In the Windmills of Your Mind

Like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning
On an ever spinning reel
Like a snowball down a mountain
Or a carnival balloon
Like a carousel that’s turning
Running rings around the moon

Like a clock whose hands are sweeping
Past the minutes of it’s face
And the world is like an apple
Whirling silently in space
Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind.

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The mind is a curious and sometimes furious thing.  Linked to our endocrine system, what we imagine in our mind is made manifest in our body.  which means that the mind games of parental alienation, create an outpouring of cortisol, which in turn unbalances the hormones which regulate the body.  Managing the mind is a critical task for anyone who faces the loss of a child after family separation, especially when false and fabricated allegations are involved and especially when unskilled and unaware professionals are in charge of a case.

As a practitioner in this field, mind control is my business.  To begin with I am working with children whose minds are being controlled as well as with rejected parents whose minds are in the chaotic state which comes when one is aware that a child’s mind is being controlled.  Making sure my own mind is not being controlled is one of the core concepts of self care I practice. Having just done a ten day digital detox, to reduce my dependency on the dopamine spikes which come from online activity, I can attest to the benefits of getting out of the virtual world for regular periods.

I can also attest to the benefits of meditation, a practice I have been following on and off for many years. Currently I am using guided mediations to keep my mind clear of the fog which comes from being bombarded with external information.  Going into a thirty minute meditation every day has given me the capacity for deeper thinking and reflection as well as clearer insight.

Parents whose children are being alienated can and sometimes do, go mad with the horror of knowing what is happening but not being believed.  Preventing parents in these circumstances from descending into this particular hell is one of the goals of our coaching service at the Family Separation Clinic.  Using our differentiation routes, we work with parents to help them to understand how their child became alienated and what might be done about it.  We set all of this within the cultural context of the country the child and family lives in.  There is no one size fits all approach to liberating children from parental alienation and all guidance has to be set within the concentric circles of –

a) the family the child is currently living with

b) the skill set of any professionals the family is in contact with

c) the legal and mental health system of the country the family is resident within

Each one of these layers of influence will, at some point or other, interact with the alienating parent and will either trigger escalation of the problem or reduce it or do nothing at all, depending upon the way that each concentric circle touches the lives of the child involved.

Parental alienation is first and foremost a problem which is located in the mind of the child.  That is not to say that the child has a mental health problem but that the child manifests the problem within the family.  This manifestation of the unspoken problems within the family is displayed as the eight signs of alienation which were first curated by Gardner.  Regardless of what anyone in the world says about these signs, they are the outward manifestation of the internalised dysfunction of the family and as such, they are the door through which we as practitioners must step before we do the deeper work of assessment and differentiation.  If a child is rejecting a parent but is not manifesting these signs, it is unlikely they are alienated but are justifiably rejecting the parent, this is phenomenon which is real and which is regularly seen at the Family Separation Clinic, where we also work with abused children whose parent believes they have been alienated.  To protect children, we use the eight signs to determine whether alienation may or may not be present and when we recognise that it is, we go further through our assessment protocols to differentiate the type, category, strength and route into the alienation reaction.  Our assessments take around 30 hours of time, after which we are ready to reunite the alienated child with the rejected parent.

We don’t wait to reunite children, we do it as quickly as we possibly can.  We do so because we know that children who are alienated will never be able to say ‘I am ready’ due to the psychologically split mind, itself a defence mechanism which sits at the heart of the problem.  Instead we build what is called the covert therapeutic alliance with the child, demonstrating to them that we are in charge and will take responsibility for them seeing the parent they have rejected so that they do not have to.  This covert alliance will often feature a child who says ‘no I don’t want to’ but who will comply with requests to see the rejected parent.  Most children who respond in this way are moderately alienated and under the age of ten.

Doing this work however is tricky.  It is particularly tricky when one is managing not only the mind control of the alienating parent but the mind control of other professionals who are unable to see the reality of an alienation reaction in the child.  These professionals, often social workers with disproportionate power in cases, are so fixated upon the concept of the ‘voice of the child’ that they deem any decision to override a child’s expressed wishes as being child abuse.  In these kinds of cases, the concentric circles of the family, surrounded by the professionals, become infected with the alienating parent’s use of the professionals’ anxiety to escalate the reaction in the child.  Getting this infectious form of mind control under control in such circumstances can be impossible, especially when there are additional professionals such as Guardians without knowledge or skill in working with alienated children.

As a rejected parent in such a scenario it is vital that you get your mind under control and that you become as alienation aware as you possibly can be to offset the risk of being drowned in the anxiety of the professionals around you.  Those parents who do well in such circumstances, are those with clear set minds and a vision of one’s own health and firm foundations. Keeping healthy is essential, exercise is a must and knowing how the infection of parental alienation spreads is essential.

Keep in mind the following reality if you are being alienated

  1. The core manifestation of the problem is your child’s division of feelings into all good for one parent and all bad for the other.  This is accompanied by the eight signs of alienation, when they are present, know that the alienating parent is able to influence not only the child but others around the family too.
  2. Do not be pulled into the traps set for you by the alienating parent who will use the anxiety of other professionals to escalate the children’s outright rejection of you if it is possible to do so.
  3. Common traps are as follows a) portrayal of you as angry/violent by baiting and taunting you.  b) false allegations which are framed upon real life events but which are blown out of proportion. c) portrayal of you as attempting to alienate the children. d) unreasonable behaviours designed to create the impression of conflict.
  4. Unaware professionals who treat you as if you are contributory to the problem are likely to be influenced by the alienating parent and the alienated behaviours of the children.  Do not fall into the trap of becoming angry and frustrated with these professionals as they are likely to believe that this means that you are the person who must be fixed.
  5. At all times, when in the court process, be polite, be straightforward but be firm in your understanding of what is happening.  Be clear in your communications, brief and absolutely to the point.  Maintain a clear mind in what you are seeking to achieve in the court process.
  6. Do not be influenced by the alienating parent’s portrayals of you or the professionals lack of understanding, stay clear and focused the whole way through.


In  parental alienation, the parent who is being rejected is the parent who is the child’s healthy parent.  The ‘choice’ to reject the healthy parent is made by children who have no other choice to make because of their dependency upon the unwell parent.  Whilst the reasoning for this rejection can take many forms, most children will say that a parent has done them harm.  This in itself can send you in a tail spin of anxiety and indignation when you know that this is not the case. Do not let it.  Recognise it for what it is and stand firm in your knowledge of your own healthy self.

Preserve yourself by working on the fear in your mind first.  Parental alienation feeds on fear and anxiety, it grows in the darkest places of the mind and is encouraged by manipulation of injustices.  I cannot think of anything more crazy making than knowing your children are being harmed under your nose without any power to prevent it.  This is a particular form of cruel and unusual torture and no parent should have to endure it.

The control of your mind begins when you take charge and wrestle the power back from the others who seek to hold it over you.

The windmills of your mind belong to you and to you alone.

Let no-one else take control of them.


14 thoughts on “In the Windmills of Your Mind

  1. Thank you, Dr. Woodall, for articulating your work and that of your family separation clinic. I think the child suggestibility studies conducted by Dr.’s Stephen Ceci and Maggie Bruck from the 90’s pave the road to just how vulnerable and susceptible children are to actual events, alleged events, spoken words, et al. Further studies by Brainerd, et al showed that developmental reversals of false memories can and do cause older children to succumb to suggestibility. I think the creation of a false belief system can turn into a false memory and when the false belief system becomes fixed, a false delusion is created. And I think all of this plays into the minds of children who are alienated against targeted parents, especially in the context of cases of false child sexual abuse allegations.


    1. You are welcome, I have read up on who you are and I understand now. Just a small clarification, I am not yet Dr Woodall, although I will be one day soon I hope as I am undertaking my doctoral studies now. I have read the Ceci and Bruck studies, I am currently looking at how children become entwined with the transgenerational narrative of the personality disordered parent who was abused but didn’t tell. I think that is how much of these cases come about, the tale being told in the belief that the rejected parent has abused the child belongs to the parent making the allegations not the child. I have so much work to do on how this repeating family drama comes to be untold and so little understood, all to do with the women’s rights movement which is at the heart of the covering up of the mental health wounding of women and prevention of help being given in the here and now. So much to write, so little time. I apologise for my lack of understanding of who you are and I think I may have misconstrued your comments earlier. Kind Regards Karen


  2. A clear and concise reminder of how we need to behave. Thank you, these reminders are very useful when we are in the midst of it.


  3. My husband experienced a, b, c, and d. He fell into many of the traps. The last court judgment he received, 2 months after his son stopped coming over, said that he had “tried to alienate” the child, and had “almost succeeded”. At that point, he gave up on court or trying to do anything other than stay in touch periodically and make sure his son knows he’s still there and still loves him.

    My H has a picture taken every other year for an organization he belongs to. His most recent picture looks so much more happy and peaceful than the picture taken during the time right after his son stopped coming over. It’s striking. As hard as it is to accept total alienation, the stress of all you talk about above is horrendous. We lived in nonstop anxiety about whether he’d be alienated and what drama she would create to get him there.

    Now, the anxiety is gone, and our lives are peaceful – but there is always sadness about the loss, about the kind of person his son seems to be turning into, and about whether he will ever be part of our lives again. Still – it’s better than the stress of the “mind control” days. They were traumatic.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Karen- Thanks to you I have become educated in parental alienation. You express and communicate it so well. You approach it from every angle, so reader understands. I come here very often. Though I do not always leave comments I am a silent participant. I come to be nourished.

    When you are in the whirlwind of parental alienation there is not time for managing the mind. At least in my case maybe others do. I was barely threading water. I had too many tasks to manage that I never heard of before. The key is to have trained professionals skilled in parental alienation in the court system, so they don’t fall for the alienating parent tactics and do not become aligned. Also, processes and procedures in place so the child and the rejected parent do not suffer in this way.

    My experience is that those are the strategies of the alienating parent to set up the other parent and paint a picture of them as evil people as possible. My experience was the alienating parent was very relentless in what he did and did not stop at anything. My experience is that I did fall into the traps he lay for me, but I also think it did not matter how I reacted or contributed. He set out to win at all costs. I had nothing as a stay at home mom. He set out to destroy me mentally and financially. It was as though he knew what to do. As if he was reading a book of strategies and executing it out. It is extremely difficult when the alienating parent from the onset claims false abuse allegations against you and spreads fabrications. He level set the situation and had leverage already. Yes, the false abuse allegations was not substantiated and dismissed but the damage was done. Afterwards, every word that came out of his mouth is abuse laying seeds and solidifying in the children’s mind and he continued to coach the children to call the police when they are with me and claim abuse. His attacks never stopped. He even called the police and falsely claimed I was suicidal and police came to the house and cuffed me and chained and took me to the hospital to be evaluated. He wanted to have a trail of evidence that I am abusive. His attempts of false abuse allegations did not work. After he convinced the children to lie that they were abused and aligned them, there is no winning. I was stained in the eyes of the court, and since the children continued to lie and say I abused them. Not to mention, he controlled the children’s mind, they are puppets and he has his family as a supporting system.

    What I am trying to say it is indeed a whirlwind and can cause a mental breakdown. It is so over whelming to cope. I had to deal with the court system, the judge and the guardian ad litem, the lawyer, and the social workers. Then I had to deal with social services for the false abuse allegations. There was so much overwhelming anxiety set for me. On top of that I had to start working because I had to pay child support. He wanted child support. It is truly a miracle I’m here. It has been almost 14 years that I am working on healing from the devastation. While I am working on educating myself and healing myself, there is still a huge hole in my heart as the children are now adults and are not in my life.

    I feel that form the onset the parent who is experiencing alienation in order to have a successful outcome would need the right team of trained professionals in the field on their side. The chances of winning in this situation are very low to begin with. It does not take that long to alienate the children; maybe a period of a few weeks. They are scared and have no where to go but have to succumb to the control. The alienating parent manipulates them and plays with their mind. To cover up the manipulation and control he gives them what they want. They are given so much power over alienated parent and given relaxed discipline rules to let them do as they please and given so much material things. To fix this parental alienation situation is like moving a mountain. You need a miracle!

    What a coincidence to see a comment from deantong. I contacted him to help me in my case early on, but i did not have the financial means to pay.

    Wishing you and everyone here a happy new year! We shall overcome and reunite with our children.

    Anonymous-mother of three


  5. A brilliant post, Karen. I wholeheartedly agree with everything you say above. It is very important for the target parent to keep physically and mentally strong throughout the whole period. This is very difficult to do because you are dealing with something which is crazy, maddening and has no logic to it. The intense cruelty of having your children suddenly turned against you and then having professionals who are ignorant of the phenomenon of PA supporting them and the alienating parent; it is indeed a very unusual and shocking situation to be put in. Mindfulness is very good I hear like you were talking about daily meditation above. You need to do something to keep yourself physically and mentally strong because you are fighting a very powerful force here (especially severe cases) which can be pure evil. Keep going – it is very hard and a lot of parents who don’t understand what is happening can’t cope and there have been some tragic stories about this. Keep going and keep strong – it may take time but we can beat PA.


    1. Karen,
      My daughter, Carolyn, who I have mentioned before, has been admitted to a psychological ward of a hospital. My ex-wife was taking her to a psychologist and there was not progress, only erosion in her self esteem and ability to cope and have simple relationships at school that a 16 year old would have. I was not told of the therapy, just got a call last night and I am between flights and on my way. I plan to discuss PAS with whomever I can at the hospital where she is admitted. I don;t know if they will understand, I pray they will and will approach her treatment from a very different avenue. Thank you for this site and the education I have thus far been able to digest. I have your book and I am 30% through it. Prayers appreciated. Any thoughts or words of advice on how to approach would be appreciated.


      1. Michael, just to let you know I have been very unwell with flu, I am catching up on my emails and workload now, I will write to you tomorrow. Sending you my best support Karen


  6. Thank you, Karen. I am able to visit for 30 minutes at noon and from 6-8PM only. All visitors are confined to these times. When I walked into the room last night, she was terrified of me and her mother was trying to console her. She was OK with my visit. Her two oldest sisters were there. I haven’t seen them or spoken to them in over a year. They were cold…but were not unkind. They are 23 and 28 now.

    I have no voice with the professional community helping Carolyn. I have been isolated and my goal is to get a voice with them and at least put alienation on the table as a consideration when trying to treat her. At this point, I have been neither informed or consulted by anyone except my ex wife tearfully telling me about this.

    Get well, we all need you here.

    Warm regards…Michael


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