Stealing the Soul of a Child: Parental Alienation Changes the Life Chances of Children

I am currently fully immersed in study whilst preparing for our conference in August.  As I continue to read and compare my understanding with my observations of the children I am working with , I find that my awareness of the harm done to them increases. In my observations of alienated children I witness not only the way in which they have had to develop the defence of psychological splitting, I also see the way in which they have been forced to carry burdens which do not belong to them.  So much so that their life chances have been radically changed.

In my work I would go so far as to say that in some cases, the very soul of a child has been stolen and in some cases, murdered by the parent who has influenced them to believe things which are untrue.  For these children, their life chances are not only radically altered, they are curtailed to the point where there is little hope of them ever finding the way back to the road of possibilities which was theirs on the day they were born.  For these children, the ghostly overshadowing of their lives by trauma, is such a powerful thing, that they were born to be controlled by the unresolved past.  Is this an acceptable part of living, something we just have to put up with? Or is it something we can and should change?  When it comes to the manner in which some children are unable to ever develop the management of their own mind because of parental control, I would argue, it is always something we can and should work to intervene in.

All children are born into Stockholm Syndrome said Oliver James in his book ‘Not in Your Genes’. And it is true that all children are at the mercy of their parents in the first years of their lives.  During those early years, the child’s capacity for freedom of mind is very much dependent upon their parent’s ability to guide them and shape them so that they can use their inherent capacity to the best of their ability and in the later childhood years, it is the skill of the parent in letting go appropriately which enables the child’s personality and mind to develop effectively.

For some children however, the force of the parental influence is such that their inherent capacity for self expression, creativity and capacity for relationship with others, is seriously hampered by the overshadowing from parental anxiety, unresolved trauma and dysfunctional belief.  These are the children with high intelligence who self censor their capacity to learn, the children with capability to relate to the outside world who shut down their relationships early for fear of upsetting a parent and those who repeat parental dysfunction to the degree where they grow to believe that manipulation of others is the healthy way to be in the world.  These children are seen regularly in divorce and separation and they are especially seen in situations where their minds have been manipulated to align with one parent and reject the other.

In families where the manipulation of children to conform to the internal rules of the tribe is strong, it is very common to see children self censor their interests and in turn their capacity for developing an individual sense of self. These are the most painful scenes to witness, it is often like watching children pluck out their own flight feathers and willingly and sometimes defiantly blind themselves to the possibility of freedom of mind and spirit.  To get a child to the point where they will willingly curtail their life chances, a parent has to overshadow the child with threat and fear, often covertly, often using shunning techniques (not speaking to a child who does not conform) in order to cause enough threat to the primary attachment bond to bring the child into line.

In my childhood, the idea that you should not ‘get beyond your station’ in life was widely promulgated.  The idea meaning that you shouldn’t think yourself better than your parents or behave in ways that made you an outsider. This was typical of seventies working class Britain, where the task of parenting was to turn out a reliable worker who knew their place.  ‘Getting above yourself’, in this regard was a shaming label which was used to put a child or young person back in their place.  When I look back now, from a place where I not only got above myself, I got so far above that I never went back, the routine use of shaming in working class culture in Britain was a technique which was widely used to alienate a child from their own potential in life. (None UK readers may also recognise this type of shaming as a societal approach to keeping young people in line).

In parental alienation, routine shaming is also used to keep a child in line, the most commonly used shaming being to dismiss the elements of the child which are like the parent who is being targeted, or to ridicule them and belittle them.  If one is able to make the child feel ashamed of those aspects of self which are like the targeted parent through doing this, it is all the more easy to force the child to split those parts off and deny them. From there it is but a short hop to the child ‘deciding’ that the parent is either useless, or hopeless, wicked or wanton and that they can be readily dispensed with as a result.

These are clever, subtle and extremely covert ways of alienating someone from their own sense of self, their entitlement to that self and their right to all of the potential which lay within them at birth.  And yet these ways are routinely practiced and normalised from the outset of a child’s life, often to the degree where a parent can be split off and denied even whilst the family is intact.  Have you ever seen the routine labelling of dad as being deficient, disinterested and downright dumb by a mother and her daughters?  Or the ridiculing of a boy as being ‘just like your father.’  These are the tools and the strategies which strip the child’s right to be proud of both sides of their heritage, to learn from each parent and to mix it up to bring about an alchemical transformation of the self which utilises the best of each to bring forth the new soul, the new self, the child as individual and sovereign being.

Those children who are overshadowed by parental trauma, by parental control, by parental determination to ensure that the child never gets above herself, are those who will pluck out their own flight feathers and throw them down in defiance.

Some of these children’s souls have already been murdered.

I cannot think of anything more tortuous to witness than this.


 

Amy J L Baker is the most well known researcher into the experience of alienated children in the world.  She will be speaking about her research, the impact of parental alienation on children and the experience of rejected parents on August 30th at the EAPAP Conference.

During the conference we will be debating some key issues in the field of parental alienation, including the topic ‘Parental Alienation as a Serious Form of Child Abuse’.

We are now convening our Parent Panel for the interactive parts of the conference which will allow all parents who attend to have their say through online voting and commentary.  If you would like to join us to help shape thinking in this field, please email office@eapap.eu now.  Tickets cost £150 for two days along with free entry to a unique workshop with Linda Gottlieb and Karen Woodall on the afternoon of August 30th.

For Professional bookings please use this link.

24 Comments

  1. Quote from above : And yet these ways are routinely practiced and normalised from the outset of a child’s life, often to the degree where a parent can be split off and denied even whilst the family is intact.

    Thank you for mentioning intact families. I often feel as though I am the only one that was in an intact family when this started happening so many years ago. When I read of this ‘recognition’ it helps. I’m sure the conference will be a great success and wish you all well 🙂

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    1. Willow, in my case it also began while the family was intact. As I was re-identified as “him” and “he” rather than “Dad” or “your father”, the die was cast. Who knows the scope of the grooming to effect this, all I know is that it was brutally effective.

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      1. My husband also realizes now that the alienation of his son began long before they separated; also that he unwittingly helped his ex-wife alienate her older daughter from her father when they were together. It’s a hard pattern to see when you are in the middle of it, I imagine.

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    2. I think if we look closely Willow, most severe alienation begins at the birth of the child, which is when the pattern of behaviour in the alienator really emerges. x

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  2. Thank you for another enlightening read, Karen. Once again my head was nodding like a bobble-head.

    Is not this the recipe for life long enmeshment? Not just grooming in the “way of the tribe” but lifelong membership in that tribe? I saw decades of this in xW’s FOO – superficially presented as “the family comes first”, but the reality being “the disorder trumps all”.

    Peter

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    1. Grooming Peter, it is exactly that – grooming. Preparing a child to be used for the needs of the parent. I have recently been reading about pedophilia and the psychoanalytical understanding of what that happens which is that a child has been unable to extricate themselves from the sense of engulfment with a parent and that in the failure to achieve separation (because of the overwhelming engulfment by a parent) the murderous rage to get free of the engulfing parent (usually mother) of the older child is libidinised which leads to a lifelong perversion of sexuality called pedophilia. Pedophiles groom victims. Alienators in my view, also groom victims. I wonder if alienating parents do this to soothe the murderous rage or the intolerable anxiety of their unresolved childhood issues so that instead of libindising their rage they turn it into a killer instinct, the instinct being to kill the part of the child which is seen as ‘other’. Such a lot to think about in the deepest darkest parts of this horrible perversion of parenting.

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  3. Karen – I have pondered the similarities between pedophiles and alienators for some time. The case of Jerry Sandusky at Penn State in particular – he was convicted of raping 10 boys, I believe. Who knows how many other victims along the way? He was “discovered” by another coach. As I recall – not one of his victims had reported him. They had been showered with largess, exposed to media that “normalized” the perversion. Oh – the dissonance they must have suffered, being treated so royally (sic) by their rapist!

    Back to my world – xW and her initial BFF, providing a 24/7 circus for my daughters, the word “no” never to be uttered. Showered with largess (see above…). Teenage girls being told they could have everything. Leading to the choice of vehicles at age 17. Largess… And the media? The (previously) home Netflix account – now segmented into user accounts, with Dad now being replaced by the lesbian lover. The media displaying and normalizing such gems as “Blue is the Warmest Color”. All so natural and normal – who could resist?

    And the court system could care less. In fact, one lawyer sneered that “alternative is the new normal”.

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  4. Quote: Alienators in my view, also groom victims. I wonder if alienating parents do this to soothe the murderous rage or the intolerable anxiety of their unresolved childhood issues so that instead of libindising their rage they turn it into a killer instinct, the instinct being to kill the part of the child which is seen as ‘other’.

    That (yet again) made me think of my husband’s childhood which I’ve posted of before on here) and which I think is a key (or at least one of the keys) to why he ended up doing what he did.

    At secondary school he regularly came home to find his mother unconscious after yet another suicide attempt. He was always first home so always the one to find her – head in the gas oven, in a fume filled garage, empty pill bottles. His mother enmeshed him and dominated his father but my husband would never say a word against her – she was ‘his blood’. He never saw his parents having a normal husband/wife relationship so he had no idea how to be a husband or a father himself. When he was a child, his father wasn’t ever involved with him.

    It was 8 years after we married before he finally agreed we could try for a child and when our first daughter arrived (with a rare metabolic disease that led to her death aged five) he accused me of, quote ‘not looking after him properly. (was I supposed to be his mother and fill that gap as well as be his wife????) Either way he never lifted a finger to help me with either child – babies and children were boring and anyway, he knew I’d do it all so he left everything to me and carried on with his hobbies as he’d always done.

    He may not have had good role models in his childhood but he did know how to become our (second) daughter’s best friend when she became interesting to him at the age of 15. She was his blood. The only blood he had left he told me. He most certainly groomed her. And when I was preparing to leave him, he told he was glad he’d not have to share her with me any more. (after he’d kindly and “innocently” asked me if I wanted him to scatter my ashes alongside our first daughter – I told him not to bother ……….. who says that to a wife who is about to leave after 40 plus years of marriage. Crazy)

    The more I look back, the more I see. But I still can’t really understand.

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    1. is the part that you don’t understand Willow, the part which is why you were in relationship with him in the first place? I say that not to be harsh but to try and help you put those pieces together because not only did he groom your daughter, he may well have groomed you into the relationship with him too. With a back story like that he was without doubt someone who was going to replay some deeply difficult scenarios in his life. The need to understand how is powerful, when you find the answer you can rest. Is what you are asking – how did I end up in that situation with him? xx

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  5. This read is spot on! I have been living with this for almost 5 years now. My ex has completely alienated me from my children and between the stories her and her mother have made up about me my children don’t really make any effort to be near me. She is leading an alternative lifestyle and my children are now subjected to that and ridiculed at school because of it. My relationship with my children has been destroyed by lies and their inability to get away from what has been brain washed into their heads.

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    1. “She is leading an alternative lifestyle and my children are now subjected to that and ridiculed at school because of it” Oh – what a wonderful gift, to bless one’s children with the seeds of shame to build their own disordered thinking (and coping) going forward. Karen – you had written a concise progression of splitting/guilt/shame recently, but I just can’t find it. It really summed up this transference of “shame” from generation to generation..

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  6. My children are victims of this horrible abuse. In the rural part of Montana in which my children live with their father, this is referred to as ” The Good Ol Boy” system. Who ever has the most money and power wins. I pray not only for myself and my children, but for all the other families torn apart by parental alienation that this abuse can be brought to a end.

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  7. Great article putting words to a heart piercing pain.
    I have to say there is hope God can do anything He can redeem the child’s destiny soul and lost time!

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  8. What I particularly like about this post, Karen, is the wider context that you have included. Your reference to the wider ways in which families curtail their children’s lives, is a reminder of the myriad ways in which family groups can be destructive to their own offspring. PA is but one facet. The family “tribe”, far from being a wholesome environment in which to raise children, can too often, and easily, be the most destructive of emotional/ psychological influences/ experiences……..with or without PA. I’m glad you escaped your own early restrictive conditioning…. I too have had my own journey to travel in this regard…….the important point is that such “escape” is possible, that there is hope of moving beyond early life destructive conditioning…..whether involving PA or not. Wishing you well with your studies.

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  9. This at first glance got my heart beating pretty fast! Then of course second thought was it’s in Largo Florida here it is third of course no is all over the world! Then of course my own anger not doing enough because of not wanting to hurt my kids! And I keep thinking I’m going to put exclamation points all over this page but I’ll work on stopping sometime.
    This is a little tiny note to my girls ‘ CRYSTAL JEAN and FAITH my babe I’m so sorry for not stepping even bigger steps towards you 2 because of not giving The Exorcist of hurting and scaring you too much ! I’m sorry I’m sorry I did not go to the backroom Crystal-Jean and comfort you!! I’m sorry Faith for not flying in the bedroom window and *know* your heart would jump on without thinking (once over) Our dragon taking your hands and bringing you outside to sing Happy Birthday. I’m sorry girls I could not stand there without having to send her pieces to the moon , U2s aunt, Marie, my baby sister. And her live-in-Boy who watched you Try to hide Under a 10 inch high table smirking and spoke seven deadly words, ‘ …talk..in morning’…….
    Ok, gotta stop. I have trusted U2s since March 11, 2010. And not needed to forgive for what lost souls taught you.
    I love u2 Cj & Faith these are my Angels with their MOTHER so deep within each other.. Thanks extra, my true care, love, including U2 givers hearts and thick skin on your shoulders and your mothers’ skin TOGETHER. MISS MARGARET PROUD MOTHER OF CRYSTAL-JEAN AND FAITH HARVEY!!! CHILD OF GOD. Me

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  10. Memories fading fast
    Of a life we shared not built to last
    Hoping you’ll remember me
    The good times we used to have
    For now your dad will finish raising you
    Don’t hate women it’s not our fault
    Dominated by men with jealous hearts
    I wish you well my baby boy
    Mom loves you more and more.

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  11. This was the biggest worry for me – that the children would not be able to form independent thought and it would impact on their life chances. It’s been hard to watch over the years as the lights go out in their souls and to see such potential getting flushed down the toilet in order to satisfy an alienating parents needs.

    It was only ever going to be inevitable.

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