Back to London for a week before we hold our leadership retreat with a group of practitioners and message makers who will play a key role in the development of best practice in their own countries. These people, along with those we are working with in our US training group, are those who are poised to build strong and effective interventions for families affected by parental alienation. As well as developing messages to the outside world about parental alienation, which will influence and shape how ancillary services respond to children and families, we will be looking at how to stay healthy and well in the midst of this conflict ridden field. In all aspects of what we do we will be finding peace in an unstable world, as practitioners and as people. In all of our work together we will be celebrating the power of collaborative practice, of listening and learning and sharing.
There is no room for competitive practice in this field, no need for claiming ownership of concepts which have been used for decades to diagnose and evidence problems like encapsulated delusional disorder and trans-generational trauma. There is no room for ego based work in which the personal belief that one is better than others is the driving force. Working with Professor Buljan Flanders and her team in Zagreb this week, we have been immersed in the kind of creative flow which produces amazing progress. Thinking together, eating together, discussing and debating the concepts with space for disagreement as well as mutual understanding, is what furthers this field. It has been a joy to share this time at the poliklinika-djeca who are a key stakeholder in the European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners and who will be presenting at the Conference in London in 2018 alongside Amy J.L. Baker and other key people.
Maurice the therapy dog at the Poliklinika-djeca in Zagreb (and me!)
This year our aim has been to take our work further afield and to train others to use the model of assessment and intervention which we have used successfully in our work in the UK. In doing so we are not just training others to do this work, we are activating, encouraging and supporting curiosity, strength, resilience and capacity for shaping and changing the future for alienated children and their families. We know that because of the continued controversies about parental alienation around the world, to do this work we must also be prepared to be educators, persuaders and lamp lighters. We must be capable of withstanding personal and professional attack, disapproval and dismissal of our work and failure as well as success. We do not do this work in a vacuum. We do it in a world in which the concept of parental alienation is slowly coming to consciousness but at the same time is also being resisted strongly by single interest groups. Parental alienation is child abuse, the more I do this work with children the more I know that they are hideously abused when they are forced into the infantile defence of psychological splitting. I see it. I know it. I also know that the way to help these children is to work together with others who also see and know and to draw upon the best of what we all have to change the world for the better.
As I get back to my desk for a few days to prepare for our French retreat, I am also looking forward now to our visit to the Parental Alienation Study Group Conference in October and the convening of our training group in Boston later in the month. More opportunities to share and grow and learn and to plant seeds together which we will nurture carefully. Our aim is to bring to life networks of new practitioners who will benefit from our support and guidance and who will take forward the work with families and add to it. This work takes many hands and there are so many roads to resolution for the whole spectrum of families who suffer this horrible problem. Working together in creative flow brings peace of mind and the power which comes from peace within brings stability and strength.
On returning to my desk this morning, I opened my emails to find a lovely letter from a dad we worked with some five years ago. Attached to the letter was a picture of him with his two grown up children, all smiling into the camera, relaxed and happy. He told me that his work had continued beyond the time we had been involved in his case and that eventually both of his children had moved to live with him. He told me that the children’s mother had used the same behaviours on the children that had driven him to leave the marriage. As each child had reached the age where they were able to recognise that their mother was angry and fixated, they had reached out and found the stable hand of their father to guide them. His words stay with me this morning.
When they said they wanted to live with me I was overjoyed at first and felt as if all of the pain and the loss and the suffering was coming to an end. My eldest child moved first and then the youngest and I felt like my life was complete again. But then, after a few weeks, I felt this gnawing feeling, like something was still wrong. I remembered what you told me about counter rejection and the continuation of the psychological splitting and I realised that my children were not healed, they had simply flipped over the rejecting behaviour towards their mother. I realised I couldn’t allow them to continue to live like this and so I sat them down and talked to them about the importance of facing their feelings instead of burying them so deep that they could easily reject their mother now instead of me. Each of them said that they didn’t know how to love us both and that when difficult times came along their first response was to run away or cut their mother out of their lives. Each also said that even though their mother had done bad things, they still loved her. It took a few more weeks to get to a place where I could meet their mother and discuss things with her. She was angry and said that I had deliberately seduced them into coming to live with me but I held firm and did not allow her to continue the splitting. I remembered what you said about me being the healthy parent and how I was the one who could guide our children home. I did that. It wasn’t easy and I was scared all the time that they would flip right back over to rejecting me again but they didn’t.
This man learned well those things we had taught him five years ago and when the time came he not only recognised the signs of continued splitting, he went into action and worked with his children to repair the problem. The power of peace which comes from right action at the right time shone through this man’s words. In his hands his children did not suffer continued psychological splitting and will, as a result, go well in their adult lives.
Collaborative practice works between practitioners and parents and it is this which we mirror when we work collaboratively as practitioners and experts. This world is conflict ridden enough. The power of peace which comes from working together is the balm to the wound of parental alienation.
I encourage all who are living and working in this world, to apply it liberally.