Relational trauma in divorce and separation

In September the EAPAP Conference will focus upon the component parts of how a child comes to reject a parent outright in divorce and separation. Featuring leading clinicians, this conference opens up a new chapter in evolving understanding of the problem which has been called parental alienation but which we now recognise as relational trauma. See the full programme here.

Relational trauma is caused by maladaptations in intimate relationships and causes transgenerational patterns of beliefs and behaviours, which lead to attachment disruptions and a reactions in children such as hyper alignment and rejection of parents.

We are only really at the start of this new route to understanding the problem of children’s behaviours in divorce and separation but we already know a great deal about how this problem persists throughout the life time.

One of the core things we have come to understand in the intensive work we have been doing in recent months, is that the splitting seen in alienated children is mirrored in their parents. Whilst the influencing parent is likely to be the source of the original splitting, the rejected parent is forced to use splitting as a defence in order to cope with the negative projection by the child of the split off and denied parts of the self which enable the complete rejection.

Negative projection, which is currently seen on the internet around the subject of parental alienation, causes the splitting off of parts of the self which cannot be faced or carried or coped with and the projection of these at others. Alongside this are the split off feelings of the person projecting who attempts to force the recipient of the projection to carry the shame and blame they cannot face in their own self. The purpose of this is to defend the self from the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness which cannot be carried in the conscious mind. Anyone using negative projection repeatedly, has a secret which is hidden even from themselves. The greater the projection, the harder the effort to blame and shame others, the more powerful the defence against that secret.

When the child projects negative blame and shame at a parent, it is the same dynamic which is seen. The secret is that the child loves the parent they are rejecting but they are not free to express that or even feel it in most cases. The more love the child has to split off and hide, the higher the defence and the fiercer the rejection.

Given that rejection of a parent by a child happens in an already tumultuous landscape, the only way that many parents can cope is to use reactive splitting to defend themselves – split off and deny all good about the other parent and completely blame and try to shame them for abusing the child, or accept the projection as truth.

This is the dynamic which leads to so much suffering for rejected parents, they are forced into an either/or response. When campaign groups mirror this splitting – people on the other side are completely evil and on my side they are completely good, the door to the prison of the split mind is locked and the key is thrown away.

We are working with a treatment route to healing relational trauma now that no longer mirrors the splitting in the family but which seeks to heal it right from the start. From the autumn we will be bringing help to parents, children and wider families which aim to support the whole family, wherever you are in the circle around the child. We are doing this because we recognise that if all we do is mirror the splitting and give it attention, all we will do is inflate the problem and hide the reality and its solution from our conscious awareness.

If we always do what we have always done, we will always get what we have always got.

Unknown Author, variously attributed to many over the years

It is time to do something different and this is what different looks like.

Trauma Healing for Rejected Parents

Starting today I am going to be writing about healing the reactive splitting suffered by rejected parents. This is a key building block to recovery from the negative projections and prepares you for recovering your child.

I am going to post links to people who are delivering support for your wellbeing so that you have places to go to help yourself.

Alongside this I am going to invite some key people I have been working with in trauma care, to share with you routes to healing, I am warmed and heartened by the interest from other practitioners in helping families affected by relational trauma and their enthusiam about working with this problem in this way.

Discussions about online group support are happening now and I will bring details of this to you soon.

For now, here is a small video to begin your journey of self recovery from the pernicious harm this relational trauma has done to your family. There are so many more videos to watch which assist you to understand your own self in the context of the family drama which unfolded around you when your child began to use defensive splitting, I will post more and give guidance on the thinking around this from the Autumn.

Recovering Your Adult Child

I am already writing the therapeutic parenting course and handbook for families. This will be a new downloadable resource you can immediately use in thinking about how to set out and follow a plan to assist your adult child to come home.

I will add into this some guest posts from practitioners who are, behind the scenes, already doing the work of helping older children to come home.

In addition I will post links and host workshops online to help you to think through this process.

Recovering Younger Children

Recovery of younger children remains something which requires, in the main, the input of the Court because of the power and control that the aligned parent has over the child. The Family Separation Clinic continues its work in the Family Courts and can be instructed by following this link.

Please note however that I cannot be instructed until January 2021 as I am fully booked with cases, research and writing.

Please do not propose FSC for any in court service without obtaining permission first.

FSC Coaching Services

Our coaching service re-opens on September 7th, again, please use this link to find out more.

Other support Services in the UK
Susan Rutter Independent Social Work Services

I am always keen to work with experienced practitioners who understand the issues at the heart of divorce and separation and who work from a relational trauma perspective. In recent weeks I have been talking with Susan Rutter who runs Separate Ways and who has a depth experience of relational trauma and who is delivering support services for families. You can contact Susan via the link above.

7 comments

  1. With currently doing a parenting course at 62, & working with one of our therapists at the moment this fits right in & I can relate to all of it. Thank you Karen for your blogs & insight. Finding out I’m never to old to learn.

    We used to say children come without a manual, now there are so many ways to learn how to help children develop & grow. Just a pity that people who look for this type of help are often those that have been rejected or the product of relational trauma in some way or another.

    These details need to be ‘out there’ for everyone planning on having children & wanting the best for their children.

    Like

  2. Dearest Karen, I am so excited about your agenda in healing this pathology through leadership of rejected parents. Inspired by your workshop in Ireland, I just opened a parents work group two weeks ago in Israel and it is so powerful. Looking forward to participate in the EAPAP Conference.
    Best wishes for you and Nick

    Like

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