I am often asked by parents of older children, how come their child has not returned to them when they are clearly old enough to look back and understand what has happened.
Answering this questions is not difficult when one considers the way in which the alienating parent colonises the mind of the child, dividing it repeatedly into good and bad, black and white, right and wrong through repeated whispers of distortion, until the internalised landscape looks like a wall has been built into it.
The issue is that the child, repeatedly exposed to the Chinese whispers of the parent, does not know that the wall is there and believes that their mind is wholly their own and independent of any of the whispering which has been going on in their lives, sometimes for many years. Add to that the upholding of the whispers of distortion through the trips and traps which are cleverly laid by the alienating parent and what you have is a dynamic which is almost impossible to detect. And so the child grows, unsuspecting that the wall in their mind through which no positive information about the rejected parent can pass, is even there.
Working with people whose minds are scaffolded by Chinese walls requires the practitioner to tread extraordinarily carefully. This is not a landscape through which one stampedes crusader like ripping down walls and calling out whispers. If one tries, the wall solidifies and the whispers intensify. This world is one in which quiet footsteps lead to dawning realisations and in which walls which are not even known about, are removed by the individual encounter with perspective.
Those who cling to wholly right and wholly wrong narratives are those with walls inside their minds which hold them fast and steady in their self belief. Such people are often rigid in their thinking, highly defended and protecting themselves against shame and guilt. Behind the wall in the alienated child’s mind is a reservoir of shame and guilt, which laps against the defences and at times threatens to break through. Many alienated children grow up to become rejected parents and it is within that group of rejected parents who cling to the right/wrong dynamic the tightest, that the Chinese whispers and Chinese walls are most regularly seen.
Helping rejected parents requires a deftness of hand and a kindness of heart. It requires an examination of the thinking patterns of the parent and their capacity to hold ambivalent thoughts. As we do this work we are seeking to understand whether this parent is a now adult alienated child who has been prepared for their fate by the laying down of the wall in their mind in their youth. There is a high proportion of alienated adult children in the overall group of parents who are rejected and when we look closer at the Chinese whisper and Chinese wall analogy it is not difficult to see why.
I have written many times about the way in which alienated children become alienated parents but not much about the Chinese whispers and Chinese wall analogy which is something that we see repeatedly in the recovering alienated child. Helping to take that wall in the child’s mind down is one of the ways that we build into our work a trans-generational intervention which prevents the child from becoming one of the the next generation of rejected parents.
Breakdown and Breakthrough
Breaking down the wall in the child’s mind is about the practitioner being aware of the wall and how to approach it in the child’s mind even though the child does not know it is there.
The wall is made up of those things which the child has been told, not necessarily in words, which have created the division in the mind into all good and all bad.
Understanding what the wall is made up of is the first task for any practitioner working with the alienation dynamic. And understanding that those things which make up the wall in the alienated child’s mind, may be mirrored in the rejected parent’s mind also, is another key task.
The wall is made up of feelings which have been exploited to form a defence mechanism. The wall IS the defence and like all defence mechanisms, it is there to protect the child. It is there in the rejected parent’s mind as a defence too. It is often also in the mind of the parent who has influenced the child to enter into psychological splitting.
Therefore, the first set of tasks a practitioner must undertake in assessing a case where a child rejects, is to understand where the walls exist in the minds of the family members.
Difficult to do if the people we are working with are not aware that the wall even exists? Not for the alienation aware practitioner, who understands the questions to ask and the signals which are given that show that the wall is in place.
The wall is in place in the mind of a child who tells you that one parent is perfect and the other parent is not.
The wall is in place in the mind of a parent who tells you that the other parent is wholly and utterly to blame and they are perfect.
Breaking through or breaking down the wall demands that practitioners understand the emotional make up of the wall. Shame, guilt, fear, anxiety, blame, worry and false beliefs are the building blocks which put the wall in place. Understanding how each of these emotions are configured in the people around the alienated child is how we begin to break it down.
Understanding how the emotions which make up the building blocks of the wall were created in the child in the first place is about being able to understand the Chinese whispers of the family, those things which are passed from parent to child and back again which create a language of alienation which only those who are involved in it can understand.
Chinese whispers are the sentences which end with an intimation. They are the silent exchanges between people which are intercepted by the child, they are the stillness of a room into which the child walks, they are the expectations of the parents, they are the unspoken demands which zing back and forth, they are the things not said more than the things said and they are the coalitions of belief which form in the trenches as the tribes go to war.
So much to understand and yet so little in the end when you get inside and underneath the wall.
When you are able to get in front of the wall and look at it, through reunification work, it comes down to this –
Which of the bricks in the wall is loose enough to take down first. Is it guilt, is it shame, is it anxiety, is it blame, which one is it which can be removed first. Because when one brick in the wall is removed, the rest can and often do come tumbling down.
Traversing the alienation landscape requires understanding the language as well as knowing the road map. It means understanding the contours and hearing the whispers of the dead that haunt the living.
It is not for the faint hearted.
But as more come to do this work (and when I say that I mean do the work, not just talk the language of narcissistic pop psychology which is currently sweeping the UK), the land will be mapped, the walls will be marked and the whispers will be noted and analysed.
And as we do this, the work of reunification, which is the next stage on from understanding parental alienation, will become codified and embedded in our international response to the problem.
And then the Chinese whispers and walls will be known about as a key risk to children who live in separated family situations. Making prevention of alienation routine and treatment unnecessary.
This is just the beginning of the next phase.
Doing over knowing.
One movement, many hands.
Taking the walls down together.
One Movement, Many Hands
There is a lot going on in the world to tackle the problem of child abuse known as parental alienation.
Here is what the international movement is doing this year.
Click on the images to go through to the websites of these four landmark conferences which are all working hand in hand to bring change for alienated children and their families across the globe in 2018.
PASG2018 – Stockholm – August
PAAR Conference Tasmania – October