Living with shadows can feel like the lot of the alienated parent, if you let it. The shadow side of the black/white split in the mind, creates one parent who is felt to be wholly good and another who is felt to be wholly bad by the child, who acts as if this split is the whole truth of their experience. When unknowing professionals encounter this, they act to reinforce the splitting, seeking evidence to uphold the child’s presentation, scrutinising the alienated parent and aligning, often unconsciously, with the parent who is the root cause of the split state of mind in the child.
The split state of mind in the child is the clue that something is very wrong in the post separation landscape. Children whose parents have made the transition from living together to living apart with a continued commitment to be parents to their children, do not have children who display the rejecting stance of the alienated child. Children whose parents have not made the transition because of problems which have arisen in the steps they have taken to post separation life, do. The key questions for all professionals who encounter the split state of mind in the child are –
- when (did the child enter the split state of mind)
- how (did this child enter this frame of mind)
- who (is the root cause of the entry into splitting
These three simple questions are all that it takes to begin the process of investigation and all that it requires to bring the rejected parent out of the shadow and into the light of their rightful place as the parent of their child.
Being seen in the light as the rightful parent of a child is a far too uncommon experience for rejected parents, who are often regarded with suspicion and assumption that they must have caused the child to reject them. What most professionals who meet alienated children do not understand, is that their next steps will contribute to the split state of mind in the child for better or for worse. Which is why people without training, who hold disproportionate amounts of power, (CAFCASS, Court Officers and Social Workers) should not be free to engage with alienated children.
Alienation is a defence mechanism which is activated in the child when pressure is placed upon them in the post separation landscape. It is an act of self protection in the child and is triggered when the pressure reaches the tipping point beyond which the child utilises the division of their feelings into all good and all bad as a coping mechanism.
When the coping mechanism is activated, the child cannot voluntarily drop the defence of splitting the world into good and bad and efforts to make the child do so, will only make things much worse. In the world in which most court professionals work, the voice, (rather than the well being) of the child is paramount and in the environment in which women and children must always be believed (which pervades the family court system in the UK at least), what the child says is almost always regarded as the truth.
Which is why un-knowing professionals who encounter the child who is using the split state of mind as a defence mechanism, are drawn into an unconscious alignment with the parent who is causing the split state of mind. If the child is telling the truth then it follows that the parent they profess to adore must be too. Which leaves only the rejected parent to be investigated for the ‘hidden’ reasons why a child is rejecting them.
This is why uniform training in understanding the way in which alienated children present is so important. And it is why anyone who does not have the capacity (and evidence of that capacity) to work counter intuitively with the alienated child, should not be allowed to do so.
The alienation reaction is infectious. It is very easily escalated into wild allegations if the child is not worked with in the recognised counter intuitive manner which is set down in research evidence by key people in the field. Unaware professionals who encounter alienated children and assume that the child’s voice is authentic, risk pushing the family into deeper crisis. For too many years this has been the standard procedure in the UK and it has left generations of children without a loved parent as well as the burden of having made the ‘choice’ to evict that parent from their lives. Living in the shadows has been the lot of those parents who have been rejected from the lives of their children, upheld by the alienating parent and sanctified by the state. It is, in my mind, a hidden scandal which will one day reach the light of our conscious awareness. Far too late for some but not too late for the next generations.
Caring for rejected parents requires that we shine a light upon their parenthood and breathe life back into it. It requires us to acknowledge and solidify our support for the love and care that they bring to the lives of the children who have become lost to a coping mechanism that they should never have been made to use in the first place.
Life in the shadows is no place for healthy parents, whose care for their children does not disappear or wither on the vine. Love remains constant as does the concern and worry which is generated by the experience of watching a living child be suffocated in the clutches of an alienation reaction. Whilst all alienated parents go through a recognisable pattern of reaction from shock and the need to shout for help, to acceptance and the capacity to wait, no healthy parent should have to live in the shadows as too many rejected parents do.
For those of us who understand, there is a need to do this work and speak about it, to act where we can and train others to do so too. This work is not just about one family but about many and about the movement towards a worldwide recognition that children do not choose to lose a healthy loving parent after family separation, they are forced to do so. And in being forced to do so, they are being condemned to a life with all of the devastating consequences that growing up believing in one parent good/other parent bad brings.
Learning to care about alienated children means learning to dispel the shadows to bring rejected parents into the light.
Which is what we are doing worldwide in 2018.
One movement, many hands.
Out of the shadows together.