As an alienated parent you are in a vulnerable place psychologically. Alienation forces you to maladapt your behaviours just as your child has been forced to. It also puts you into places where you become extremely vulnerable to the behaviours of others around you. Alienation renders you helpless and at times hopeless. Those who peddle magical solutions and cure alls, prey on this hopelessness and promise you the change you wish to see in your world. Observing the routes that many alienated parents take, it becomes apparent that the stages of alienation create predictable points of vulnerability and those must be avoided if you are to maintain your personal integrity and health and wellbeing.
When your child begins the process of withdrawal and rejection of you and you find the words ‘parental alienation,’ your first action is often to read as much as possible about the way in which your child is showing the signs. Heading onto the internet, you then find yourself surrounded by a community of people who are experiencing the same thing as you. Suddenly you are not alone, here are others who are suffering too. The stigma you feel, the confusion and shame, recedes a little as you find solace in the company of those who understand your experience. Here is a place where you can belong, here is a place where you feel heard and acknowledged in your suffering. Here is a place where you feel safe.
For parents who are experiencing parental alienation, here is in fact the place where you are quite possibly at risk of suffering more than you need to and becoming stuck in that suffering due to a human condition called ‘confirmation bias.’
Confirmation bias is the tendency to confirm and uphold beliefs that fit with your own and reject those which do not. Confirmation bias is the next stage on from feeling safe and acknowledged in your suffering. When you begin to cleave only to one way of thinking about alienation, you are ripe for the stage at which you become recruited to the clan which believes that the ‘truth’ is being suppressed by others. By the time you reach this point, you are effectively using psychological splitting to cope with the experience of being alienated from your children and projecting that onto the outside world (there is one right way to think about parental alienation and all the others are the wrong way).
Parental alienation is an issue which creates monumental opportunities for people with unresolved trauma to use others who are suffering as defences. This occurs when alienated parents set themselves up as coaches and experts without the pre-requisite training and without following their own therapy as part of a recovery process. It also occurs when people set themselves up as leaders with solutions which are 100% successful. Anyone who needs to use the internet to gather around them followers and devoted fans, is a risk for alienated parents. Here’s why.
When alienated parents are using psychological splitting to cope with the experience of being alienated they are then open to being recruited as followers of ‘the way’ or ‘the solution’ to the problem they face. When parents arrive in this psychological mindset they become devoted to their chosen leader and will do anything and everything to uphold the beliefs that are being espoused by this trusted person who has helped them to feel whole and worthy again. In truth, the sense of feeling worthy and whole in the process of becoming a follower of ‘the way’ is actually a false persona which is built upon the psychological splitting already in play.
The problem with this persona which is adopted as a belief that ’the way’ promises health and strength, is that it isolates parents from the outside world and confines them to a mindset of confirmation bias. It causes telescopic vision which mirrors that which is experienced by the alienated child and it closes down critical thinking skills and independence of mind which are the very things that alienated parents really need in order to remain whole and healthy.
A child’s rejection is frightening. It begins with the shutting down of the attachment system in which the child who has been terrorised into believing that you are dangerous to their wellbeing, experiences the triggering of their sympathetic nervous system whilst in your care. Literally wound up to believe you are the enemy, your child is sent to be with you in a heightened state of anxiety. Primed to believe that everything that you do is harmful to them, the child blocks your efforts to soothe their anxiety, triggering fear in your own sympathetic nervous system and a heightened anxiety response. When two people are mirroring fear and anxiety, the mirror neurons in the brain begin to falter and the facial signals begin to trigger warning signs in the brain instead. As these warning signs increase eye contact stops completely and then the dyad enters the cold zone in which relational flow has stopped and goodwill, trust and interest in mutual wellbeing ends. Now, parent and child who were once in relational rhythm and flow are experiencing each other as dangerous people, it is but a short hop from here to psychological splitting which enables the child to ‘resolve’ the impossible dilemma they face. When the pathologically aligned parent upholds the child’s ‘decision’ to reject, the drama is complete.
An alienated parent’s alienation from the outside world and recruitment to ‘the way’ is equally frightening and is caused by a similar process as that described above. In a heightened state of anxiety, an alienated parent is told that there is hope for them after all if they simply follow ‘the way’. In following ‘the way’ parents then begin a process of defensive splitting in which anything and anyone which does not follow ‘the way’ is dismissed as being harmful or dangerous. Blocking all efforts to alert them to the fact that they are losing critical thinking skills, parents in this mindset are readied to become part of the army of supporters of the leader of ‘the way’. By this time your heart is in the hands of someone who is involved in their own meta drama in which you have become a bit part player.
Do you really want your life and your children’s lives to be held in the hands of someone else’s need to play out their defences in this way?
Critical thinking skills for alienated parents are an essential foundation for long term survival and your long term survival is the key to your children’s recovery. You are not using your critical thinking skills if you are a devoted follower of any doctrine or professed solution to parental alienation on the internet, what you are doing is giving up your independence of mind in return for becoming a bit part player in someone else’s need to be a leader.
You are not using your critical thinking skills if you slavishly believe everything you read and everything you hear on the internet. If someone’s claim to be 100% successful in reunification sounds too good to be true, it quite probably is. If someone’s method is claimed as being the very best in the world, it is highly likely not to be. Anyone who tells you that you don’t need to use court mandated interventions to resolve a child’s rejecting state of mind is playing make believe and those who claim to be expert but whose own children remain alienated are simply defending themselves against the intolerable helplessness that comes with the alienated state of mind.
No-one has THE answer to parental alienation and no-one should be seen by alienated parents as being the leader of the pack.
I understand that in writing this blog I am followed by alienated parents, I also understand that in seeking to standardise the interventions which work for alienated children and families, I am also often regarded by some professionals as being determined to be in charge. In that respect I own my attitudes and behaviours, I want to prevent parents from being harmed by interventions which do not work and I want to help alienated children get the help that they need.
In doing so however, my whole focus in the world is to demystify alienation and enable parents to use their critical thinking skills and maintain their independence of mind. My work is about helping alienated parents to find that within them which will create a foundation for their children to stand upon in recovery from the split state of mind.
In this respect I don’t need followers and I don’t need anyone to validate or acknowledge my work. Whilst I find attacks on my integrity tiring and at times anxiety provoking I don’t need alienated parents to support me in either a personal of professional capacity. What I want is to encourage parents to keep their critical thinking skills and avoid the trips and traps which are triggered by the split state of mind.
Your heart in the hands of those who need your admiration and your devotion is a dangerous place for you to be, staying out of that risky psychological place is about retaining critical thinking skills. Retaining critical thinking skills is about reading widely, maintaining the stance of the ‘curious observer’ in which your emotions do not drive your capacity for reason and your ability to maintain independence of mind is protected.
There are many dangerous places and spaces on the internet for alienated parents, if you find yourself going there and starting to think and feel that one place is better than the rest, step back and take some deep breaths.
Keep your heart in your own hands by recognising that you have the capacity to develop your own routes to recovery through consideration of all of the different thinking available to you.
Pay attention to those places where successful outcomes can be verified, speak to others who have been helped by a method or a solution. If someone isn’t qualified to do what they are doing, ask yourself why they are doing it, is it for you or is it to defend themselves from their own suffering?
If someone needs to establish their worth by denigrating others, ask yourself why?
Question everything, accept nothing at all at face value, seek references and transparency from those who profess success. You are your own best advocate, your child’s best protector and ultimately it is your love and your care which will lead your children home to you.
To heal the splitting in your child’s mind you must protect your own mind first.
To bring your children home you must build a road for them to walk on which comes entirely from your own discernment of what works best for your family.
Protect your heart from being broken in the service of someone else’s unresolved drama.
in 2019, keep it in your own hands.