The Politics of Love and Hate

It has been another busy week at the Family Separation Clinic where we continue to deliver services for families affected by parental alienation.  This week I have been once again working with children affected by the problem, as well as thinking about new projects coming up which will keep us busy long into the new decade.

In the coming months our new book will be published, we will launch Parental Alienation Direct as a self help site for everyone affected by parental alienation, and we will be travelling to Prague with colleagues from 14 other EU countries, for the launch of the European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners.

On July 8th, I will be speaking at the Children’s Mental Health Centre conference ‘Too Much Pain’ where the groundbreaking film about adverse childhood experiences – Resilience – will be shown.  I cannot tell you how excited I am to see this film and to share with an audience concerned with children’s mental health, my understanding and experience of the devastation caused by parental alienation.  Climbing this mountain of understanding has been a project like no other, sharing the view close to the top is rapidly showing me how many more mountains there are left to climb in this range.

Working so closely with children can make me forget that the damage which is caused by parental alienation is not readily seen by others. It can also make me forget that not everyone shares my understanding and experience of this harm. It can also make me forget that what I have worked hard to understand and work with, is still challenged in terms of its reality by some.  Confronting this, (as I do when some oaf in Scotland pronounces that parental alienation does not exist), I am always amazed at how opposed some people can actually be. I am equally amazed to discover, as I did this week, that someone is so hostile towards me that they have taken the trouble to compile a thousand page document of my writing and turned it into a searchable database for those who wish to know my thoughts on Gingerbread, Liz Trinder, Feminism and more.  Whilst there is no need to wonder what drives this obsession, given my clear articulation of the problems these particular subjects cause in the lives of children,  the fact that out there are people who are so opposed to what I do that they would bother to do this AND construct their own potted imaginary history of my work to go with it, is a little out there. I am reminded again that the children that I work with are influenced by parents who are often extremely unwell. And that the negative transference which is drawn when one is carving out new routes which go against the current status quo, is very strong indeed.

Drawing negative transference from unwell parents is one thing, drawing negative transference from other practitioners is something entirely different and yet even those who work with separated families every day, project negative beliefs onto the work that I do.  As I find myself surrounded by the love me/hate me dynamic (an often used search term for this blog is ‘I hate Karen Woodall’), I realise that whilst I am busy at the source of the problem for children, all around me is an absolute war zone of conflicting opinions and feelings.  The psychologically split state in the child is mirrored at an adult level by parents and at a metal level by professionals. Those who ‘get it’ love the work that I do, those who do not, hate it.  Working in these concentric circles of psychological schisms and divisions can be somewhat unnerving at times.

In all this week then, I have realised that the raising to consciousness of the problem of parental alienation, is a long term task and that whilst we have had some real strides forward, the opposition remains and the project is really only just beginning.  As I begin the next phase of our work, starting with a series of launches of completed projects, I am looking ahead to the next round of consciousness raising with some excitement.  Next year we have something very big planned (more news of that in the coming weeks) and my work to understand and make visible the damage that parental alienation does to children will move at a much faster pace. Joining with others working in this field, we will shine an ever brighter light into the darkest places and show the world the harm that is being done to children, which is hidden under the prejudice and blinkered views of those who should be serving children and families better than they are now.

No doubt we will continue to be dogged by the obsessed, the opposed and the general oddballs who occupy this divided landscape, but we will plough on regardless.

If that someone who created that database would like to put their obsession to better use however, I could seriously use a good archivist!



25 thoughts on “The Politics of Love and Hate

    1. Susang I never cease to be amazed at how much people are triggered by the things I write and I forget that not everyone cares or understands in the same way, when these things happen it reminds me 🙂


  1. As an alienated parent, it is hard not to feel victimized sometimes. It is hard not to notice the blindness and ignorance of others around you to your unique plight. And some days it is hard, just so very hard, to keep fighting and hoping for a down-the-line positive outcome.

    And as I read your blog this morning, I realized that those same words could’ve just as easily come from you as you continue to fight so valiantly for me and my children, along with all alienated children and families. I can only imagine how many times you’ve considered taking an easier path.

    Please know that I am so personally grateful for your work. I found your blog at a time when I felt so desperately alone, as if no one in the world understood the trauma my children and I were going through. I myself didn’t quite understand it. And suddenly there you were, a treasure trove of information, understanding, personal experience, science-based explanations, and invaluable advice. I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t crazy for believing that something horrific was happening, though most said “it’s a phase… it will be fine… just give them space… they’ll come around… use the time to go out and have fun…” and other dismissive statements that trivialize the situation and show a complete lack of understanding of how deeply dysfunctional the situation is and the big-picture damage it is causing my children even though those who see them with their father report back that they seem happy.

    You not only “get it” but you have dedicated your time and energy to helping others get it. Others who matter, and who can effect real change around the world. But in doing so, in putting yourself out there, you face adversaries at nearly every turn. I wish that wasn’t the case. I wish your words rang as true to all others as they do to those of us who know because we’re living through it. I imagine that alienated parents familiar with you feel the same way about you as PTSD survivors felt about professionals who refused to hear that it was “just stress” and who didn’t stop fighting until it was given proper widespread recognition, validation, and resources.

    This is my long-winded way of saying thank you. I see you. I hear you. I appreciate you. And I am so grateful for your willingness to keep fighting despite those who throw up obstacles of opposition, scorn, hatred, ridicule, and attempts to discredit you. And I am just one among many, worldwide, who feel that way. On behalf of us all: thank you!!!!


    1. Thank you Higbye I really do appreciate you taking the time to write this. The longer I do this work the more I truly truly understand what an insane world all rejected parents are forced to live in and what an insane world children are forced into and how the insanity drags professionals into the mud as well as everyone who comes close to the whirling vortex of madness that comes with this territory. The more I do this work the more I understand the madness and the more I know I need to articulate it for all the children and parents and wider family who suffer so badly from it. Thank you for taking the time to write, it means such a lot to me in the midst of all the attacks that come my way. And all because I care about kids! I mean who would think that caring so much about children would cause such uproar! x

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have two friends, both academics although in two very different areas. Each brought out new scientific research papers in their respective area, Both astonished at how voraciously a few people apposed the work. Personal and hurtful criticism included that left both at the time feeling pretty puzzled and confused. This happened a few years ago yet today both research ended up highly valued and are the definitive understanding in those areas within their professions.

    Generating ‘noise’ maybe shouldn’t be looked on negatively, instead simply a positive indicator when bringing understanding into the world? More power to your elbow Karen.


  3. Yes. It can be so easy to be put off by criticism, and yet without criticism little would change. We would all go on believing our own experience to be truer, more poignant, more appropriate to an ever-wider audience.

    No. What really hurts is the anger, the dismissiveness, the condemnation that threatens like an unwanted trial painfully and irritatingly slowing me down.

    If I can escape for one minute from what upsets me so much, I will try to be objective and find some sense and relevance in what you say. That is the relevance to this world which I see through my eyes. If I see your hurt, then in time I shall forgive you. If I see your logic then I will follow your thread, treading in your shoes, and be kind in my response, relegating your anger to a measured and kindly reply, a simple exchange.


  4. I am saddened to hear of the personal and professional attacks you are having to bear Karen. It seems you are like Marmite! Keep strong.

    I’m left wondering about the reasons behind the decision made by some to disbelieve PA. Why they feel/think this way. It would be enlightening to hear their rationale. Only then can their argument be broken down with actual concrete evidence, the most powerful of course coming from those who have ‘lived it from the inside’…..theirs is the most powerful authentic voice, direct from source, not via a third party. It seems to me that it is their voice that needs now to be enabled, their voice which needs now to be heard directly, their voice which alone can truly reveal what it is to live through the experience of PA, how it affected them, how it still affects them etc. An Advocate’s voice can be powerful, but the ultimate powerful voice lies in the hands of the alienated children themselves, whether still children/young people or now adults. I, for one, want to hear them, to listen with respect and compassion for the pain they have suffered.

    One day I hope I will have the chance to hear my own child(ren) speak of their own true life experience of PA. Until then I keep on ‘loving into the void’, hoping one day my love will break through the walls that divide us.


    1. There are many reasons why people want to discredit the idea of parental alienation, the biggest being the feminist project to ensure that women’s rights and needs come first in family breakdown. This was part of the feminist project in second wave feminism and it continues to this day. Most people think that feminism is benign and about equality, underneath however, feminism is about promoting women’s rights over those of men and children and about destroying the idea of the family which is seen as the hotbed of abuse by men of women and children. Most feminists or those who believe in feminism would not recognise this as an aim but they are largely not aware of the way in which feminism took hold of family policy and practice in the seventies and eighties. The family as an institution in which to bring up children was attacked from the seventies onwards, most people if asked will say this was a good thing, but was it? As men were made to modernise themselves by women who demanded they change, women went on to take control of all areas of social policy which is concerned with women and children, leaving men largely out of the picture or, if including them, ensuring they had very little power at all. This has led to two decades of men being disposable. I have written reams about this elsewhere on the blog (2010 -2013 mostly from when I was involved in government steering groups to change social policy – all largely thwarted by the women’s rights lobby groups). I don’t think I want to go back to writing about this anymore so to read more best to go back over the blog and read about my journey out of feminist doctrine. K


      1. Thanks for this reply Karen….. my knowledge of hardline feminism is limited… own innocent view was that it was about ‘equality’ not dominance!


      2. Hi Karen, thinking further on this idea of there being a set of people who “….want to discredit the idea of PA”, I’m wondering how, and on what basis, do they “discredit ” the survival psychological reaction of children to pa (ie rejection of one parent) that you have written of often in your blog (and witnessed first hand)? Do they think this is nonsense? Is this psychological explanation still seen as controversial?


      3. it largely depends on where you are in the world SS. In Romania and Brazil it has been criminalised. In Europe it is an emerging psychological issue which is becoming recognised. In the US it is argued about and in Canada and Australia there are campaigns to raise the profile and acceptance at varied levels. In the UK in London and surround it is accepted in the family courts, the further out from London the less likely that is to be true but in places where cases are actively being worked it is increasing in its profile. Like all emerging knowledge, it takes people to prove something through research and demonstration of practice. The concept of psychological splitting however is very much recognised and increasingly so. So it depends really and it all has to be set in context of knowledge and beliefs and dominant practices.


      4. Thanks Karen for reply. You say that “The concept of psychological splitting however is very much recognised and increasingly so”……leading me to ask if those who believe PA doesn’t exist etc therefore deny this “psychological splitting” happens to children in families? If so, on what basis do they do this? In the fight for PA recognition it would seem important to understand how and why there is resistance to accepting the psychological splitting, of which you have written frequently and eloquently. Understanding and accepting the psychological splitting has been fundamental to my learning to live with my child(ren)’s alienation. That there are those who would say I am wrong/misled to do so is upsetting and bewildering.


  5. An insane world it truly is. And you are working with the toughest of opponents, alienating parents who are masters at convincing the world they aren’t abusers…but to rescue the most precious of things…an innocent childhood.

    Your work is ground-breaking, so it upsets people who are happy with the status quo – alienating parents & professionals too, for so many people are scared of change.

    But there is no choice. And I hope you have hundreds & thousands of people following in your footsteps in due course, and only then will you appreciate what legacy you have created.

    Thank you for starting this work, Karen. The hardest path to take is the one least trod.


  6. I have been reading here for quite a while, and just wanted to weigh in with my own heartfelt Thanks! for all you do. I can understand the pushback you get, both from parents and professionals. Just look at the polarity caused by Gardner trying to define this evil…

    I think the acceptance of PA goes against those who battle so strongly against shared parenting, and there are clearly many in that camp.

    While I suffer the loss of my two daughters, I also realize the alienation is a perverted “solution” for their cognitive dissonance, as well as a pseudo salve for their disordered mother. So even in this one case, there exist conflicting views. I believe it was Childress who talked about the “schemas” that a disordered person uses to process input. I think those filters are what causes your brilliant and caring words to be interpreted as something other.

    Again, thank you. Very much.


    1. Thank you Peter, I really appreciate you taking the time to write. I think I need to keep on reminding myself about what Gardner faced in his work which of course I am aware of but forget. When I am so close to children who have suffered in this way I forget that others do not see what I see. You are right about schemas, one of which is that their world is normal and everyone else’s is not, a complete reversal of reality. You are so right about the perverted solution too – it is in so many cases the only solution a child can find to what is a terrible dilemma to be in – how does a child continue to love someone who is hated by the parent they mostly live with, it is an almost impossible position for a child to be and the splitting reaction is the only way a child can resolve it in so many cases. My view is that if we are going to help alienated children we had best properly remove them from the disordered parent and resolve that dilemma for them so that they no longer have to suffer it. I am really grateful for your comment Peter. Thank you for taking the trouble to write it. K


      1. Quoting frim Karen’s reply to Peter above “…about the perverted solution too – it is in so many cases the only solution a child can find to what is a terrible dilemma to be in – how does a child continue to love someone who is hated by the parent they mostly live with, it is an almost impossible position for a child to be and the splitting reaction is the only way a child can resolve it in so many cases.”

        Karen, for those who refuse to acknowledge this, what is their argument (s)/reasoning? Having accepted your words on this subject through this Blog (which have helped me manage the position I find myself in) I’m left puzzled that there appears to be a body of professionals (and lay people) who do not accept this psychological reaction. Can you offer any explanation? Hoping you will take the time to respond to me on this. Many thanks.


      2. how does a child continue to love someone who is hated by the parent

        Exactly, and in my eldest grandson’s case he has obliterated his father from his life. ‘The worst dad ever’. My youngest grandson is still hanging in there, but there are times when we can see the strain he is under. When my son was involved in a road traffic accident recently, he approached the stepfather at pick up time to let him know the situation. Stepfather refused to wind down his car window during the conversation, witnessed by my grandson. Now at pick up time at my house, stepfather parks halfway up the road instead of coming to the door. This leaves my youngest grandson agitated and invariably he asks his dad to go and leave him on the path before stepfather arrives. This is the type of hostile behaviour which they see as perfectly acceptable because they dont wish to converse with my son, but they have little comprehension of the effect it is having on my grandson.


  7. Karen,

    Sticking on the same subject, this is one of many articles that discuss the challenges that Gardner faced:

    The passage that sums it up for me is “The memory of mental health and legal advocates, leading professionals in their fields, having the stage at a major international conference, and openly throwing groundless dispersions and laughing at the death of a colleague has never left me, obviously; and, I hope it never does since their unforgivable behavior is ever so typical of those whose careers are lavishly financed by a hate movement, radical feminism.”

    You have recently commented on the professional push-back you have received from those with differing viewpoints. I believe this is indicative of your widening influence, and I am afraid it will probably continue – but trust that it is success-based.

    Again, thank you. I “found” you by a circuitous route – a chance encounter with a Dutch father (I’m in the US) on the bpdfamily board, we both with severe alienation trauma in our families. He pointed me to your site, and I have been reading and absorbing ever since.


  8. You and I

    Today a court took away my daughter.
    Lifted her from my red full womb, pulling and tugging her from my fleshy belly and then- we were two,
    He read your name and I was empty then.

    Today, a man smiles as he signed the paper, filled the blank white space with clinical precision and with no emotion held the flat sheet up.
    It fluttered like an iridescent hover-fly as it flashed before my eyes, full technicolor and then back to the piercing empty white.

    Today, I watched him closely as echoing thuds of blood banged to the contrapuntal rhythm of my disbelief.
    Staring with unblinking eyes as my Inner screams rebounded off these very public walls.

    The name I gave you then, the name I searched so hard for, waiting patiently for you to come, is carried to the cold hard scales that weigh our pain, my pain and yours – together.

    And now, with the piercing scream that accompanies birth and death, it hits me hard, not the greens and the mask of the delivery suite where I gave you life, that cold December day -filled with joy, whilst Christmas lights twinkled brightly, strobing through the window, in that room where you lay – swaddled tight.

    Back then, I stared in awe at the beauty captured by the arc of your cherubic lips, I kissed them softly with a mother’s kiss and placed you gently in your cot to sleep.

    And now, just 12 years on, I can only watch, whilst he, shrouded in his darker suit from some blacker distance, haloed with the pain and disbelief that prescribes our darker, blacker future, pulls you from me.
    And now – with a heart that’s beating faster, I feel that constant yank, yank of our umbilical – sever –
    and he pulls you from me….

    Today, I sit facing forwards looking backwards at a world of lies.
    Today, I had no voice,
    hard facts like fragments of sharp boiled sweets stuck in my bitter throat…and he pulls you from me…

    He pulls you…


  9. First of all as an affected *parent* I applaud your work, and the fact that you are active in ‘getting the message out there’ instead of only working diligently behind the scences. The only way PA will be accepted is when professionals like you and others bring it into the public arena.


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