Increasingly my work is focused upon the experience of parents and children who are reunited after a period during which a child has suffered from induced psychological splitting which is popularly referred to as parental alienation.
Readers will notice that I am regularly referring to the problem of induced psychological splitting rather than parental alienation, this is because in my work with families, where I am close to children and parents, I see that the split state of mind is at the core of all that has happened in the family.
I sometimes live with a family where a child is in recovery from psychological splitting and this gives me a unique moment by moment opportunity to record the shifts in the child’s psychological and emotional presentation. It means I get to witness in real time the rythmn of recovery which is peculiar, requires understanding and has yet to be properly documented anywhere (as far as I can tell).
For this reason we are currently focused on producing a series of case studies about children in recovery from induced psychological splitting in order that there can be a detailed record of how a child makes the steps from alignment and rejection to integration of the split state of mind.
Having closely observed 63 severely alienated children in recovery from induced psychological splitting to integration which is signalled by a return to normal relationship with the parent who was previously being rejected, it has become possible to set out the steps which are taken to resolution.
Whilst writing about this on a blog is anecdotal and proper evaluation requires case study material to be analysed and evaluated independently (which is being undertaken at the moment), it is useful to outline the stepwise approach to recovery which is seen because parents who are recovering their children now, will be helped to understand their behaviours.
I used to call the behaviour seen in recovering children ‘ping pong’ or ‘seesaw’ behaviours. In 2013 I was writing about older children in recovery but without the knowledge that I now have about how splitting affects the child’s mind and memory function. Back then I observed how children making spontaneous moves to reconnect with a parent would appear and then disappear inexplicably, seemingly normal and then not normal again in their response to the parent they had rejected.
Today I know so much more about how and why a child does this, I know that in the process of suffering induced psychological splitting, the pruning of the neural pathways is affected for example, meaning that the child cannot develop the age appropriate perspective. I also know that the split state of mind, which is suffered in the child FIRST and then projected outwards onto the parents, means that a part of the child’s internalised object relationship has been repressed, meaning that it is difficult for the child to recover external relationships in a linear fashion because their awareness of that repressed side of themselves is limited.
All of which means in simple terms that the child’s brain capacity has been impacted by psychological splitting and their capacity to relate to loved ones from the past in a straightforward manner is interrupted. In real terms, the older child has limited access to a part of their internalised sense of self in relationship to which would make it easy to relate to the parent they have rejected. In order to recover that straightforwardness, there is a rhythm which is seen which is similar to the ‘pendulum’ approach seen in trauma work where exposure to trauma is matched with periods of rest.
Proximity to the rejected parent is what is necessary to enable the recovering child to experience buried (repressed) feelings about a parent. Proximity in spontaneous recovery however is of course largely in the hands of the child who may appear and disappear again as they become used to the presence and proximity of the parent they have rejected and simoultaneously, the part of themselves they have repressed. This is what therapeutic parenting, used in the adoption and fostering community, is so useful for these children in recovery because it allows them to experience the rejected parent (and part of themselves) in a supportive and consistent experience.
Remaining steady in the face of a child coming and going in your life isn’t easy, especially when the child has been absent for a long time because of the splitting reaction, but it is necessary. Understanding why the child does this helps you to stay steady and provide for the child the predictable and consistent responses they need to be able to come to rest in the pendulating rythm of recovery.
At all times during this recovery period it is important to watch the child’s behaviours and ignore their words. What the child says is the inculcated narrative they have been forced to swallow. A child in recovery requires you to hold the boundary around their behaviours and not perpetuate the dynamics which cause and uphold splitting. So for example, if your child appears in your life and begins to tell you lots of bad things about the other parent, tempting though it is to join in and feel your pain assuaged by this, doing so is to prolong the splitting. The healthy response is to allow the child to say what they need to say without comment and then move them into the present and let them know that you don’t need to hear this and they don’t need to say it in order to receive your unconditional love. When the child hears and feels this response from you, the need to hold two parts of their lives separate and two parts of themselves split apart is reduced. Self esteem is built when a child recognises that they don’t need to bad mouth the other parent in order to repair the relationship with you. Much strength and consistent unconditional positive regard is required of you at this stage but if you can hold that line the pendulum of appearance and disappearance will slow down and you will find the child more consistently present in your life than not.
An alienated child in recovery requires a range of support from a healthy parent in order to achieve integration. It can and is being done and the more we understand about the harm done, the more we understand how to treat the problem. As we move forward into deeper, broader understanding of this problem, more strategies for helping families will come to the fore and a greater sense of capacity to manage can be put into the hands of the most important people in the lives of alienated children – the parent who was rejected. The parent who was not the problem in the first place, the parent upon whom the child is dependent for full, healthy recovery.
That parent is the link between the past, present and future for alienated children. Love is the bridge across which all children walk to refind that parent’s help to come home.
Supporting parents to stay well and healthy and be there waiting when their child begins that journey, is a core task for us all.
THERAPEUTIC PARENTING WORKSHOP – LONDON MARCH 14 2020
What you will learn
- How children become alienated
- The impact on children of alienation
- How psychological splitting affects perception and memory
- What the psychologically split state of mind does to you
- How to change yourself to change your child
- How to communicate with a psychologically split child
- How to build the antidote to psychological splitting into everyday parenting
- Setting boundaries
- Developing new moral guidelines for family life
- Trouble shooting with recovering children
Featuring co-trainers who are parents who have received their severely alienated child back into their life and used therapeutic parenting to heal the split state of mind, this is an interactive workshop for all rejected parents and those at risk of rejection.
Whilst this workshop is primarily aimed at parents whose children have been reunified with them, it will also be highly relevant for any parent who still retains some relationship with a resisting child and for parents whose children are at risk of developing an alienation reaction.
15 Places still available
Cost £95 per person plus VAT