“Thus he spent his whole life searching for his own truth, but it remained hidden to him because he had learned at a very young age to hate himself for what his mother had done to him. (…) But not once did he allow himself to direct his endless, justified rage at the true culprit, the woman who had kept him locked up in her prison for as long as she could. All his life he attempted to free himself of that prison, with the help of drugs, travel, illusions, and above all poetry. But in all these desperate efforts to open the doors that would have led to liberation, one of them remained obstinently shut, the most important one: the door to the emotional reality of his childhood, to the feelings of the little child who was forced to grow up with a severely disturbed, malevolent woman, with no father to protect him from her.”
The work we are doing now, is to bring our understanding of what has happened to alienated children to light and to develop new routes to resolution which can be widely replicated. This project continues apace and increasingly involves clinicians around the world in a united understanding of the need for practice which is informed by all of the therapies which are known to be useful with families affected by induced psychological splitting. The longer we do this work, the more aware we are of the intra-psychic world of the alienated child. The more we know about this state of mind, the more we can assist in the resolution of the internalised split which has created the drama seen in parental alienation.
Children are vulnerable in the intra and inter-psychic world where their experience is largely in the felt senses. As such they are sponge-like in their capacity to absorb feelings and beliefs of others and if they are subjected to distortions of the same, they will follow the psychological pathway which is laid out for them, even living out dramas which belong not to them but to those long gone in their family who have left a legacy of unresolved trauma.
As part of my work is currently focused upon the experience of adults who were alienated as children, I am coming to see how, in the felt sense, that unresolved trauma, which is passed from influencing parent to child, lives on if it is untreated. Even where children have reunited with a parent as adults and even when on the outside it appears that resolution of the external split of the parents into good and bad has been resolved, these adults speak of feeling divided. What is clear to me is that the experience of splitting in childhood, in which the incapacity to hold two realities in mind is induced, is a life long legacy which needs our attention.
I have come to think of the experience of children of divorce and separation as an everyday trauma which is overlooked and ignored by everyone until the red flag of alienation appears and the child refuses completely to maintain relationships with both parents. It is my view, and always has been, that if we were to pay more attention to the needs of children in divorce and separation for support in what is a barren and frightening landscape for them, we would see much less alienation and much more successful adaptation to the crossing that the family makes from together to apart.
Having worked in the field of family separation for almost 30 years now, I have seen my fair share of successful family transitions and I have seen more than my fair share of families who have failed to make that happen. What I have come to understand, is that within the families who fail, is an unwell parent hiding in plain sight who is triggered by the everyday trauma of the divorce into taking control of the dynamics around the child.
I have written extensively on this blog and elsewhere about the harm that comes to children when a parent is unwell and the child is rendered completely dependent upon that person. Working with adults who were alienated as children is teaching me more about the long lasting harm that does. What is also clear to me is that the induced psychological splitting which is suffered by alienated children is the cause of all of the drama which is seen around the child at the time of the divorce or separation.
In essence, the only way a child suffering everyday trauma which is overlooked and ignored can signal that they are in danger is by using the defence of psychological splitting. As in previous discussions on here, when a child is being terrorised in the inter-psychic world by a loved parent, the only way to cope with this is to create a defence which allows continuation of that love. Although it is a gross distortion of mind to love one’s abuser, it is an escape mechanism from an intolerable dilemma and as such it is used by alienated children routinely.
We have now had five or more decades of this everyday trauma and it is only now that we are beginning to see a shift in consciousness around the world about the harm done to children in divorce and separation. For five decades or more the drama of the alienated child has been attributed to the parent who has been rejected, a parent who is healthy and well and who has also been tricked, trapped and entangled into the dysfunctional world of an unwell parent.
We now know that the rejection of a parent is simply a by-product of the pathological alignment between the child suffering induced psychological splitting and a parent who is carrying unresolved trauma. Knowing that means that our focus upon the drama of the alienated child can begin with understanding the route in so that we can build the route out of the child’s need to use defensive splitting.
In a world which is criss crossed with blame, shame and inter-psychic terror, we are joined with the children who suffer this and in joining them we as clinicians ourselves become vulnerable to a world full of heroes and villains narratives. From this position, where we are loved by one group and hated by the other, worshipped by some and denigrated by others, where tall tales and conspiracy theories abound and where even those who as professionals should know better are busy diagnosing us online, we become aware at the deepest levels possible of the everyday trauma suffered by alienated children and the families they have rejected.
Which means that our work is focused where the reality lies and where reality lies, new insights are made possible.
This everyday trauma, this drama of the alienated child is the next child abuse scandal to come to light in the western world.
Suffering little children, who as adults still do, will have their day.
Family Separation Clinic Training and Conference Diary 2020
Iceland – Seminar for Practitioners January 2020
Iceland – Workshop for parents 1 February 2020
Information about our Iceland training will be posted here and parents can book onto the workshop via online booking, all details here shortly.
Ireland – (Cork) Three day training for practitioners 5-7 March 2020 details here 1st December 2019.
USA – May – Conference presentation to be announced January.
Croatia – EAPAP 2020 June 15/16 – Zagreb – Speakers to be announced shortly
USA – NC October 10/11 2020 for Family Access – Helping Courts to Understand Parental Alienation.