The alienation of mothers: shame, blame and the reconfiguration game

There is a current strategy to convince alienated mothers that they are really suffering from coercive control and that they are being conned into believing that they are alienated. The problem with this argument, is that it only focuses upon the experience of the mothers themselves, it ignores completely, what is happening to the child.

The argument that mothers who are alienated are suffering from coercive control but fathers who are alienated are coercive controllers, falls down when we shift our focus to the alienated child. In the former scenario, which comes from an ideological perspective (women’s rights come first and must be protected before all else because they are victims of patriarchy), mothers who are alienated from their children and mothers who are ‘protecting’ their children from abusive fathers are all classed as victims of coercive control.

The problem with this view, is that when we shift our focus to what is happening to the children in these circumstances, we find that the children who are alienated from their mothers and the children who are alienated from their fathers, are all showing the same behavioural signs of psychological splitting. Children in the care of their fathers who are psychologically split, idealise their father and reject their mother, children in the care of their mothers who are psychologically split, idealise their mothers and demonise their fathers.

When children show idealisation of one parent and demonisation of the other, in the absence of any findings that a parent has caused harm, they are showing signs of alienation – from their own selves first and then one of their parents. Alienation is harmful to children because it causes a false persona to arise, which is followed by projections onto the parent of a belief that one is wholly good and the other is wholly bad. A child showing these signs, will experience interruption of normal healthy development and it is vital to examine the dynamics which lead to this presentation. Only by doing so can we discover why the child has utilised defensive psychological splitting as a coping mechanism.

If then, all children who are alienated show signs of psychological splitting and that happens if children are in the care of mothers or fathers, how can it also be true that only mothers experience abuse in the form of either alienation or allegations of alienation? The answer is, it can’t be true and it isn’t true and no amount of effort to reconfigure alienation of children as only being about coercive control of mothers, in order to obfuscate the reality that mothers and fathers become alienated from their children will hide that.

The shaming and blaming of alienated mothers has been going on for a very long time. It continues today, with what I can only describe as the deeply disturbing and brutal treatment of alienated mothers, by women who want to convince them that their children are not alienated, because what is really happening is that they are suffering coercive control.

Telling an alienated parent that their child is not alienated, is like telling a bereaved parent that their understanding of how their child died is wrong. It is like careering into someone’s personal suffering and imposing your own experience upon them. Alienated parents know what alienation does to their children, they have lived it, breathed it, cried a thousand tears over it. Whether it is caused by coercive control, bad mouthing, mental health problems, cold malicious determination, enmeshment, parentification or anything else, the harm that it does to the child is clear and present, it is obvious, it is like a light being switched off in the child’s mind as the child struggles with the onset of a false persona, which is designed to help the child survive the unsurvivable.

Alienated mothers, like alienated fathers, do not need to be lectured to about what they are experiencing, they do not need to be re-traumatised, what they need is care and compassion, understanding and most of all, to be heard and to have their suffering recognised.

The ‘alienation is really coercive control‘ agenda, which is promoted by ideological groups, is a red herring, it is designed to make this a war between mothers and fathers and it completely ignores the needs of alienated children and their parents, who are forced to stand by and watch their children being abused.

Alienation of children is part of a strategy of post separation abuse which is carried out by fathers and by mothers, using strategies which are often gender specific (fathers use readily recongised coervice control strategies, mothers use less easily recognised covert strategies of enmeshment and parentification) but which are also rooted in a range of mental health problems. The child carries the symptoms in the form of induced psychological splitting, which causes the most appalling changes in behaviour which are created by the defence which the child is driven to use.

For sure there are false claims of alienation, I have worked in cases where I have clearly said that this is not a case of alienation (and have been harassed by parents for saying so). But false claims of alienation, like false claims of domestic abuse, do not mean that all cases of either are falsified.

.My enduring interest in doing this work is protecting children from having to use induced psychological splitting as a defence and treatment of families where that occurs. I care about alienated children and the parent they are rejecting because I know that it is within that relationship that the child can properly recover an integrated sense of self. Watching what is done to alienated mothers (and fathers) but right now, particularly mothers, appalls me. For a group so shamed and so blamed, the hectoring and lecturing seems to me to be without compassion.

Which from an ideology which purports to put women’s needs first, is something of a contradiction.

For ignoring their sisters exortations to change their understanding of what is happening to their children, alienated mothers continue to be blamed, shamed and isolated from the help that they need.

On International Women’s Day, my thoughts are with them.

9 thoughts on “The alienation of mothers: shame, blame and the reconfiguration game

    1. I am retained as an Expert in high-conflict child custody cases by mothers against fathers, and who are not perceived by Courts as protective parents when allegations of abuse are made against the fathers, but as parents who’ve conveniently coached their kids to parrot said disclosures. And, of course, same mothers are considered the alienators while the fathers are presented by their Attorneys as the targeted parents. The correct path to arriving at the truth in these cases lies in review/critique of the child’s forensic interview captured onto DVD at the Child Advocacy Center, and all notes/reports authored by child protection professionals who’ve interviewed or talked to the children. Child suggestibility and possible child memory source contamination must be the essential areas of focus in these cases. Allegations of abuse must be properly vetted including whether or not all professionals conducted source monitoring during their investigations.

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  1. I. The alienated Mother. She is 20 now and barely talks to me. Will not give me her number.

    What do you do?

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    1. You continue to lay out opportunties and invitations for her to come towards you, you recognise that the split state of mind doesn’t allow for linear progress on her part because of the way that splitting affects the memory and the attachment system and you learn about therapeutic parenting so that you recognise what she needs and how she will present and behave and are prepared to reparent in that way until she recovers fully. It takes some time but if you put it into practice you will understand, know what to do and have agency in assisting her. K

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  2. Hi Karen
    We’ve often talked about the words we use to describe adult behaviour that can cause non-accidental psychological harm to children. As time passes I am becoming more convinced that the labels we use routinely are simply not helpful. They are confused, confusing and lacking in clarity. At a time when awareness of the phenomenon is increasing the terminology and the confusion is succeeding in prolonging the harm of children.
    Firstly, the behaviours which have resulted in children being sufficiently harmed to warrant the state removing them from a parent and either placing them in care or with the other parent have now been repeatedly found by the courts, to exist and to be perpetrated by parents whether they be genetic or biological. It has happened regardless of how the harm was caused or whether the harm was physical or emotional.
    Some people harm children. That is an inescapable truth which is a matter of record. No one has ever succeeded in proving that their gender prevents them from harming others. Having said that I don’t think anyone has been stupid enough to try.
    Secondly we have become accustomed to using the term alienation to describe the process and the result of certain adult behaviours. If we look at how we view other types of harm, for instance assault, this can produce a result ranging from nothing, to bruising at the bottom end of the scale to homicide at the other end of the scale. There are numerous classifications in between to distinguish between how an assault is carried out, its severity and the result.
    We must start applying a similar rationale to what we now call PA. We must start being precise about what is being done and what is being caused. The confusion which currently exists is ripe for exploiting and highjacking by any opportunist zealot because the labels are lazy, wooly and vague. Saying what we mean and defining what we say are easy ways to prevent this and avoid unnecessary confusion.

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    1. Indeed Padre Stevie – we have never relied upon Gardner in our assessments, we have always focused upon induced psychological splitting and referred to it as non accidental injury – that is how I was taught to conceptualise it, alongside looking for the causative mental health problems. It was only when I became involved with PASG that I realised that Parental Alienation as conceptualised by Gardner, is used as a diagnostic tool., that’s when I began to realise what a cul de sac to legal fighting that is – it reduces the complexity of the issue down to a punch up in court over the label. That was never going to work for the UK or anywhere else in reality. I could say more but I won’t because as you know I left PASG in 2019 when I realised that the use of Parental Alienation as a label is the core goal – that doesn’t work in any way in treatment, it offers nothing other than conflict around who is doing it and who it is being done to and it offers nothing in terms of the reality of what is happening to children and how to resolve that. Working with senior clinicians in EAPAP we now have a rich, mature and psychologically sophisticated approach to thinking, discussing, differentiating and treating the problem and the branches that grow from that are many and varied in their usefulness. This is how this field will grow in my view, this is where my energies are best spent. So much more to come, so many new developments. The DA Bill outcome was correct in my view although I thank Baroness Meyer for her tireless work and all those who spoke up and supported it, in particuar Professor Robert Winston whose words give so much weight and wisdom and reason to keep on keeping on in our objective to make the world aware of this hidden form of child abuse. K

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  3. Thank you Karen I really appreciate you helping our Alienated children and Targeted Families.
    I have two boys ages 13 and 14 the oldest is being alienated from me I have some contact with him but rarely get to see him anymore the other parent has almost severed my relationship with him he doesn’t trust me he’s constantly attacking me with his words we don’t get to talk ever when I pick him up in the car from the other parents home we’re shut down he puts his headphones in so it’s kind of like not having a relationship with them at all and it’s getting worse and worse how do I stop this I’ve tried everything the other parent has me completely shut out of his life in every area of his life and has
    Convinced him that I’m not deserving to be a part of his life it’s torture because I still have contact the one I do have him we don’t communicate I do my best but he continues to bring conflict to me that I don’t even wanna be a part of of
    I just want to reverse this alienation and have a loving relationship with my son we desperately need help but he won’t do therapy I tried nine times it’s very difficult when you have the alienator who’s running the show

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