Omnipotent Thinking: Defence and Entrapment in Parental Alienation



  1. the quality of having unlimited or very great power.


  1. the state of being caught in or as in a trap.

psychological defence mechanism

Defence mechanisms are psychological strategies used by the unconscious mind to manipulate, deny, or distort reality to protect the mind/self/ego defend against feelings of anxiety and personally unacceptable impulses or stimuli.

 The state of mind of an alienated child is recognised in several different ways depending upon how one thinks about parental alienation.  In my experience the signs of alienation which are most obvious are as those of psychological splitting and lack of empathy.
There is however another presentation which is seen in alienated children, particularly those who have grown into adults and even in circumstances where reunification with the rejected parent has occurred. This is omnipotent thinking, the state of mind in which the person experiencing it continues to employ an ego defence which prevents them from trusting either themselves or others.
Omnipotent thinking presents in a clearly defined way.  The child (adult or otherwise) relates to others as if they are people in need of their assistance, this is the core focus of any relationship and shifting away from that is impossible. Thus the omnipotent thinker believes that they are superior to others in that their emotional self does not display the same needs. Indeed the omnipotent thinker is both unaware of their own needs and therefore unable to access even the thought that they might have a need.
Other people’s needs however become the way that the omnipotent thinker gratifies the split off and denied energy of their own need. Omnipotent thinkers become super helpful to their friends and seek to find ways to assist them to overcome problems.  Troubled people are attractive to omnipotent thinkers, because their unboundaried needs relieve the tension in the omnipotent thinker of carrying denied and therefore unexpressed need.
Omnipotent thinking in some children, is created in the crucible of divorce and separation when the world around them disintegrates and parents are unavailable due to emotional and psychological distress. In this impossible scenario, the child is presented with the very real possibility of death in that parents are not available to provide the care they previously took for granted.  In circumstances where this scenario continues over a period of time and particularly when one parent cannot resolve the change in circumstances, the child is pushed to the place where one internalised reality becomes two external realities which can no longer be reconciled. Splitting then occurs.
The defence of omnipotent thinking is the result of the ego defence of idealisation and devaluation in which the experience of self and others is divided into good and bad. Accompanying this ego defence in alienated children, especially when they become teenagers onwards, is the infantile defence of omnipotent control.
Omnipotent control is a primary defence mechanism which causes regression in that the belief which arises in using it is a fantasy of having great power over circumstances.  This is the reason why alienated children fervently hang on to the rejection of a parent for dear life, the illusion created by the defence of omnipotent control is so powerful that they cannot do otherwise.
Anyone who has confronted an alienated child with the fact that they are not in control of circumstances will understand what I mean when I say that alienated children will go to enormous lengths to maintain the fantasy of omnipotent control, including lying and making false allegations.  This behaviour is driven by the defence mechanism and serves a purpose in enabling the child to cope with an impossible dilemma (I cannot love both of my parents/ my parents are not capable of caring for me).
Omnipotent thinking/control is a defence but it is also an entrapment which causes immense suffering to the adult child if it is not resolved.  Caught in the impossible position of childhood regression, omnipotent thinking causes the denial of the fundamental emotional and psychological needs of the self.  Whilst on the outside these adult children appear to do well in most areas of life, a closer examination shows that their ability to be vulnerable in relationships is impaired and their capacity to trust the self and others is damaged.
One way of describing the outcome of the unresolved use of omnipotent thinking in adult children who suffered alienation, is the feeling of being accompanied in life by another self. Alterntively it has been described to me in therapeutic work, as a feeling of being unable to trust the self because that self may suddenly and without warning, change it’s mind.  The distanced language from the self, the feeling of not being entirely congruent and integrated in the sense of self, comes from the split off and denied parts of the self which are weak, terrified (and terrorised) and vulnerable.
These adult alienated children are, in therapy, starving for parenting, because they are in the wrong place in the family hierarchy and have been used to feed the needs of a parent they have been pathologically aligned to and have been kept at distance from the parent they have rejected.  Thus these adult children are lonely but competent, helpless to meet their own needs but helpful to others and entrapped in a place where an authentic experience of living is denied to them (because of the defence they were forced to use in splitting off the vulnerable parts of the self).
Even when reunited with a parent they have rejected, the sense of omnipotence (looking down on a parent and blocking efforts by that parent to provide care) continues, demonstrating that the rejection of a parent is not the core problem in parental alienation, it is a by product of it.
The core problem in parental alienation is the entrapment of the child in the forced use of the ego defence of splitting which drives the child into the primary defence of omnipotent control.  The very worrying part about the reality of what is happening to the child who is using idealisation and devaluation as a defence (another way of speaking about omnipotent control) is that it is upheld too many times by the professionals who are working with that child, meaning that the illusion, the fantasy, that the child has total control over the world, is not only maintained it is strengthened.
Which is why so many children who are using this defence mechanism are driven into an escalation of allegations when their sense of omnipotence is challenged in any way.
Down the line, through the years, a child who has been left in this state of mind will arrive at the place where the defence of omnipotent control no longer serves a purpose. Reuniting with a parent however does notm of its own accord, always heal this problem.
Thus they are left, divorced from their own sense of self and trapped by a defence they have no understanding of.
When we understand that omnipotent thinking, leads to a defense mechanism which causes long term damage through the entrapment of the self, we have a duty to act to relieve the child of the circumstances which cause that.
And when children of divorce and separation come to us as adults we have a duty to understand the background in which their troubles were fermented so that we can assist in healing.
Ultimately however, we also have a duty to understand and prevent the very circumstances which lead to this life long damaging defence and its fall out from arising in the first place.
It doesn’t seem like rocket science to me.

I am currently developing a therapeutic model of work with adult alienated children.  If you are an adult who was alienated as a child and you are willing to work with me from the end of September this year on your current experiences (not your experience of being alienated as a child), I would like to hear from you.  Please email me at and mark your enquiry ‘adult alienated as a child.’

5 thoughts on “Omnipotent Thinking: Defence and Entrapment in Parental Alienation

  1. Great post, Karen!!

    I so identify with the use of helping others (i.e. compulsive helping) as a means of filling that ‘hole in the sole’ where self-worth should live. That, for me, resulted from an inability to, consciously, recognise that meeting my needs was my own responsibility and not that of the other person in a relationship with me…be it my spouse, my child, my friend or a parent (after the age I should have been, appropriately, independent).

    It, then, wasn’t a huge step from the, unrealistic, expectation that someone else could meet my needs to a place of me believing I was able to meet someone else’s needs…..especially, where that facilitated the illusion of being valued by ‘the other’. Yes, ‘troubled people’ became my (unboundaried) ‘raison d’être’ because, of course, by then, I had no (conscious) unmet needs of my own and was completely averse to any form of emotional dependence on another person anyway…..because, of course, that kind of dependence would unlock the door to my inner-most feelings of childhood shame (and rejection!) emanating from my parents’ inability to prioritise my infantile needs over their own following my birth.

    In the first 7 years of my PA-life as a child, those feelings of shame were generated from a sense of unprotected vulnerability, low self-worth and a distorted sense of reality which would, later on, develop into difficulties in setting and maintaining ‘healthy boundaries’ with others (often using walls of fear, anger, silence or grandiosity as a substitute), self-esteem issues and difficulties in, simultaneously, reconciling/sharing my reality of the world with that of others – hadn’t realised it before but ‘my gut’ is now screaming “that reconciling/sharing of reality is…SPLITTING!!”… you, succinctly, put it, Karen, ‘one internalised reality becomes two external realities’

    I can, now, see how the emotional/psychological distress my parents were experiencing in my early years threatened to re-open ‘old wounds’ from their, respective, childhoods……their own versions of ‘childhood shame’.

    After 18 years, I can also see that dynamic, currently, be ‘played out’ by way of my own adult children’s continued rejection of me at the ages of 20, 24, 26 & 28 (complete with their illusion of holding all the power in our respective four relationships). Their unwillingness/inability to moderate their, PA-engendered, feelings toward me in an emotionally-mature manner says much of the ‘boundary-violations’ they’ve experienced, the trust they lack and the resentments they feel when plunged into….their own version of childhood shame/regression

    It’s precisely because I believe those, PA-affected, ‘adult children are helpless to meet their (consciously unkn)own needs’ that I now see my ‘raison d’être’ as that of confronting my own version of childhood shame/regression so that I can be the healthiest parent that I can be, ready for if/when any of them may require my support in addressing their distorted realities (‘splitting’)

    Education, education, education (especially that of professionals involved in PA cases) is what say……


  2. Karen, the final words should read ‘is what I say’

    I corrected it with a another post but cannot see it coming up as ‘awaiting moderation’


  3. everythinghsppensforareason, thank you for sharing your words. I am sorry for the pain you should have never gone through. It is hearing the words of adult alienated children that is the most helpful to me.


  4. I was thinking what a funny thing the mind is.

    Working as I do, in the care industry, as a mental health practitioner, I come across people in various poor states of mental health.
    I see people given diagnoses by psychiatrists, whose answer is to observe the physical constructs of the brain and attempt to make changes to the individual by administering appropriate medication to enforce happiness; like someone who would dam a river to prevent flood rather than address the issue of ever- increasing flow.

    Others, with their psychological know-how who would re-train and re-assert to address personal behaviours that society deems unacceptable.
    And here you are unravelling and interpreting experiences and influences and perceptions, quietly exposing “reason” in a dialogical explanation of familial network.
    The story gradually and meticulously unfolds, replacing past burdens (grief, shame, guilt) with an understanding…………. a partial relief.


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