mum who wouldn’t force her children to do anything they didn’t want to do’. She has said that in her opinion, my grandson does not get any benefit when he is with his dad.

      Even simple things, such as when my son queried why my grandson had not had a meal during a school day as he had no money, my grandson responded by saying, well don’t blame mum she gives me £10. Not a lot really for meals to cover four school days. Or maybe mum is right in saying once the dinner money is spent then no more will be provided. When there is no communication between the parents, these simple things are never discussed and put right where necessary.

      It is possible that she also portray herself as a victim and tells the children that dad always blames her.
      Whatever it is, her refusal to co-parent cannot possibly be in the best interests of the children.

      Like

  5. I think we need a specialised team of chop slappers to visit hardened alienated adult children. Pneumatic tools maybe required to penetrate layers of rock formation and hard hads for inevitable chunks that will fly, possibly kevlar vests too. We’ll need a licence like 007.

    “Hi, im Carl, Carl James, Gov Agent, Guess what me lovely, im with you now forever, at home, at work, at the theatre, at the pub, wherever you are, you better get used to me…i can, and i will, be there. You have work to do of the most importance, by Royal Order.”

    “Wtf..”

    “Fantastic, i can see we’re going to get along fine, this is going to be fun, school had little impact on you obviously, you lucky lucky boy. What were you, ahem, we thinking of doing tonight, are we off to your girlfreinds?”

    “OK, just tell me, what the fuck have i got to do to get rid of you, i’ll do it.”

    “Thats a boy, you speak fluent bollocks too and understand perfectly, and know i dont need to tell you what you need to do, you already know.”

    “Fuck”

    “Suck it up butter cup, your life is going to be better than you imagined, with a little help, dealing with this shit isnt easy, can you kindly stop throwing furniture at me, thank you.”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Transgenerational Alienationbusters. Never in the history of humanity and football have so many been United by so few. I think a few ought to have a HQ at S2 4SU and attack helicopters, tinsley viaduct can be murder getting on the M1.

    Like

  7. Looking back at my marriage to a narcissist, I helped train my children NOT to think for themselves. They saw how he would say I was a terrible cook, I didn’t keep the house clean enough, or I didn’t get the pool cleaned in time. All that added to their thinking, after I left. The way I was raised with an abusive parent, and being a child, I learned to “shut up and just say yes.” There were signs, but I didn’t know how to fight it. One day I just said, “f” this! He noticed my new attitude. I just got rid of the fear. I didn’t think he would kill me, and he didn’t. But when I did leave, my children were fodder. It was another version of “if I can’t have you, then no one else can”, only the victims were my children, equally fed by the new wife! They double teamed me, and eventually, they came out on top.
    No, don’t worry, I don’t blame myself, I just realize that it will be difficult, if not impossible for them to ever think for themselves.
    Staying for the sake of the children is a lie straight from Hell itself!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s