alienation

Don't Call It Parent Alienation, Call It Trauma

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There is only one way to reform family courts and that is for the federal government to expect them to

be trauma-informed. 

High-conflict family court is more than one parent brainwashing a child to reject the targeted parent.  High-conflict family court is a cesspool of deadly trauma.  It is the synergy of the top sources of trauma in this country; parental mental illness, domestic violence and child psychological/emotional abuse. 

1. Parental Mental Illness - one parent abuses and neglects his or her family due to their narcissistic and/or borderline personality disorder traits. 

2. Domestic Violence - the mentally impaired parent uses coercive control  to terrify the targeted parent into not exposing his or her abusive behaviors.

3. Child Psychological/emotional abuse and neglect is also called psychological maltreatment.  This along with living with a mentally impaired parent, witnessing domestic violence, high-conflict divorce (that goes on for years), and losing a parent due to alienation, adds up to an ACE score of 6+ out of the top 10 Adverse Childhood Experience. 

On top of this, our children's only chance of recovery from trauma is through the loving safety of the targeted parent, who has been distanced, if not all together erased from the child's life by the erroneous decisions and judgments by those "professionals" in high-conflict family court.

The bottom line is that excessive trauma is prolonged and escalated by high-conflict family court and becomes deadly to our children. 

Children of high-conflict family court disputes develop mental and physical health problems that include, but are not limited to:

depression, anxiety, relational problems, including transmitting the trauma to the next generation (trauma reenactment), self-destructive behaviors like drug and alcohol abuse, and are at a 5000% increased risk for suicide, and educational and occupational problems. They also are at a high risk for developing cancer, heart and lung disease and dying 20 years earlier than without family court trauma.

You Don't Have to Throw the Baby Out With the Bathwater

Healthy skepticism encourages us to check our assumptions, recognize the limitations of our methods, and proceed thoughtfully. When skepticism and controversy about a concept or label still remains as an obstacle, after decades of work to validate it in the eyes of mainstream science, then the validity of the skepticism must be examined.

 

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When all efforts to get society, especially the mental health and legal professional to recognize parental alienation as a legitimate crisis in science and health have failed, then the problem is not on “them;" it is on us.   How can we expect "them" to adopt a concept when we ourselves cannot even define it?     Regardless of the inherent controversy with the term parental alienation, it is short sighted to think that the mental health and legal professions are going to fully embrace a problem that doesn't have a clear, stable definition.  Is it a dynamic?  Is it a mental illness?  Is it child abuse?  No one, outside of our elite little PA community is going to take us seriously until we resolve the confusion about what parental alienation is. 

Recently, a member of the Parental Alienation Study Group (PASG), proposed a far reaching position statement to its members for their feedback and adoption.  The position statement strongly supports using more widely accepted and less controversial terms like "coercive control" and "child psychological abuse" in place of “parental alienation”; recognizing that the controversy about "parental alienation" is more about the term than about the actual phenomenon.

Adopting this position statement (or an amended version) could bring this international group of authors and researches in line with the largest, most powerful organizations and agencies in the world working to change the outcomes for families struggling with child psychological abuse.  PASG could then network with established change agents such as; childhood attachment trauma, psychological maltreatment,   domestic violence association, developmental and personality psychology and a plethora of others, all fighting to stop psychological abuse.

The biggest problem associated with shifting our perception is that many of us are invested and comfortable with using this term.  But, we don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater!  Simply put,  parental alienation is not the whole enchilada but a specific set of abusive strategiesor a pattern of abusive behaviors by one parent to alienate children from their other parent. 

Parental Alienation is a set of abusive strategies (or a pattern of abusive behaviors) that a narcissistic/borderline parent uses to exile the other parent from their children’s lives.

It is a subtle but significant difference.  The abusive acts of alienating a parentcannot be separated from the abuser's reenactment of their childhood trauma, or their narcissistic/borderline personality disorder.  

  Below is a diagram of the chronology of how attachment trauma impacts the development of narcissistic/borderline personality disorder and how that disorder plays out in family situations.  The hallmark of these parents is that they are abusive to their family and escalate conflict whenever possible. Most of these families breakdown under the unrelenting stress, which triggers the unstable parent to reenact his or her childhood trauma based on distorted and disorganized memories stored in their internal working model.   During this reenactment period the narcissistic/borderline parent engages in and escalates specific strategies meant to alienate a child from his or her parent.  

       

 

 

 

 The sooner we stop calling psychological abuse parental alienation, the sooner we can engage in meaningful and effective intervention and prevention.

But this is up to us.

 

 

 

 

Nothing Baffling About Psychological Abuse

The most common and harmful type of child abuse is psychological maltreatment (emotional abuse and neglect).   Decades of research confirm that parents who thwart their children’s emotional and psychological needs cause long term problems equal to and often worse than physical and/or sexual abuse.  Psychological maltreatment is described in two ways.  One description focuses on the parent’s abusive behaviors such as; terrorizing, exploiting and rejecting.  The other way to describe child psychological maltreatment is in terms of the symptoms a child displays when being psychologically abused or neglected.  

Some authors argue that there are mild or moderate degrees of emotional  abuse, but these cases fall below the threshold of psychological maltreatment.  Mild or moderate cases of emotional abuse can be treated as dysfunctional parenting problems.  Psychological maltreatment on the other hand is characterized by chronic, severe, and escalating patterns of psychological abuse that puts the child at risk of psychological harm.

 A growing number of parents who have been linked to psychological abuse display relationally abusive narcissistic/borderline traits.  These parents are very reactive under relenting stress.   Typically, they are unable to transition through the divorce process they escalate their abusive behaviors toward the other (targeted) parent.  Ultimately, the abuser wants to drive the targeted parent out of the children’s lives.   The harm this causes every psychologically abused child (and the targeted parent) is extreme and it is widespread.  Harman and Biringrin (2016) and other authorities estimate that the number of families struggling under this emotional assault could be as many as 22 million.   There is an immediate need to break the cycle of narcissistic/borderline psychological abuse, one family at a time.

Despite the urgent need for intervention in cases of psychological maltreatment, child and family welfare courts and agencies seriously underreport. under investigate, and rarely intervene in these cases.  In the article, Unseen Wounds (Spinazolla, 2014) the authors  suggest that child welfare professionals may be baffled by the “covert” and “insidious” nature of psychological abuse and that those who are responsible to prevent and intervene for the children, may adopt an apathetic or helpless attitude.   As pathetic as this sounds, it may be true.   The problem of stopping child psychological abuse would seem insurmountable,  IF social workers, mental health providers and the courts focused on the abuser only.   Obviously, investigators cannot get behind closed doors to personally witness what any abusive parent is doing.    No one “sees” these acts, except for the (ex) partner who is often not given much support or credibility, and the traumatized child, who should not be re-traumatized by having to testifying against either of his or her parents.  

 

 

However, if social workers, mental health providers and the courts used the evidence presented by psychologically abused children in the same way they do for physically and sexually abused children, these professionals would realize that there is nothing covert, insidious or baffling about psychological maltreatment.   In fact, a physically or sexually abusive parent and their victim may be able to hide scars or bruises, or make up stories about how the child fell or had an accident, but psychologically maltreated children cannot cover up their symptoms with clothes or lies.  In fact, these cases are much easier to identify, locate, intervene, and provide treatment for than physical and/or sexual abuse cases, because severely psychologically abused children act out so outrageously that the family draws attention.

Identifying a severely psychologically abused child is as easy as opening your eyes.  The child will conspicuously and reliably display three (3) profoundly abnormal and delusional symptoms when relating to both parents inside and outside of court.  Anyone with a little training can learn to identify the indicators of psychological abuse, as defined by the state statutes and the DSM-V.  The icing on the cake is that the child will hyper bond or enmesh with the abuser against the other parent, leaving no doubt as to which parent is the perpetrator.

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Locating psychologically abusive parents is as easy and going down to the court  house.  Due to the abusers’ patterns of narcissistic/borderline traits and their need to escalate conflict, these families can be found in protracted contested custody cases, filling family court dockets across America.   There is not another crime where the perpetrator walks right in through the court doors.  

Intervention and treatment for these psychologically abused children is fairly simple.  The non-abusive parent and abused children need a time of protective separation from the abuser for psycho-educational healing and reuniting.  In addition, each family member needs to learn how to recognize and prevent further psychological abuse.   The family is monitored to ensure that that treatment is effective and preventive measures are put in place, thus breaking the cycle of narcissistic/borderline psychological abuse, one family at a time.

 

I'm working on linking the full documents described in these blogs.  Anyone know square space?   Kay

 

 

 

Harman PhD, Jennifer; Biringen PhD, Zeynep (2016-01-03). Parents Acting Badly: How Institutions and Societies Promote the Alienation of Children from Their Loving Families (Kindle Locations 522-523).  . Kindle Edition.

Spinazzola, J., Hodgdon, H., Ford, J.,…Kisiel C., (2014). Unseen wounds: The contribution of psychological maltreatment to child and adolescent mental health and risk outcomes.  Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 6, 518-828. doi.org/10.1037/a0037766

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The End of Parental Alienation

 

                                 When the Moon is in the seventh house,

and Jupiter aligns with Mars.  Then peace will

guide the planets,

                            and love will steer the stars.  

                               –The Fifth Dimension (1969)

 

2016 is the year that parental alienation (as we know it) will end.  It’s only January and already, the traditional framework of parental alienation is disappearing and a new era is emerging.  Almost everyday I find another piece to the puzzle that brings us one step closer to ending this nightmare.  We are light years away from that dark place were there was no hope that people or systems would ever understand and care enough to change. 

Up until now, it’s probably a good thing that we didn’t know how complex and damaging the problem is.   If we had, most of us might have given up in the face of such comprehensive adversity.   What we were unaware of is that many other people have been also been working on aspects of our problem under different names.  It is now becoming clear that any one domain couldn’t possibly have discovered the multifaceted aspects of parental alienation.  And indeed what we call parental alienation is just one aspect of a bigger problem.  This is why we have struggled trying to explain or get others to understand our crisis.  This is also why individual approaches to resolving the issue have failed.  

The attachment-based model of parental alienation1 is the only model that identifies the multifaceted interaction of the clinical psychological definition of parental alienation, but even that does not account for the impact of the longstanding social injustices of custody allocations, parenting and gender role biases that have as much or maybe more of an impact on the problem.  Make no mistake about it, parental alienation is a huge, huge problem, possibly our county’s number 1 public health problem and the solution is just as big, but not insurmountable.

There is nothing that is insurmountable for targeted parents because we have the one thing we need to overcome this worldwide assault on our children, our families and our country.   We have the GOLD bullet; the most valuable possession in the world.  It’s called attachment.

Attachment is the most powerful force on earth.

Attachment is the enduring emotional bond between a healthy parent and his or her children and it is our superpower.  It exists with no boundaries in time or space.  Nothing can destroy it.  Nothing can stop it.  It is how David beat Goliath.  It is how we can be immersed in intolerable pain, but not be debilitated by it.  It is how we endure being stripped of our personal and civil rights and still step forward.  Attachment is how targeted parents can work full time jobs, plus put in 20-30+ hours a week preparing for court, mediation, and still fight for the good of the order.  In addition, targeted parents spend every moment thinking, working, praying, sharing, and caring for our children, whether we have contact or not.   We are either crazy, or invincible and know that I’m not crazy. 

 

The War At Home

The War At Home

Anyone who marries or is in a relationship with a person who shows signs of having a narcissistic or borderline personality disorder is vulnerable to experience parental alienation.  Personality disorders are not gender specific and that means that neither alienators nor targeted parents represent any specific gender.  

It’s a war like no other.  Everything we love and cherish is being taken away from us.   It is a war for our homes and in our home.   Targeted parents didn’t start it, they don’t want to be a part of it, but we are the only ones fighting it.  

It always makes me roll my eyes when I get a sense of how much our government spends to protect our county.  Our children are the very heart of our country.  Protecting our children was the reason homeland security was created.   Yet, terrorists in the form of alienators find sanctuary hiding in 22 million homes, methodically dismantling the family structure and causing mental and emotional harm to children and healthy parents.  If they are not stopped, there will be nothing left of this country to fight for.

It is easy to blame our ex-partners because they are calling the shots, but have enlisted soldiers to do the dirty work so they can remain safe and warm, behind closed doors.   One of the biggest problems with fighting this war is that targeted parents continue to fight on the alienators’ turf.  We are drawn out into hostile territory to defend ourselves against longstanding misconceptionsand biases that sanction and support the enemies in our midst. 

Dr. Richard Warshak (2015) clearly identified 10 extremely harmful false assumptions (gender and parenting biases) that legal and mental health professionals hold about our families.  He also pointed out that these professionals hang on to these erroneous thoughts, contrary to 30 years of empirical research.  Even Dr. Daniel Siegel admitted in an article in Family Court Review, that he understands that there are neurobiological research that demonstrate a gender difference that can influence attachment in early infancy, but he very honestly states; “I just cannot get myself to take those findings seriously because of my own experience as a father…” (p519). 1  

Targeted parents are just as guilty of falling into the trap of sociocultural biases as Dan Siegel.  I’m just as vulnerable.  When Joe Barrow starting posting videos of alienated children I contacted him because I thought he was being biased against women.  In every video, the alienator was a mother, and I was upset.  I had heard that alienation was NOT gender specific, but I didn’t really believe it.  The alienator in my life was a man and the majority of people who have joined the National Alliance for Targeted Parents have been women.  Even so, I was wrong, this really isn’t a war of gender.  Targeted men and women need to enlist in our army, and join the NATP because we are at war and we need all the fighters we can get.

 

1Siegel, D., (2011). Family law and the neuroscience of attachment, part II. Family Court Review,   49, 519.

Warshak, R. A. (2015, June 22). Ten Parental Alienation Fallacies That Compromise Decisions in Court and in Therapy. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. Advance onlinepublication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pro0000031