One of the biggest tasks for a rejected parent is learning how to stay sane in a space which appears conflicted but which in reality is filled to the brim with the machinations of the influencing parent. Staying out of this space can be extraordinarily difficult, especially when onlookers repeatedly assume and assert that the problems seen are about conflict between two people, when in actual fact the conflicted space is created by attacks from the influencing parent.
The attacks from the influencing or alienating parent, are designed to draw the rejected parent into the conflict but they are made to seem as if they are responses to something that the rejected parent is doing. In reality, the only thing the rejected parent is doing is existing and by existing, is challenging the reality which the alienating parent is creating for the children. Drawing the rejected parent into the conflict in order to ‘prove’ how bad that parent is to the children, is a key goal for alienating parents.
When the alienating parent is making assertions and creating a false reality for children, it is very important that the rejected parent remains calm and outside of this dynamic. Rejected parents who find themselves drawn into the conflict, perhaps by attempting to defend themselves, will soon discover that their efforts are wasted as the alienating parent twists and distorts the reality further, using the efforts that the rejected parent has made to defend themselves, to further build the evidence base for their false reality.
Alienating parents will assert that they know the truth about what is happening and that they and only they can tell what their children are thinking and feeling. They will tell others that the silence of the rejected parent is because they are guilty of the wide range of accusations which have been made against them and they will offer ‘proof’ in the shape of their formulations and opinions about the reasons why the rejection of a parent is justified.
Rejected parents in the face of all this must remain calm and collected and completely outside of the whirlpool which is the conflicted space which appears to the outside world. When you do you will find yourself able to cope and think and strategise, which is what your children need you to do most as their healthy parent.
Alienating parents can be consciously alienating or unconsciously alienating, the difference being that the first is a deliberate strategy to eradicate you and the second arises from the patterns of behaviour which have arisen in the decompensation (break down of defences) which is a reaction to the crisis of family separation. Working out whether the parent is doing this deliberately as an ongoing pattern of aggressive and coercive control (in my experience most often seen used by alienating fathers) or unconsciously as a response to the breakdown of the defences which allow the hidden personality issues to break through and take control (in my experience most often seen in alienating mothers). In truth, the impact of either of these patterns is the same, the children become terrorised by the behaviour of the parent who has most control and become afraid to go against the covert wishes which are being conveyed in the intra-psychic world (the communications between children and parents which are unspoken but nevertheless powerfully influencing).
Children in these circumstances become like little robots, following their leader slavishly and worshipping everything their leader says to them as if it were the only truth which exists in the world. There is a reason why we use the term ‘brain washing’ when we talk about parental alienation, it is because the behaviours of the children mimic the behaviours seen in cults. When we look closer at how an alienator alienates, it becomes easy to understand how this happens.
An alienator alienates using exactly the same process as a cult leader. It goes like this.
1. Take a vulnerable person who has been hurt and harmed and who feels misunderstood, or a vulnerable person without much power and tell them that they have been hurt and harmed and misunderstood.
2. Reflect to that person your deep understanding of their hurt and harm and show them that they are understood.
3. Love bomb them with lots and lots of understanding and care, share knowledge and help that person to feel that there IS an answer to their suffering.
4. Focus upon the ‘truth’ which only the cult leader possesses and instruct the person regularly on how this truth will set them free.
5. Strip the person of all of their connections to others in the world with different perspectives.
6. Tell the person that the outside world is harmful and does not understand them and will only ever wish to hurt them.
7. Instruct the person regularly on how to think and act and then eventually, prepare them to go out into the world to spread the word that the cult leader is the person who holds ‘the truth’ in their hands.
8. Punish detractors who think for themselves with vengeful attack and shunning.
9. Love bomb the followers to keep them in line.
10. Use the followers as conduits to proselytise on behalf of the cult leader.
Alienating people is as easy as ABC when one knows how. Many have done it to their children, others have done it to adults with catastrophic consequences (think Charles Manson). As a rejected parent who is hurt and harmed and misunderstood by the outside world, you are vulnerable to being preyed upon. Keep that in mind first in order to stay sane in the conflicted space.
This is your life and your children are being influenced in a situation which is unique to them. Taking your situation into your own hands and applying the knowledge and self understanding that comes with taking control of what happens to you, it becomes easier, much much easier to stay on track with a strategy for creating change. Even if all you do is come to a place where you recognise that for now there is not much else that you can do, your sanity and your self awareness are the most precious things you can carry forward in life. You need to be sane and safe and well because the alienating parent is not and your children, in order to get through this, need at least one healthy parent to show them the way.
The checklist for staying sane looks like this –
1. Understand the way in which your children were alienated by their other parent, know it clearly.
2. Understand the power you have and the power you do not currently have.
3. Work out whether you can obtain more power, if you can, use it, if you cannot, wait.
4. Observe what is happening. Make sure your children know you are still there.
5. Choose your battles wisely. Do not randomly respond to any attack from the other parent, even if lies are being told. Think carefully about every response you make.
6. When you do respond. Observe the reaction, this tells you much about the personality of the other parent and how you must adapt your behaviours to manage this.
7. Keep signalling to the children that you are still there.
8. Remind yourself that being healthy and well is the right way forward.
9. Do not be seduced by people who seek to sell you off the peg quick fixes to your problem.
10. Remember, this is your life and these are your children, choose wisely who you trust to guide you through this.
Parents who have reunited with their children will tell you that the journey they took when their children came back was unexpectedly challenging as well as a wonderful experience. This is because, no matter how children return, when they do they continue to be half of the parent who alienated them and those influences remain even if they never see that parent again.
Parenting a once alienated child is an art form which is perfected by healthy parents who understand the way in which the child was alienated in the first place and who can guide and help the child to manifest the healing which takes places when the psychologically split self is healed. There are many parents in the UK who have reunited with their children assisted by the Family Separation Clinic. Many are very willing to speak about their experience in order to help others. None will say that it was easy, all will say that their children were severely harmed by the experience, all will talk about the challenges of reunification and healing as well as the pleasure.
Stay sane in the conflicted space and guard your mind ferociously as a rejected parent. This is your life and your journey and your children depend upon you to stay healthy and well and independent of spirit so that when they do reunite with you, you are you, not a shadow of you or a follower of someone else. Doing this takes guts and it takes courage but it pays dividends beyond compare when you achieve it because it changes not only your own experience and that of your children but that of the next generations who will be parented by the children who are alienated now.
Staying sane means concentrating upon becoming the transformative character in your story, the one who changes the path for future generations so that when your children and their children look back they can point and say – there – it stopped there.
It may not be the role you wanted when you became a parent but it is the role that life has assigned to you now.
Be your own leader and follow no-one.
Your children and your children’s children depend on you to do so.
Karen your opening paragraphs described my husband perfectly. It also describes the trap I fell into so accurately that yet again, you’ve blown me away. My totally alienated daughter is presently with her alienating father on the way back from yet another racing holiday together, this time driving 1000 miles each way. I have just emailed her to tell her that her granddad died last night, just as I’ve been emailing her since he was first diagnosed with cancer at the start of the year. There hasn’t been a single reply. I don’t expect her to reply this time. My email was very short, with the bare facts, just two lines (signed love mum) and for good measure I copied in my husband and her husband to make sure she got the message and didn’t just delete as soon as she saw it was from me (or it was sent to spam mail).
I will read your article again and again. If my printer worked I’d print it out in big and stick it on my wall!
I saw my son days ago. As my grandchild needed me I went. My son would not try to overcome the resentment and try for peace for his child’s sake.
I would. Still my son refuses to treat me with respect after several years, the insults keep going. It’s difficult not be upset, I have been ill, now feeling better, I understand what your saying, don’t respond, it goes no where.
In a few weeks I fly to see my grandchild after several months, take it easy and remember I have been ill.
Thank you for another insight into the alienated parent . Brilliant insight into how one feels, the reality of the situation and to what the future may bring. It’s like you’ve read my mind ! The frustration is enormous, the realisation that you are not alone is a huge relief , the realisation that alienation is affecting thousands of innocent, and lovely children is so sad and brings tears to my eyes .
I really dislike rollercoasters but this one I’m riding to the end .
“…your children depend upon you to stay healthy and well and independent of spirit so that when they do reunite with you, you are you, not a shadow of you…”
This is my fear. I am but a shadow of who I was. I have absorbed so much evil, met with so much sadness and frustration. I fear. I have read a library of books, frequent this brilliant site, I am in church regularly and have a supportive network of friends. But I fear becoming that shadow. And in prior generations of xW’s FOO I met other shadows, but I only knew them as shadows, I never knew them for what they had been.
Thank you again, Karen, for putting into words what is so difficult for me to articulate to others. I read every word, and will do so again – many times. The cult analogy is one I return to again and again, and beyond Manson, I think of the Kool-aid drinkers, who (some) chose to die rather than face the truth. The cult brainwashing is frightening in its completeness.
Are alienating parents just natural cult leaders in their ability to brainwash? It may be easy to alienate someone, but if I set out to do it, I’d have to post the instructions on the refrigerator for reference, ignore all of my feelings of compassion for the devastated children who have just been told their other parent is a horrible person who abused them, put aside my moral compass to lie to everyone about anything necessary … in other words, it would not be easy for me. But alienating parents seem to just naturally know how to do it, without even conscious effort involved.
Also – it seems that creating dependence is a part of it too. This is a natural state for young children, but as the children age, it seems the alienating parent has trapped them in web of dependence involving, for example, college, financial issues, cars, pets, etc – things that keep the older teen or young adult from feeling they can step out into the world and take care of themselves without the alienating parent.
In our case I think there was both conscious and unconscious alienation efforts, but the conscious was driven by the unconscious, if that makes any sense whatsoever. I would agree too, that the alienated parent has to learn how to live and be well, as impossible as it seems at first. My husband has slowly rebuilt his life, and while he certainly misses his son, the difference in his level of happiness is obvious.
Karen- Amazing piece you are on fire to tell the world and uncover this evil that our children have fallen captive “following their leader slavishly” in this PA predicament. Those are the very tactics my ex-husband used to eradicate me from the children’s life. His efforts are conscious and deliberate. I have learned so much through the years and thanks to you. You articulate it so well and present it from every angle possible. The alienating parent is a master mind manipulator. He is a charmer and have charmed many that came his way. There is no win in my situation. There is no win out of the abyss that I have fallen in. It is rather a slow crawl out to healing and recovering my soul. I fell prey in the trap trying to defend myself. But I feel either way, staying quiet and not reacting to his demonic strategies or defending myself there would have been no win. These are acts of a bully. I would have lost the children either path; staying quiet or defending myself. Now, I am healing and becoming stronger, but it is been 13 years.
“This is because, no matter how children return, when they do they continue to be half of the parent who alienated them and those influences remain even if they never see that parent again.”
This statement I find is true, will there always be a loyalty and a strong influence to the alienating parent even after reconciliation?
How long is this journey Karen? I struggle with time. It is so far 13 and a half years. It certainly was not the role I wanted when I became a parent and it was assigned to me. I want to transform and change my story especially for generations to come. How long Karen does this take-how long. This is the narrow path and less trodden….
Anonymous- Mother of three
Coruscating as ever. Like the stars appearing high above and through broken cloud in the depths of the darkest night of despair of losing your children. There is light. There is hope. There is love. Your word’s are like the stars above and a breaking liberating Dawn. x
I had to look that up. Thanks. Smarter now.
Particularly pertinent is your comment Karen, that it is as easy as ABC. My eldest grandson is alientated as you know, how easy was it to change his school without consultation with his father, who still had a shared residence at the time. No reason was given, except that my grandson hates his father and that he couldn’t be bothered seeing his him anymore. Today my son got a text from the youngest saying he was also changing school. We were expecting it next year but not this year. My grandson has said previously he wants to change school as he doesn’t like the school he is at. I have now had a text from my ex. dil saying that the youngest is excited that he has a chance to start the new school a year earlier. All sounded good with her text, she was the good mum only thinking of my grandson. My son is the bad dad, because he seems to be objecting. The objection is that no discussion has taken place between the parents. All the games and other various items were taken back to his mothers house two weeks ago. An application must be gone it and it must have been planned. The good news is that my grandson will explain to his dad when he sees him. I hope so. The very least that should have been said is a conversation about the school and how the shared residence order would be implemented as the school is at the opposite end of the city. I cant put my thought together just now, I fear we may lose our second grandchild, but I may just be overanxious.
Sadly our youngest grandson did not come to his dad’s today. Apparently his mum had just bought him a new game and he wanted to play it. He said he would come next week. We will wait and see. Neither mum nor her husband came out to speak to my son regarding the new school and the shared care arrangements – they left that to my 13 year old grandson.
Just an update. We did not expect our youngest grandchild today, as the journey from the new school is quite complex. However, my son received a text from him around 4.45 asking to be picked up at the local station. He looked very smart in his new school uniform and is delighted with his new school. I fear the power and influence my ex.dil has over the boys, so I can only take my hat off to my grandson for the effort he has made.
It goes on and on.
Karen how do you solve the problems when others do and say what they wish. It becomes perfectly alright, that being a bully and aggressive behaviour never is stopped and controlled.
I wonder if my situation will ever change, I just walked past my son, I could comment but pick your battles!
Well done Karen, another excellent article. I love the point some make about conflict of parents – we often see one parent when the ‘services’ of the family court and other abusing agencies such as CAFCASS are employed (commonly the mother) being the controlling one (and they have the power) and laughingly the alleged experts talk about the parents conflict and then add its a shame the father doesn’t listen to the mother! CLASSIC