In the struggle with parental alienation many things are written and said. Many people work hard to understand, explain and resolve the problem and many are left feeling helpless and hopeless in the face of this task.
Parental alienation is the cruellest human condition. In my view it compares only to a child being murdered in its terrorism of the soul. How this condition arises and how it is maintained is something I have long been concerned with. Writing about my understanding is one of the ways I process my experience.
One of my core interests is how the dynamics which lead to parental alienation arise. How is this poisonous state of mind both created and maintained, even in the face of evidence which clearly contradicts the false reality the child is living. The truth of the matter lies in the psychological defences and the harm which has to be done to the child to get them to live in the distorted reality which is the psychologically split state of mind.
It is this harm, which I call living in the church of the poisoned mind, which is the precursor to living life as an alienated child.
Contrary to its name, the church of the poisoned mind is filled with the warmth of belonging and the sense of being truly at home.
Far from being ruled over by an easy to spot narcissistic predator, this church is a place of sanctuary and safety for the children whose minds have been divided into two and who have been taught that the world is filled with good OR bad people.
This church has no windows to look out of and inside it there are no dividing walls.
The church is ruled over by a person who is warm, kind and extremely focused upon the needs and wants of the children who worship at the altar. The children have no way of knowing that this person is using their devotion as an emotional tithe to stave off the penury of the soul which exists within.
Within the walls of the church of the poisoned mind, the psychological wellbeing of the children is being drained by the loving vampirism of the enmeshed self of the church leader. But the worshippers do not know this because they have been trained to give up their independent sense of self in favour of the group mind.
The internal layout of the church of the poisoned mind is open plan, there are no walls separating the children from the loving parents who control their thinking. The children believe that this way of living is truly liberating and the true path to righteousness. The church leader keeps the flock in check by issuing regular warnings about the dangers of the world outside the church walls.
The goal of the church of the poisoned mind is to render the children incapable of independent thought. When the children are incapable of thinking or believing anything outside of the good word of the church leader, the project to poison the mind is complete. From hereon, the spreading of the good word of the pastor and keeper of the church of the poisoned mind is a task which the children will take up lovingly and with great determination. Converts to the cause of the church of the poisoned mind, the children are now safe to leave the confines of the church to spread the word wider. Those who go out to do this work are regularly reminded to come home to the only place where their spiritual wellbeing is safe.
And so the children wander the world proselytising, certain that their poisoned view is the one and the only truth.
All achieved with the sleight of a ‘loving’ hand. Usually achieved in order to fend off the wounds caused by others in a projected defence force of loving dedication. For whilst the pastor is adored, the inner fragilities (s)he defends against can be ignored. And the children, (whilst experiencing transient, fragmented, sensations of unreality), sell the party line to other unsuspecting souls in need of solace and support.
Eventually the children administer the poison to themselves and offer it in abundance to those family members who do not live within the cult walls of the church of the poisoned mind. Those placed at distance from the pastor and his flock are now helpless in the face of the horror which unfolds before them.
Death might be an easier thing to witness than the observation of the slavish devotion to the dysfunctional needs of the church leader.
But the children feel safe in their shackles and the pastor sleeps soundly at night.
And so the church of the poisoned mind becomes the sanctuary the children truly believe in, even as they scan the external world for the reason they so regularly feel the insanity of the psychological divide in their mind.
I see so many young people in this state of mind who cleave to the pastor whilst projecting hatred at the person they believe to be the cause of their pain. And I see parents who have been rejected, drawn into similar states of divided loyalty.
The poison which the children administer to themselves, is the very same poison the parents are drinking.
Divided in mind and worshipping at the altar of the saviour of souls, this is the true mirror of demons. For when parents live in the split state of mind – this is good/that is bad – all hope is lost for the children.
The end game of alienation is to split not only the mind of the children but the mind of the parent who is placed at distance. For when that parent enters the church of the poisoned mind there is nothing left to be done.
All is complete.
The trans-generational march of delusion holds sway and everyone dances once again, to the same tune.
All is where it was, where it should and where it will be.
Don’t follow the children into that place.
Nothing in the world is wholly good or wholly bad, nothing is right and nothing is wrong.
Beware of people with quick fix solutions.
The cup they are handing you is the very same poison the children are drinking.
So true ! Thank you ! Annemiek
Having just come to the end of a 18 month court case there is still a very grave problem in the family court system that has now left two once very loving children with an alienated father with no safe guarding issues who can have no indirect contact with them no longer and is allowed to write to them once a month. The grave problem I talk about is still the problem with Cafcass, the organisation that we all got excited about that they were changing their methods. Should you dare question their findings you are accused of not accepting the experts views! If you push this further you are then accused of not accepting the children’s perceptions of what has happened! It is in my experience a very difficult point to get across without it looking as was accused of me of having the problem and am potentially endangering the children emotionally!
Reading this post above and many of Karen’s post she hits the nail on the head every time. This experience has left me feeling like I have drank from the poison Challis at the moment. I have very mixed feelings about my children which I am ashamed of. I know deep down they and me are victims of a system that pretends that it can deal with a problem it can’t. The alenating parent holds all the cards especially when the likes of cafcass who are all powerful in this fail to do a proper investigation then dig their heels in even further if you challenge this! To me waiting several months, them finally interviewing everyone concerned in a day then issuing a report 2 days later to meet a court deadline stating there is no parental alienation is not the kind of report the alienated parent would have wanted… In fact when the CEO of Cafcass Mr Anthony Douglas was interviewed by Victoria Derbyshire stating that early intervention and a thorough investigation was necessary in these kind of cases I certainly did not receive this. In fact it was more of a judge Dredd scenerio, the problem was mine just accept that the children don’t want to see you, move on and maybe one day they will make contact with you…. It seems this Church you talk about has many disciple’s…. Amen
Karen, how does PA fit with the issue of ‘coercive control’? Is it in essence the same thing, just labelled differently because it involves Parent/ Children as opposed to Adult/Adult?
It strikes me that there exists a spectrum of ‘mind control’ from mild to extreme, in all our lives – adult and children, and that all of us are, to some extent, consciously, or unconsciously, ‘controlled’ mentally/psychologically by what another/others think or say. That the idea we are truly ‘independent thinkers’ is in fact a false idea?
All parents, including ‘healthy’ parents influence their children in what to think/ believe about others and the world generally……in ways which others might disagree with. Is the key issue here that the children are influenced to believe there is only one way/one viewpoint which is destructive in the sense of cutting off children from one half of their parents?
Very well described. What’s interesting, at least in my experience, is the way that the seeds of this loyalty split were planted before the physical separation. I was regularly denigrated in front of the children before I left, and I can only imagine the ways in which those little seedlings of mistrust and dislike were cultivated into full blown fields of anger and hatred. The children who once adored me were permitted, encouraged, and practically coerced into wishing I would just disappear forever from their lives.
Your picture of the terrible sanctuary of the alienating parent captures this perfectly. It seems so safe, so comforting, so natural to hide behind her skirt (both figuratively and literally). What they don’t understand is how the safety and comfort in that relationship is much more reversed than it seems. She is the one who feels comforted. She feels vindicated that her children would “freely” choose her over the deranged, abusive, lying father who “abandoned” them and “destroyed” the entire family with his selfishness. Her fragile emotional state rests entirely on their little shoulders, yet they believe that she is their safe haven. They seem to trust her implicitly while either forgetting or denying that they also fled in fear of her furious tantrums.
I wonder how deep or true the split is. Do they actually worship at her altar, or do they kneel before it in the hopes of preventing her outrage? Do they tremble in awe of her grace, or in fear of her wrath? Maybe both?
“What’s interesting, at least in my experience, is the way that the seeds of this loyalty split were planted before the physical separation. I was regularly denigrated in front of the children before I left, and I can only imagine the ways in which those little seedlings of mistrust and dislike were cultivated into full blown fields of anger and hatred. The children who once adored me were permitted, encouraged, and practically coerced into wishing I would just disappear forever from their lives.”
So well reflected in these words. Once you become “him” the game is over.
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I think my stepson experienced some of this slavish devotion and kind, caring mothering – but he also reported screaming 2-hour arguments between them, her ignoring him for days, or randomly cracking down on him with harsh discipline after a period of permissiveness; and most of all, he experienced a lot of pity for her. At 12 or so, he was able to articulate that “I just feel sorry for her, I don’t know why, but I do,” and because of that, he went along with what she wanted because the victim story was very compelling. Like any cult or abusive relationship, I’m not sure it’s a sanctuary at all – but that they certainly feel safer if they don’t challenge the leader in any way, and pay mightily if they do.
When you say the goal is to split the mind of the rejected parent, do you mean that they then believe they are all good and the alienator is all bad? Or that the rejected parent believes themselves to be bad?
I mean both Cara – the rejected parent enters into a place where they suspect they must have done something and that feeling comes and goes AND they hate the alienating parent and believe they are all bad. And yes the sanctuary is not a sanctuary but there is enough of a feeling of peace and quiet and belonging to convince the child that it is sanctuary OR, there is an absence of screaming and shouting and a real sense of peace and quiet providing the pastor is kept peaceful.
Thank you. I suppose the absence of abuse does start to feel like a sanctuary that one can control by keeping the leader happy.
My husband doesn’t blame himself, he never really did. I don’t know if he thinks his ex-wife is “all bad”, but it’s really hard not to dislike her, given the outcome and how poorly his son is doing in life. But mostly there is indifference now.
I have sometimes described the whole of parental alienation as a battle for sanity. The alienator tries to beat the erased parent down into believing that somehow, they are an inadequate parent. It takes courage and independence to say “no, I will not go there” despite how many people the alienator has arranged to back them and beat the erased parent down.
Karen, that’s exactly it!!
My ex-husband never thought I would have the strength, both mental and physical to carry on minus my son! He left at 13.and is 18 next week . I still have faith that he will see that what he has experienced isn’t “normal” My 14yr old daughter can see very clearly what her daddy has done to both me and her brother! She is now losing interest is her monthly visit with daddy cause her brother now has a car and calls for her regularly and they spend good quality time together. Their father is almost demented to see me getting on with my life because he thought, as I have said here on occasion, that I would not be able to survive!
Behind closed doors I am broken but I have my daughter to protect and as the years go by, it’s one less day to wait for my son’s knock at the door!
I will give his birthday cards from my family (who never have been able to have any contact since he went to his daddy) to his sister to give to him. I had thought of texting him to say they were here and to call, but I don’t want to put him under any pressure or cause him anxiety thinking he has to come or he won’t get them! Every year I’ve tried to give them to him when I could, but this year I know daddy will have told him under no circumstances is he to have any contact with me…. why, cause that would mean daddy’s efforts and money were all for nothing!
He will never know that whatever suicidal thought I may have had have been diluted and washed away at by your blog!
As this milestone looms for me, just a quick thank you Karen for helping to get me here!
It is possible to survive, but as you say it isn’t easy!
I so admire your strength Frankie. I have my eldest who is being alienated and now I worry so that the same will happen to my youngest. How do I protect him and when will he see what his father has done? I do not want to bad mouth his father and lower myself to the alienators level….
This so perfectly describes what i have called ‘a cult like’ mentality. How do I now protect my youngest from having the same happen?