I made breakfast this morning accompanied by a song, posted here by someone with whom I have crossed swords with more than once in my journey to fully understand parental alienation.
Struggling through the undertow of difference however, we reach again a place where our common understanding of the world is the foundation stone of all that is between us. Being able to cope with difference and conflict healthily, is one of the greatest gifts we can possess. For alienated children, the existence of the healthy parent on the planet who can bear the weight of difference, is one of the greatest gifts available to them. It is the gift of hope and of healing and of a recovered future. It is the protection against their own loss of their as yet unborn children and it is the rewriting of the historical narrative in the esoteric story of the individual family.
So many parents and the wider family members who suffer this horrible problem, swim in rivers tangled with the weeds of loss of hope and lack of resolution. Staying safe and well and healthy in the face of this can feel nigh on impossible and yet it can be done and is done all around the world. Whilst the brick wall in your child’s mind remains in place and the fear based anxiety which has been created by the psychological splitting remains, there is little that you can do directly, without tangling the weeds further and falling into the trap laid by the work that has been so carefully done by the alienating parent.
Behind the brick wall the child struggles with the repression of the love they still hold for you and the guilt and shame they feel for having rejected you. On the other side of the wall you wait, hoping, wishing, praying for the day when the child can walk free.
You already know why bearing this is essential for your children, the how to bear it can feel impossible.
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
Victor Emil Frankl (1905 – 1997), was an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor. He spent all of his life to studying, understanding and promoting “meaning.” His book, Man’s Search for Meaning, tells the story of how he survived the Holocaust by finding personal meaning in the experience, which gave him the will to live through it. He went on to later establish a new school of existential therapy called logotherapy, based in the premise that man’s underlying motivator in life is a “will to meaning,” even in the most difficult of circumstances.
Finding meaning is not the same as accepting blame or being made to feel that one is responsible for the circumstances in which your children are being held against their will. Finding meaning is about you and your life journey and the way in which your suffering can be transformed into the power to survive and thrive in the face of torment. Finding meaning is about withdrawing the locus of control from the external world and internalising it, (taking control over your own feelings and experience and knowing the difference between the things you can change and those things you cannot change in the outside world). For some it is about self knowledge and the relationship one has to those things which happen to you, for others it is faith in something greater than themselves. For all who transform pain and suffering into meaning, the reality is that the torment of railing against the person who is abusing you, (for rejected parents this is the alienating parent), stops and in its place is acceptance and peace of mind. The path to this place is not easy and it is not for the faint hearted but it is real and it has been travelled many times by many people all over the world who have transformed great suffering into meaning and purpose.
Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for decades and he walked free to transform the whole of South Africa. Viktor Frankl was a survivor of the holocaust who went on to found a whole new school of psychotherapy, transforming lives around the world. Transformation of the self, leads to transformation in the outside world and the path to such transformation is the peace which comes when the belief in oneself, as the healthy parent to your currently trapped children, is nurtured and fed and cared for.
When fishermen cannot fish because of storms at sea, they mend their nets. Mending nets is what we help rejected parents to do so that when their children are ready, their ability to catch their children well as they escape the prison of repression of positive feelings is strong. This is a different approach to feeding the anger, the rage and frustration that comes with being a rejected parent, all of which brings not peace of mind and relief of suffering but heightened anxiety, shame and continuation of the split thinking which is the child’s current experience. We know that rejected parents are at risk of the same psychological splitting as their children, we know that the actions of the alienating parent in dividing the child’s mind, also divides the mind of the rejected parent and that when this occurs, the alienating parent gains more power. The psychologically split state of mind is an infantile defence mechanism. When the rejected parent also begins to suffer it, seeing the outside world as for or against them, good or bad, right or wrong, the work of the alienating parent is almost done. Psychological splitting is very very infectious. It is not uncommon to find that the child, the rejected parent, the wider family and anyone in contact with either side of the family (including professionals), are suffering from split thinking.
When the alienating parent achieves full splitting in everyone around the family, the repetition of their trauma wound is in control of the system and the power of the rejected parent is nullified. This is the goal of the alienating parent, to nullify the opposition to their efforts to recreate the traumatic patterns of their childhood years. This re-creation of the past is a driver in the unwell parent which overrides everything else. As the character Professor Louis Levy says, in the Woody Allan film Crimes and Misdemeanors –
When we fall in love, we are seeking to re-find all or some of the people to whom you were attached as children. On the other hand, we ask our beloved to correct all the wrongs that these early parents or siblings inflicted on us. So, love contains in it the contradiction, the attempts to return to the past and the attempt to undo the past.
whilst the schism in the psychology of the mother or father of our children is hidden from us when we meet and fall in love, the crisis of separation brings the fault line to the surface as the compulsion to repeat the past rises in the decompensation of the self. Rejected parents find themselves watching helplessly as this compulsion repetition begins and they are edged to the margins of their children’s lives. What most rejected parents do not know is that the end game of this action is not simply to split the minds of the children but to split their mind as well. This is the only way that the unwell parent can be sure that they have absolute control over the circumstances, which is their way of defending against the decompensation. Rejected parents must guard their minds against the psychologically split state of mind, taking great care around anyone who seeks to fuel anger and projection towards the unwell parent. Yes it is an outrage, yes it is a tragedy, yes something must be done about it, but no, the other parent is not a demon or evil and does not require punishment conversant with such crimes. To go down that route is to become as if you are the alienating parent, it is to become psychologically split in your own mind. When that has been achieved by the alienating parent, the children are lost, their unborn children are lost and hope flies out of the window.
Don’t go there. If you begin to see people around you as either for or against you, if you begin to lose the ability to think critically and find yourself loving or hating, liking or loathing, take the greatest of care. Psychological splitting as a defence against an impossible pain is a common problem, your children are suffering from it, they need you to be able to guard against it at all costs.
Between the stimulus and the response there is a space. In that space is the power to choose our response. In our response is the key to freedom and growth.
Between the loss of your children and your response to it, there is a space. In that space is the power that you hold to do everything you can to help your child and when you have done all you can, to do all you can to help yourself. The meaning of this is that you are, for now, the parent of an alienated child, a child whose mind has been distorted through the actions and behaviours of an unwell parent. That child needs you. That child relies upon you to be there, healthy and well when they return. That child gambled, when they made the ‘choice’ to reject you, that you would cope. In your response, is not only the key to your freedom and growth, it is the key to their longer term survival.
When you have done all you can to ensure your child’s safety, when you know that you can do no more, put the burden down and go within. Find meaning inside of yourself and the meaning in the outside world will make manifest.
So many of the parents who have survived this journey have done so precisely because this is what they were able to do. Finding ways through the loneliness and the hopelessness by finding things which make their own soul sing, these parents have grown through their suffering to become giants within.
Each one of these people would tell you, that you are not alone on this journey, you do not need to suffer in silence and this too will pass.
Believe this. because when you do, the health and wellbeing your children desperately need, will grow within and will become the thread which will draw them back to you. It is the wellspring from which they will drink in their recovery and the nourishment they will draw upon as they heal.
Believe that this current wave will bear your weight and you can be sure that life WILL flow.