Finding The Way Home: The Importance of Perspective for Alienated Children

Perspective
noun
  1. the art of representing three-dimensional objects on a two-dimensional surface so as to give the right impression of their height, width, depth, and position in relation to each other.
    “the theory and practice of perspective”
  2. a particular attitude towards or way of regarding something; a point of view.
    “most guidebook history is written from the editor’s perspective”

One of the fundamental losses for a child who is captured in the maladaptive landscape after family separation is their perspective.

Perspective is that which allows us to understand the world around us through the eyes of others and in doing so, reach our own views and our own perspectives on what is happening to us.

Children who are captured in the mirror of parental personality disorder or who are caught in the maladaptive responses of the parent who takes care of them most, are at risk of loss of perspective in favour of seeing the world only through the hurting eyes of that parent.  When this occurs, a child will enter into the process of becoming alienated from the other parent as their ability to empathise with others is reduced and the onset of a fused dyadic self righteous rage emerges.

With the emergence of this coalition of self righteous rage comes the various signs of alienation which were curated by Richard Gardner.  It doesn’t really matter whether you believe that Gardner is a false prophet or whether there is a new guru on the block, in reality, all children who enter into the split state of mind which is denoted by profound love and allegiance to one parent and absolute rejection and demonisation of the other, have lost their sense of perspective and can be said to be alienated.

The reality test for this is the split state of mind of the child which is  seen in situations where children are alienated.  In their review of a measure of this splitting in children, Dr Bernet and colleagues determined that –

Both clinicians and forensic practitioners should distinguish parental alienation (rejection of a parent without legitimate justification) from parental estrangement (rejection of a parent for a good reason). Alienated children, who were not abused, engage in splitting and lack ambivalence with respect to the rejected parent; estranged children, who were maltreated, usually perceive the abusive parent in an ambivalent manner.’

Where a child is seen to be using psychological splitting as a way of coping with the post family separation landscape, it can be said that they are not estranged from the parent they are rejected but alienated.  And in being alienated therefore, further investigation is necessary to understand how they became so, which is the differentiation and categorisation work which is undertaken by practitioners in this field in order to prepare and deliver an intervention.

Back to loss of perspective.  When the child can only see the past, present and future through the eyes of the aligned parent they have lost all perspective and sense of themselves as a separate and sovereign individual.  This state of mind is precarious for a child who can then be manipulated to believe that all of their feelings are actually their own felt sense of the world.

This is often the condition in which children present to family court officers, who in the UK are steeped in the idea that the voice of the child must always be listened to.

The problem of course with the voice of the alienated child is that in reality this is the voice of influencing parent, which is amplified by the child with ever increasing urgency as practitioners try to intervene.

Without an understanding of how vulnerable children are after divorce and separation and without recognition of the symptoms of the psychologically split state of mind, too many family court officers rely solely upon the expressed wishes and feelings of the child without ever realising that what they are doing is condemning the child to a life in which their only perspective is that of the unwell parent who controls them.

In every respect it should be possible to see from this unpacking of the underlying dynamics, that this is a situation in which children are being emotionally and psychologically harmed and that it does not matter whether this is intentionally done by the aligned parent or not, the outcome in terms of the loss of healthy perspective and capacity for normal relationships has been stolen from the child.  In such circumstances, the long term impact upon the child is not simply the loss of a relationship with one side of their family, it is the loss of relational perspective, the removal of the capacity to rely upon the evidence of their own experience and the challenges that arise throughout life because of those things.

Parental alienation is abusive to the child however it arises.  There is no gradation of suffering for the child.  However the split state of mind arose, whether it be conscious and deliberate or unconscious, whether it be the transmission of trans-generational trauma, whether it be pure or hybrid or some other configuration not yet curated, the alienation of a child causes significant harm.  And it is that harm to the child, which removes their right to a healthy and unconscious experience of childhood and beyond, which we must be most concerned about.

Without perspective an alienated child will not find their way home to the parent they have been forced to reject.

Without perspective an alienated child will grow up to believe that people are either all good or all bad and they will struggle in their relationships with others because of it.

Without perspective an alienated child will always believe that there is only one side to the story of their lives and that their felt sense of outrage and indignation about one parent and profound devotion and admiration of the other is the truth of how the world works.

It is not.

To see the world through only one set of eyes is to condemn the self to being partially blind and to restrict the experience of life to a narrow set of beliefs and experiences which feel safe but which in reality frustrate and bind the self to bigotry of the self and soul.

Bringing alienated children back to perspective is not an easy task in a landscape where there is such reliance on their voices and such little understanding of how those voices are the uttering and amplification of the pain and suffering of their parent.

When we hear those voices, it is not the child in the here and now who is speaking but the harmed voice of the child in the parent who is influencing the child. It is that parent we must pay attention to and that parent who is in need of assistance.  But it is the child in the here and now we must protect first because their fate should not be to suffer the same lifetime loss of perspective which is experienced by that parent.  Parenting is about passing on a healthy legacy not a toxic package of unresolved issues. Enabling perspective to return to the child’s life is most often about protecting the children from the efforts of the influencing parent to force that toxic burden to be carried by the next generation.

Asking an alienated child about their wishes and feelings is like breaking their legs and asking them which shoes they would like to wear.  In fact breaking a child’s perspective is like breaking their legs, it is both cruel and harmful to their life chances.  If parents who break a child’s capacity for perspective were breaking their children’s legs, we would not find it difficult to act to protect the child, but because we cannot see the impact of a broken perspective on a child’s long term life chances, it is all too easy to turn away.

But just like a child with broken legs cannot walk home, a child without perspective cannot find their way home because their belief is that home is somehow dangerous to their wellbeing.  For alienated children, home is where the abuse happens, abuse which is stealthily removing their right to a healthy future, abuse which is distorted 180 degrees and called love.

As practitioners we urgently need to let the world know about the importance of a child’s right to a healthy perspective of life.

It is the only way that alienated children will be helped to find their way home.

11 Comments

  1. Beautifully described Karen. Thank you. Every day I pray for my daughters to regain their authenticity, my beautiful children have been turned into mere shadows of their potential.

    “a child will enter into the process of becoming alienated from the other parent as their ability to empathise with others is reduced and the onset of a fused dyadic self righteous rage emerges.” Oh, how true this is. To see my children echo the black and white world of their mother is absolutely heartbreaking. They are no longer kids – when will they become aware? That is what consumes me.

    And those broken legs? So valuable for the challenge of seeing abuse, of triggering immediate investigation via mandated reporting. Oh – if attachment system suppression in its simplest form could be elevated in a similar way, to be the “black eye” of emotional/psychological abuse, that would provide such an important, early “entry point” into raising the alarm. Something needs to be done to leapfrog the slow turning of the wheels of justice, where years can drag on without relief.

    Peter

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  2. I have no words to describe how impactful and important this is. As a parent of 3 girls that I love more than life who have been continuously alienated from me over the last 10 years, and when it doesn’t work time and time again, the efforts are just increased and false allegations re-claimed, I thank you for perspective!! I have sent this to my attorney and I hope some day this can be seen for what it is.
    Thank you!!

    Dan

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  3. Brilliant article and one that should be read by everyone involved on all sides of alienation. “Perspective” (or lack of t) is exactly what happens to everyone who comes anywhere near a case of alienation. Perspective is the word I use the most during the very limited (and supervised by the alienating parent) time I get with my alienated daughter. Her sibling has been down the rabbit hole of alienation but appears to be coming through it with the help of a independently appointed therapist who she trusts and gives her “perspective”. Fortunately for me I guess that’s what we all need – someone independent who our children can trust and who gives them perspective. I know my alienated daughter has been through several therapists already whom the alienating parent stopped her from seeing because in the child’s words “it wasn’t working” – the reality is that it probably was working to open her eyes to reality and to give her perspective but the alienating parent can’t allow that. So therein lies the problem – when one parent gets to chose who our children trust and don’t trust, how will they ever gain perspective?

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    1. “So therein lies the problem – when one parent gets to chose who our children trust and don’t trust, how will they ever gain perspective?”

      This is my experience also. And not only are they “directed” who to trust, and who to distrust, but who to hate.

      What a heartbreaking experience this has been.

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  4. What a great article!

    I am a mother who has been severely alienated from her 21 year old daughter for the past 6 years. I fought like crazy for her going to court 11 times and spending thousands of dollars on incompetent attorneys and counselors.

    Anyone can tell you I was a great Mom. I quit my high paying corporate job so I could spend every second with my daughter.

    I am a strong Advocate who has rallied at my state Capitol, started a support group for victims of Parental Alienation and am a Court Appointed Special Advicate.

    Parental Alienation is psychological child abuse. It is methodical brainwashing by a sick individual who needs extensive counseling but believes they are healthy.

    When a child is being brainwashed, you can ask them all you want what the healthy parent did to them and they will rattle off a list of items- some ridiculous- that they actually believe. Why? As a child, why would you not believe your parent? They are incapable of understanding the truth because their brains are not fully developed.

    Please keep in mind- a child can become alienated in a little as a weekend away from a healthy parent. Elizabeth Smart came from a great family and was totally brainwashed in several months.

    Most alienators cannot handle rejection at all! So when a healthy parent leaves a marriage they go on a mission to use their own children as pawns to get back at the parent who rejected them. Sad, sick and true.

    These kids that a healthy parent once had a beautiful relationship with now profess how much they hate them. They believe all the lies of the Alienator and it typically takes years and extensive therapy to get them back on track.

    Some kids never come back and spend the rest of their lives living in turmoil. Some alienated children resort to drug and alcohol abuse, promiscuous behavior and bad relationships to cover up their pain.

    Kids deserve to have the freedom to love both Mom and Dad.

    Please pray for me and my daughter.

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    1. Casey I send you my very best wishes for the future. If you’ve ever read any of my posts you’ll know my daughter was taken within an intact marriage by a husband who decided I was a ‘threat’ to his ego and he preferred her to me. She too was 15 when it began happening and very quickly he gave her permission to treat me and speak to me any way she wanted to. There was nothing I could do because he constantly egged her on and undermined me. I stayed in that marriage for another 19 years knowing for absolute certain that if I left him I would never see her again. Even he admitted I’d been a very good mother (he wasn’t much involved with her until he could influence her) but, as he told me “she grew up and saw you for what you are”. I left three years ago last Feb and the last time I saw my daughter (who is now 37 and married) was four years ago this coming August. She wrote a hate filled email (full of trivial complaints but mostly about how badly I’d treated her poor dad …….who was actually verbally abusive towards me and very controlling) and that was the last I ever heard from her. I don’t expect to ever see or hear from her again.

      I hope you are one of the lucky ones.

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      1. Willow-

        Thank you for responding.

        All I do at this point with my daughter is reach out with love.
        When she gains clarity, which I pray for everyday, my door is always open.

        I refuse to allow parental alienation ruin my life!

        Casey

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  5. Wow! What a powerful read. I do not understand how any parent can emotionally wreck their own child like this, it baffles me daily. Unfortunately dealing with this from my partner’s ex… It is horrific watching the effects on their son. It’s heartbreaking.
    I am hopeful that parental alienation gains more momentum and more awareness on how this is effecting children.

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  6. Please can someone in this world train Cafcass (& the judiciary) on this! Why do we know they almost always miss it, they don’t attend training on the subject when it’s offered, their lack of knowlege & awareness is even exposed in court, and yet a judge can still consider their ‘expert’ opinion to be valid.

    It ruins lives. Children’s and whole families. And it just goes on and on and on!

    Like

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