Ignoring the current discussions about me which abound on the internet would be a little like sipping tea with the elephant in the room sitting on the teapot to keep it warm. Therefore, as I am first and foremost a psychotherapist, I feel it is my responsibility to face head on what is happening in the meta negative transference and examine it. I take my role as therapist seriously and as I also write this blog on the subject, which is read around the world, I take that role seriously too.
As well as these roles, I also work in the family courts in the UK as an expert witness, I act as consultant in cases and undertake direct work with families. I also take care of families by coaching and guiding them. Increasingly I am involved in training delivery around the world and supervision of new and developing practitioners in this field. I am also working with colleagues to set up practitioner networks such as the European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners. Along with Nick I am speaking at several international conferences this year including the one we are organising in London. Nick and I are writing another book and finally I am working on my doctoral research into the support needs of rejected parents and alienated children, during the reunification process.
I take all of these roles seriously and consider that each of them are important in driving the debate around parental alienation forward. All of what I do is in the service of alienated children and their need for healthy parenting.
In doing all of this I am aware of the toxicity of this field. Toxicity in the lives of the families we work with and toxicity in the field of work. This field of work is like no other I have ever been involved in. It is brutal in the court process and brutal in the lives of of rejected parents. As a therapist practitioner, I find myself facing not only the micro transferential material from alienating parents but the macro transferential material from some practitioners in the field. I also find that most of this transference is negative.
As a therapist, I have a duty to consider transference in all of my roles, including the writing of this blog. In writing this blog I am aware that many people transfer their feelings, both good and bad, onto me. This positive and negative transference is something which is important because it gives clues to a person’s past. Transference helps us to understand someone’s defences and the counter transference, (our own responses in the transferential relationship) helps us to maintain openness to helping.
The negative transference is that which is projected upon a therapist by the client when the client acts ‘as if’ the therapist is someone from their past. Negative transference is exactly what it describes, the transference of all of the feelings of negativity which a client holds inside, onto the therapist.
Being British, I am most influenced by the British school of psychoanalysis in my consideration of negative transference.
I am influenced by the Kleinian thinking about objects relations theory. Working with negative transference in this respect, is about understanding what is being transferred onto the therapist from the client’s own internalised negative objects. In this thinking, the ‘objects’ are people from the past who have become negative or bad through the things they have done to the client.
The meta negative transference is something which is observed in the bigger world outside of the consulting room. Transference happens this way when groups of people band together and project a combined negative belief about something or someone. The meta positive transference occurs when a group of people believe that someone or something represents hope, salvation and the solution to a problem. The meta negative transference occurs when a group of people believe that someone or something is all that is demonic and evil. God and the devil is a good example of how some people transfer feelings to external representative figures. Childress and Woodall is another.
The current tidal wave of negative transference which is being generated by the ongoing denigration of me by Childress is important. It is important to recognise it and it is important to work with it. Kleinians believe that much can be resolved through the working through of the negative transference and hold that the therapist must be courageous enough to both face it and name it. The facing and naming of the meta negative transference, must however, be benign on the part of the therapist. It must be driven from a place of seeking to help those who are transferring these feelings, to retrieve them as their own, unwanted and split off feelings of hurt and anger. Just as when I am working with alienated children, their hatred of me is not experienced personally, so the effort to interpret the waves of negative transference which are coming towards me now, is driven from a place of professional responsibility.
The meta negative transference is a mean beast however and so I will do my very best to handle it carefully.
We will start with an analysis of how an alienating father evicts a mother from the lives of her children. On a meta level, this is what is happening in the current climate.
How the beneficient father alienates
Step 1: The mother must be depicted as the enemy of her children, cold, cruel and disinterested in their wellbeing.
Step 2: The father must be depicted as the children’s saviour, knowledgeable, wise and holding the reasoned and only answer to their problems.
Step 3: The children must be repeatedly prepared for psychological splitting, or, if they are already vulnerable to that state of mind, they must be kept that way by being told that there is a right way and a wrong way to do things.
Step 4: The children’s minds must be prepared to resist reason by the consistent issuing of information which warns them that their mother will tell them something other than the truth.
Step 5: The children’s minds must be prepared to resist their mother’s loving overtures by pre-warning them that one day their mother will attempt to tell them that she loves them.
Step 6: The father must consistently present himself as the saviour of the children, the only one who can help them.
Step 7: The children must be repeatedly exposed to the denigration of the mother, they must be encouraged to join in this denigration until they are unable to think for themselves. To deepen this state of mind the children will be given reasoned arguments for why this is necessary. These arguments will make sense to them because they will feed on the split state of mind – the world is against you, there is an answer to your problems, your mother won’t give you that answer, but I will.
Step 8: The father must tell the children that their mother is dangerous and wants to harm them.
Step 9: The father must tell the children that their mother has threatened to harm him but he is going to protect them.
Step 10: The father will preside over the children’s now independent conviction that their mother is the wicked witch of the west and their father their one and only saviour.
This narrative plays itself out in almost all cases of pure alienation. It is a recognisable approach which is also used by cult leaders to isolate people and prepare them for life within the cult mindset. On a meta level, this is what is being played out right now in the field of parental alienation where I have almost literally become the wicked witch of the west in the combined consciousness of the Childress followers and he has become the saviour of the children.
It makes me incredibly sad to witness it because it is a mirror of what happens in parental alienation. That it is happening on this macro level however, is perhaps one of those things we have to work through.
And as I said previously, if it adds to my experience of what being a rejected parent feels like, nothing is lost.
However, it also adds a lot more than that to my understanding of this work, not least the rich seam of information which can be gathered from the negative transference.
The negative transference which is currently being generated goes as follows –
- Karen Woodall is dangerous.
- You must not criticise Karen Woodall she won’t abide it.
- I (Childress) have been threatened.
- Karen Woodall you must not harm targeted parents.
In those four core statements what is being put forward is the notion that the mother figure is dangerous and the father figure has been threatened. The notion of the mother figure being potentially harmful is proposed alongside the positioning of the father figure as the protector of the children from the harmful mother. The whole of this concept is driven on the vehicle of the mother figure being intolerant of criticism.
Thus the father is able to evict the mother from the lives of the children by convincing them that their behaviours (which he has incited and encouraged) are acceptable criticism.
The question is, what is the difference between criticism and leaving threatening and abusive messages on this blog and by sending abusive emails around the world?
By way of example here’s a sample of the comments and emails I have received since last summer
‘Gardnarian PAS must die and you will be the first Gardnarian to die…
You are a fraud and you are stopping the solution, you will be exposed one day for this….
Karen Woodall is a fraud and a criminal….
If you don’t co-operate you know what will happen….
Karen Wodall. You have a disorder personality issue….
Oh and Karen, if you are going to continue to pretend you are Europe’s big PA “expert” and not step back…
If you start to cooperate now, I will leave you in peace, if you don’t, it will get worse day by day…
Karen if you don’t take this chance now and start to cooperate you will be publicly exposed as a greedy, selfish, stupid, narcissistic….’
And from Childress himself, in an email to the person who left the latter two comments –
‘BUT – BUT – they MUST switch to advocating for an AB-PA model of the pathology. If they switch to AB-PA and begin cooperating with the solution, then we have peace. If they continue on their present obstructionist course, then they can be assured that they will pay a price for their obstructionism’.
Is this criticism, or is it threatening and abusive? I would say it is the latter and on a repeated basis it becomes more so. I would also say that encouraging vulnerable parents to do such things is outside of the ethical requirements of a clinical psychologist. Add to that the reams of denigrating commentary which has been posted on the Childress blog about me since last summer and the whole thing becomes concerning.
If I were to analyse the negative transference which is contained within the portrayal of abuse of me as criticism and the idea that because I am not willing to tolerate such abuse I am somehow dangerous, I would have to ask this –
- What makes this person reconfigure his own beliefs about another in such a way as to portray me as dangerous and himself as victim of my wrong doing?
- What makes this person lead others to believe the same?
- What drives this person to want to split the world into good (with only himself holding the goodness) and bad (with anyone who disagrees with him becoming the recipient of all that is bad within himself and others).
Because the negative transference does not belong to me but to the person who is transferring it, my next step is always to ask the question –
why this, why now, why me?
- Why has this negative transference arisen?
- Why has it arisen now?
- Why is that which cannot be held within the self, projected onto me?
The answer lies in the manner in which the father figure is driven to alienate the mother figure from the lives of the children.
In view of the fact that I have not attacked Dr Childress in return, have publicly acknowledged the importance of his curation of knowledge about pure cases of alienation and have offered to test his model in a clinical setting in the UK, the reaction to me seems disproportionate and out of keeping with reality.
Whatever causes this continuous denigration and portrayal of me as the person who is withholding the answer to the problem of parental alienation, lies only in the mind of Childress himself.
And until that question is answered, the children will remain convinced of the evil doing of the mother and the perfection of the beneficent father who holds the only solution to their problems. They cannot do otherwise, they are programmed, encouraged and given permission to do so.
Which leads me to wonder, when it comes to Childress’s recent exhortation to me to not do harm to the targeted parent ‘children’,
who is it that is actually doing that harm?
To be clear about the ongoing stalking, abuse and threats that I have been dealing with.
I have been advised that it is not acceptable to leave such threats on public forums and that I should consider whether to pursue a course of action under the malicious communications act in the UK.
I have also been advised that I should consider sending the material to the relevant licensing board.
Dr Childress was not threatened, he was simply approached with a request to discuss the situation which is becoming intolerable in terms of the misrepresentation of my work in this field and the ongoing threats which I receive.
A further note to all readers of this blog.
This blog is a blog in which I write about my experience of working in the field of parental alienation. I have been writing it for almost ten years now.
It was never intended to be a public forum although I have always had the commentary section switched on, which has meant that it has evolved into a place where people visit and leave comments and at times discuss emerging themes and thoughts.
It is not however a public space which ‘belongs’ to parents and I have always (and will always) moderate comments to ensure that this place remains open to all and positive in its support of families affected by parental alienation.
I work in a field where I am continuously being criticised and my work is being cross examined and critiqued. In such an emerging field there are many people who are critical of the concept of parental alienation and so I face criticism almost constantly as part of what I do.
I write this blog in my personal time, I do so because I care about families. In doing so I do not wish to be subjected to the kind of threats and abuse that I have received since last year when the campaign of denigration against me by Childress began.
I therefore can and will refuse to post any abusive comments and I will make no explanation or apology for doing so.
And I can and will, continue to keep this space a safe and positive place in which hurting parents and their relatives can visit and receive information, support and guidance in peace.