borderline personality disorer

What's Working and What Is Not

Dear Friends,

There are so many opportunities for us in the ACEs, trauma informed, and resilience building movement, that I decided the most efficient and effective way for us to get our powerful scientific based message out to all those who can help us end the nightmare of narcissistic abuse, is to publish a book.  So, I am taking a 2-month sabbatical from running the Alliance (including the face book and LinkedIn pages) to write.

 

But before I do, I wanted to up date you on:

What’s working and what is not.

What’s Not Working?—The same things that never worked.

 

 Some targeted parents are still trying to prove “parental alienation” in family court.  GRRRRR.  Please remember that there aren’t any States with statutes that define “parental alienation” let alone have made it a crime.  A lawyer would have to prove “it” by case law- Good Luck with that, Perry Mason.

 I’ve had contact with a few lawyers and GALs who know that one parent is using alienation strategies to discard the TP, but that’s as far as they get.  Even if they get past the obstacles of trying to prove something that most legal professionals have strongly held misconceptions about, there are no laws or protocols to take it to the next level. 

Usually the courts think that the next level is therapy for the child and TP.  We know where that goes-- No protective separation---No reunification.  Therapy further harms the child and further traumatizes the TP.  In addition,  children who express strong desires about placement with one parent, intimidate Judges and GALs.  They are afraid that the children will be too traumatized if they transfer custody from the abusive parent to the TP and they will be held accountable.

What IS Working.

1. Using an advocate.  Advocates can be another parent, friend, sibling, spiritual leader, therapist, a coach or anyone who is willing to help you manage the stress of being re-traumatized by Family Court and Child Protective Services.  It is very hard for targeted parents to effectively manage their own high conflict cases even with all that we know about the circumstances and people.  

2. Designing a plan.  Targeted parents do not have the luxury to “wait and see” what will happen in the next court hearing.  I can almost guarantee it won’t be good.

The abuser is spending 24/7 planning how to execute the next attack, the next step to devalue you and the final phases of discarding you.  He or she has been in the drivers seat since the beginning.  And don’t give credit to the lawyers,  your ex-partner calls the shots.

Plan to take the offensive. Use your advocate. Your lawyer will not take the lead and fix this. Family law professionals do not understand child development, attachment systems, personality disorders or trauma.  We cannot teach them all of this, we must lead them through what needs to be done.

3.  File contempt every time your ex violates a court order (including child support).  The only way the court will “see” the narcissistic/borderline traits will be if you show them.  You want the conflict to be between the abuser and the Judge; not between the two of you.  It won’t take long for the court to see that he/she has no respect for authority and will not comply or cooperate with anything that supports your relationships with your children. This is abuse!

4. Convince the GAL or your lawyer to request psychological evaluations for both of you, as soon as possible.  Use an independent clinic that is competent is diagnosing personality disorders. These objective mental health professionals are pretty easy to find.  Do not use custody evaluators; they work for the court and will not diagnose the personality disorder or work on your behalf once the evaluation is complete.

When the diagnosis comes back with the personality disorder, be prepared to push the court to involve CPS.  If they won’t, you will need to file an abuse report on your own.  It doesn’t cost anything but your persistence.

5. File Child Psychological Maltreatment (also called psychological abuse and neglect, emotional and/or mental abuse and neglect) with your local Child Protective Service Agency.  Child Psychological Maltreatment is the most prevalent and damaging type of child abuse.  And although it co-occurs with physical and sexual abuse it is a formidable type of abuse on its own. Narcissistic/borderline personality disordered parents are psychologically abusive to their children and (ex) partners 24/7. 

These are not custody cases they are abuse cases.

6. Make your concerns about child abuse and neglect known to anyone and everyone.   Otherwise, it looks like you don’t care and you could ultimately be charged with neglect       (I’ve seen it happen)!

7. Keep processing your trauma and elevating to new levels of healing. There is a plethora of information available on the best ways to treat trauma, but you can’t do it alone.  Work with a trauma informed therapist and do your homework.  

8. Become a trauma expert by getting familiar with the ACES, trauma informed and resiliency movements.  They are really very easy to understand and the most powerful agency we have. 

Our children have ACE scores of 8+.  This precisely defines what is at stake.  If a psychologically abused child is not removed from a narcissistic/borderline abuser and isn’t allowed to rekindle the attachment with the healthy parent,  he or she will be at extreme risk for developing self-destructive behaviors such as substance abuse, promiscuity and criminal or antisocial lifestyles.  These adverse experiences in turn trigger the onset of the most common chronic diseases and a premature death.

 

Until I blog Again,

Kay

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Courts That Care?

As we begin to talk about trauma, I thought it would be good to re-post this blog from last February.  The newest addition in the library section of this website now contains the protocol manual being used for family courts to become trauma informed.   Every targeted parent in family court must be aware of the official, professional movement to make family courts trauma informed and use their personal cases as avenues to protect their children while pushing the movement forward.    We are traumatized and our children are traumatized.  We need courts that are trauma informed! 

According to the protocol manual for developing trauma informed courts, "Juvenile and family judges and courts are in a unique position to promote healing and prevent future trauma.  In 2013, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) undertook development of a court trauma consultation protocol in response to an increase in requests for assistance from courts seeking to become trauma-informed. the NCJFCJ and organizations such as the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) have an extensive history of providing training and technical assistance to courts on traumatic stress."

Published February 10, 2016

Recently, The Honorable Marshall Murray, a respected and experienced Circuit Court Judge in Milwaukee County, co-authored a blog with the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) in which he sounded more like a caring parent than a Judge.  It was the first time I heard a Judge express sadness at seeing so many abused children in his court.  It was also the first time I had heard anyone defend judges for being concerned that courts make the right decisions in cases involving abuse.

“One of the most important duties for any court system

is to ensure that youth in the community

are protected.” 

                                         -Judge Marshall Murray (2016)

One point that Judge Murray discusses is that in order for judges to make the right decisions when ruling on cases involving children and youth, they must be able to recognize how trauma affects behavior. He specifically mentioned trauma from emotional and verbal abuse, recognizing that psychological maltreatment (emotional abuse and neglect) is the most prevalent and damaging type of child abuse, causing a lifetime of problems for these victims.  The blog that Judge Murray wrote focuses on teen dating violence, but I found that his sentiments reflected a fundamental problem for Judges presiding over high conflict custody cases in family courts.

For decades, Family Court Judges have misinterpreted the expression of trauma in most of the high conflict custody cases.  This misinterpretation continues to lead Family Court Judges to make inaccurate assumptions about the parents and children.  Their mistaken assumptions are the basis for placing children with the abusive parent.  Thus, Family Courts directly contribute to severe adverse childhood experiences and the escalation of intimate partner violence.  The travesty of Family Courts abandoning children to their abusive parent is so common that it appears as if the Judges are intentionally colluding with the abusers.  As it stands today, a Family Court Judge could throw a dart at both parents in high conflict custody disputes, and at least then, they would make the right decision at least 50% of the time.   

It is hard to imagine that Family Court Judges care about families, abuse or even the job they do because I see no indication that family courts are trying to improve their longstanding abysmal record of making family situations worse for the “high conflict” families they serve.  As a self-regulating profession, this lack of care, due process or competence is inexcusable and begs external oversight if not remedied.

While the majority of families can manage custody issues without assertive court intervention, a significant and growing population of parents cannot.  These “high conflict” custody cases take up a disproportional amount of family court dockets because one parent has a personality disorder in which he or she is manipulating the court and escalating conflict.  All the while, he or she continues to psychologically abuse the family causing extreme ongoing chaos and stress.  In the pure sense, these cases aren’t “custody” cases; they are cases of child abuse and domestic violence and need immediate court ordered protection.

High conflict custody cases have been particularly troublesome for family court because the origin and nature of the problem lies in the abusive relational pathology of a narcissistic and /or borderline personality disordered parent who is a master at manipulation and exploitation.   By the time the family gets to court, the abuser has seriously wounded the children and the non-abusive parent and they present with extreme and misleading symptoms of trauma.  Comparatively, the abuser appears calm and confident as if he or she were innocent.

To add more confusion to the decision, narcissistic and/or borderline personality disordered parents have a well-developed social persona where they can mirror appropriate responses appearing sincere, charming and caring.  The abusive parent stays hidden behind this persona while covertly escalating conflict, exploiting the expressed trauma of the non-abusive parent and the children, making false allegations of abuse or fitness, manipulating the Judiciary, sabotaging treatment plans and lying through their teeth.  

Narcissistic and/or borderline parents will not admit that they have a personality disorder, even if they have been diagnosed, however once Family Court Judges are cued into looking for a handful of specific personality disorder traits, they will see that narcissistic/borderline abusers present as predictable as a March snowstorm in Wisconsin, and are just as easy to spot. 

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Family court judges are not psychologist, nor should they be.  However, the fact remains that family courts have become the roosting site for narcissistic and/or borderline personality disordered parents and they are manipulating the court into making decisions that are extremely harmful to children and the non-abusive parent.  Assertive court intervention is necessary because these abusers cannot and will not change or follow any orders by the court unless the court will enforce sanctions for violations.   

The good news is that under a caring family court judge, trained to recognize the psychological manipulation of a narcissistic/borderline abuser and to spot trauma, family courts can stop being part of the problem of child abuse and domestic violence and become a big part of THE solution.  If these high conflict abuse cases can be stopped when they get to family court, the children and parents can recover and learn how to protect themselves from being psychologically abused so that the children can still have a relationship with both parents.  Just as important, Family Courts can lead the way in breaking the cycle of narcissistic/borderline abuse by preventing it from being expressed in the next generation of families who are lucky enough to have found their way into a court that is concerned about making the right decisions.






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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Family Courts Fail.

Ever since Gardner made the first connections between parental alienation and custody, relational, and situational (divorce) issues, cases like ours of child psychological abuse by narcissistic/borderline partners have been doomed to fail in family court.  And as long as we continue to connect child psychological abuse with custody, cases like ours will continue to fail in family court.   

We shouldn’t be the least bit surprised that family courts consistently get our cases wrong or that they appear so out of touch with the seriousness or reality that child psychological abuse is so harmful.  They shouldn’t even have primary jurisdiction. 

It has been said that family courts often fail because of their adversarial nature but in our cases, the reason that family courts fail is because they focus on resolving family disputes.  The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC), an organization of practitioners, researchers, teachers and policymakers that set the tone for family courts state that their mission is to improve “the lives of children and families through the resolution of family conflict.”  This is an honorable intent given that most people are hardwired to build, maintain and repair disruptions in their family relationships, MOST people.  Just not the ones we chose to marry and/or have children with.

 Whether they have been officially diagnosed or not, our (ex) partners display fixed narcissistic/borderline personality disorder traits, which make them emotionally deficient and abusive partners and parents.  During infancy and childhood, our ex-partners were deprived of the warmth and attention they needed to develop the ability to emotionally connect with others on a deep and meaningful level.  They have never been able to love, care or empathize, which is how they can abuse those closest to them without guilt, regret, remorse or grief.  In my opinion, only a parent with some type of emotional/mental deficiency can abuse their children.  This deficiency also makes them think that they aren’t doing anything wrong and therefore do not feel the need to participate in any type of family resolution efforts or change anything that they are doing.  

 In essence, taking our child psychological abuse cases to family court under the heading of custody and/or parental alienation is like bowling down the wrong alley; nothing we do counts. 

Why are we trying to manage child psychological

abuse cases in family court?

Child psychological abuse is not a dispute between the two parents (except that one parent is healthy and is trying to stop it).  Think of how absurd it would be if Family Court handled sexual abuse in the same way it handles psychological abuse. For this example I am going to use the pronoun “he.”

 A mother alleges that the father is sexually abusing their child.  Family court wants the parents to “work this out” because they are both play a role in the conflict where one parent wants the abuse to stop and the other parent doesn’t.  The court spends months or years deliberating on every new accusation that the abuser throws out to distract the court from looking in his direction; while he continues to sexually abuse the child.  Then, because neither parent will compromise, family court starts shuffling them off to mediation, family counseling, and co-parenting classes to help them work out their conflict issue for the sake of the child.

 Society would never tolerate this kind of blatant harm to come to a child.  The only reason society tolerates child psychological abuse, which is much more prevalent and damaging to children than sexual abuse, is because no one brings these cases forward. If society knew the harm that was being done to our children because of psychological child abuse and if they knew the 3 clinical symptoms, it would stop. 

 Child psychological abuse needs to be handled in the same way that our court system handles physical and sexual abuse.  Juvenile court not family court, decides whether children have been abused or neglected, as defined by State law.   Then they order services and monitor cases to ensure that interventions are effective.  Juvenile Court uses the expertise of CPS caseworkers, psychologists, mental health professionals, physicians, domestic violence specialists, educators, child development specialists and others to understand why the abuse or neglect occurred and why it necessitated court intervention.

 Gardner put a great deal of distance between the problem of child psychological abuse and the solution by calling it parental alienation and implying it was a family court problem involving custody.  We perpetuate that mistake by continuing to take our child psychological abuse cases to family court under “custody issues.”

 

The day we stop calling child psychological abuse

“parental alienation” and start calling it

child psychological abuse,

is the day the scales tip in our direction.

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

Bob part 1.1

I got this text message from "Bob" today.

 

I did not file yet, as my ex. and I had a pretty civil conversation on Tuesday and I was able to get him on Tuesday and Wednesday.  This gave me time to have a quality discussion with Dylan about his mother's condition.  I was very kind and gentle.  I made it very clear to him that I don't hate his mother and I am not going to say anything bad about her...ever,  but that he had to be aware of her condition and its harmful effects it has had on him that will continue to get worse.

Using Eddy's tips for teaching coping skills to kids with borderline parents, I told him that by working on these tips, it will protect him from anything his mother does that might not be good for him.  I reinforced that she wants only the best for him, but that - because of her condition - what she wants for him isn't always the best for him and might be even be bad. 

When we drove home that night after his birthday dinner, he brought up our conversation from earlier in the day and acknowledged his mother's erratic behavior and vicious mood swings.  To paraphrase what he said, "one minute, she can be as happy as can be and would say yes to anything.  But then the next minute later, she would act as though someone had stolen a million dollars from her and say no to everything."

When I return from my business trip, I will file a contempt  based on the email thread that I shared with you, as well as other examples of alienation, and try to get a court order for Christmas Eve as it is my year.  I am still struggling with figuring out what the right forms are from the xxxx County website.

Thanks again for listening, and for your generous support!

God bless,

Bob

This is Bob's story part 1.  We will follow Bob over the rough terrain of child abuse, domestic abuse, and mental illness. 

Bob contacted the Alliance through the website and left this message: 

Hi, I’m Bob.  I really need to talk to someone, I’m having trouble with my ex-wife. She’s keeping me from seeing my son.  I don’t want to make things worse, so I don’t know what to do.  I was thinking of going back to court for a second round of mediation.  Or, should I file contempt?

I don’t have any money left, can I do that myself?   I’m pretty new to this parent alienation thing but I heard that there are laws against parental alienation.  Please call me!  xxx-xx-xxxx.  Thank you.

 When Bob and I connected over the phone, I let him describe his situation while I took notes.

His tone was relatively calm and his voice only sped up when he talked about how his son’s attitude and demeanor towards him was changing.  Bob didn’t offer too much information about his ex-wife.  He listened quietly when clarified what he had said.  Bob never tried to cut me off, or tell me I was wrong (even if he thought so).   I asked him a few questions to fill in the blanks.  The following are the questions a summary of what I said related to his situation.  

How old is your son?  11.

Adolescence…the typical time for high conflict parents to triangulate a child into the ex-spousal conflict. Young adults think that they know everything.  The truth is that a child only knows what a child has been exposed to. Our brains do not make up knowledge out of thin air.  We learn through our mirror neurons.  Like the word suggests, everything a child says or does is a reflection of the most influential adults in his or her life.  For emotional issues, learning is mainly nonverbal.  This is why it is so easy for us to see our ex-partner  in our children.

How long since the divorce? 10 years

This got my attention. If this was a true case of narcissistic/borderline delusional persecution, then something had to have triggered it and it wasn’t the divorce.   I listened intently for something that might have triggered Bob’s ex to “melt down” or decompensate into persecutory delusion.   There are many issues besides divorce that will cause our partner’s to feel vulnerable to abandonment or losing their self-inflated status.  Malignant Motives, a chapter in Dr. Warshak’s Book Divorce Poison (2010), describes many reasons a disturbed parent might melt down; including revenge, validation, remarriage or custody litigation.  Whatever the reason, once they turn this corner, there is no turning back.

Have you always had contact with your son?  Yes. 

I have visitation one night a week and every other weekend.  I just accepted that from the beginning. 

Has your relationship with your son been close? 

Yes very, we…(he goes on to describe their time together and things they use to do).

Targeted parents need to have a detailed history with their child and continually document the things that they do right.  This evidence will neutralize the onslaught of false accusations of bad parenting or abuse.  If possible, play this card first using pictures, emails, school records, things your child made for you, etc.   It is critical that you establish that you had a healthy attachment with your child and that it was abruptly disrupted at a time that correlates with your ex’es malignant motive.  

Every state has laws against child psychological abuse.  They may call it mental or emotional abuse but the criteria for confirmation is that the child shows a substantial change in their cognitive, emotional, and/or behaviors, that are outside of the normal range for their age and stage of development.   Certainly the most obvious illustration of this is your child’s 180 degree change in emotional response to you, which is getting worse.  Your child’s increasing distain for you occurs during the time your ex-partner is actively trying to cut you out of the picture.

What are the legal parameters? 

The divorce decree has set visitation/placement and we have joint custody.  I pay child support.  This last September, I got the court to order mental health therapy, but my wife refuses to bring him.

Targeted parents sometimes get so wrapped up in keeping track of everything that the other parent said or did that they forget that the most important papers are the court orders.  Laws are either followed or broken.  Courts or mental health providers do not want to listen to parents complain about each other, or hear or see anything that doesn’t pertain to the motion, order, or treatment plan in front of them.   They will pay more attention to specific, relative  “evidence” whether it is true or not, and dismiss the truth if they think it is hearsay.  

High conflict people know how to manipulate the courts and mental health providers.  Initially, they fly below the radar by doing things to isolate or restrict communication between you and your child.  This usually starts with diminishing and ending phone contact.   In contrast, when the child is with the targeted parent, the child will increase their phone contact with the other parent and highly resist attempts to cut the umbilical cord.  Second, the abusive parent will schedule things that are important to the child during the time the targeted parent has placement.  Bob’s ex-wife scheduled Dylan for hockey on the night that he and his dad always had dinner. If Bob demands his placement time, then he’s not being a supportive dad.  If he tries to see Dylan on a different night, then he’s interfering with her placement.  Of course Bob considers going to hockey, but his ex-wife or Dylan won’t give him the schedule.  Bob’s wife has successfully cut Bob out of 2 of the 3 times he has contact with his son, and she has hardly raised a finger.  He can expect that she will take the next step to cut him off completely.

 Bob’s ex-wife called him and explained that it wasn’t her, but Dylan didn't want to come to his house anymore because it was abusive.   Bob talked to his son and explained that it wasn’t his decision to make.  Dylan replied, “So, I am just a puppet to you!”  and hung up.  Three things were very evident from this conversation. 1) Dylan has been triangulated into the spousal conflict.  His ex-wife made the point that; it wasn’t her denying him of placement, it was Dylan. This shows that she is pretty confident that Dylan will handle the fight for her.  2) Dylan acted out of his normal range of behavior by raising his voice, make false accusations against his dad and hanging up on him.  3) Someone has been talking about how Bob uses Dylan as a puppet, and that his house is abusive, because neither of those things would be in the normal range of behavior for his age and stage of development.  And, even if he did say those things, it is his mother’s responsibility to teach her son to respect his father and follow the court orders.  She herself said that it wasn’t her,  in saying that, both parents are agreeing that Dylan needs to go to his fathers.  Why isn’t he?

With Dylan as her side kick, Bob’s ex is  looking forward to him taking her back to court.  She will play up the idea that Dylan can decide for himself, that something is abusive, that Bob is being selfish, blah, blah, blah.  It’s a slippery slope now and time is not on the side of Bob or his son. 

But let’s not forget that the court ordered therapy too.  A pattern is emerging. There has been a restriction of communication, interfering with placement and refusing to comply with a court order for therapy.  The last that I heard, Bob, was driving to the court house to file contempt charges.  He may be able to turn the tables if he sticks to the plan also knowing that she is going to escalate.  He needs to be prepared for the abuse allegation.

Therapy for what? 

Dylan’s has some extreme anxiety and he appears to being trying to cut off the relationship.

Of course Dylan has anxiety.  Look at the state’s definition of child psychological abuse;

 “evidenced by one or more: anxiety; depression; withdrawal; outward aggressive behavior; or a substantial and observable change in behavior, emotional response or cognition that is not within the normal range for the child’s age and stage of development”.

The sad thing is that mental health providers will try to treat  anxiety or depression or whatever as an isolated condition when there is nothing isolated about it.  Ok, a child has anxiety.  Why?  Is that normal? No.  It has been well established for decades that child abuse causes a broad range of mental health problems and aberrant behavior (that’s why they wrote the statutes the way that they did).    Why do mental health providers look past the obvious?

That question is almost as nonsensical as the fact that we continue to take our children to therapy when we know that NO therapy, of any kind is going to help a child who is being abused.  Only when the child feels free of the abuser, can he or she begin to recover.  And they will recover.  But first, the child needs protective separation.  This will not happen in family court filing contempt, but that order can buy Bob some time to find a mental health provider who is knowledgeable enough to see Dylan and assess for child psychological abuse.

Do you have a lawyer? 

Not anymore, I can’t afford one.  But the last one I had told me that if I push for contact, it would make my son hate me even more.  I don’t have any money left; can I do that myself?   I’m pretty new to this parent alienation thing but I heard that there are laws against parental alienation.

Family Court can be funny about not having a lawyer, but Bob’s lawyer has not only given him bad advice, but wrong advice.

1.     Don’t push placement or your son will hate you more. (how many have heard this-crap?)

Alienated children do not hate their parents.  Even if a parent is truly abusive.  Their “hate” is a manifestation of the shared delusion with the abusive parent’s attachment trauma reenactment where they are the protective parent and the targeted parent is the abuser.  It is also a manifestation of splitting, and the misattribution of grief.    In other words, psychological abusers are really, seriously, disrupting your child’s healthy brain development and function.

2.     Mediation. Wrong.  There is no mediation with a high conflict parent, and it is a waste of time and money.

3.     Please let me know if your state has laws against parental alienation. 

Bob is better off without this guy

Tell me about your ex-wife. (his voice gets a little excited here).

I think she is bi-polar.  She lives with her parents, and I think her mom is bipolar.  It’s very dysfunctional. She hasn’t been in a relationship since the divorce (10 years).  She is a pre-school teacher and very good at what she does.  She scheduled Dylan to play hockey on my visitation night but she refuses to give me the schedule.  I’m sure she has something to do with why I can’t reach my son on the phone at night anymore.  She supports“Dylan’s” opinion that he is old enough to decide his schedule with his parents and that he doesn’t have to come to my house on Thanksgiving.  She said that Dylan told her that my house is abusive.  It’s getting worse. 

Bob's ex-wife is NOT bi-polar but she displays a pattern of behavior that includes narcissistic and borderline personality disorder traits.  Bipolar is a very different mental illness, and as far as I know, has not been correlated with child psychological abuse.  Here’s one of the kickers.  Your ex didn’t just start to be an alienator out of nowhere.  I always ask targeted parents about their exes family and if either or both of his or her parents had problems.  The answer is always YES.  Obviously.  Bob’s ex-wife didn’t develop her problems in a vacuum any more than Dylan is developing his problems without mirroring his mom, and his grandparents.  YIKES!

 

 

 

 

Child Psychological Abuse: What Would You Call It?

An Introduction to Child Psychological Abuse

Part 1

What Would You Call It?

America has become mentally anesthetized and emotionally distanced from child abuse.  We’ve built our own inaccurate, but personally tolerable view, based on:

See No Evil, Hear No Evil, and Speak No Evil.

 In this series of blog posts, The Alliance takes off the blindfolds, takes out the ear plugs and takes the gags out of our mouths.  We are charged with stopping child psychological abuse in our family because no one else will.  That means that we must have an accurate picture of what child abuse is and be able to explain it to others.  After all, this is our area of expertise.

 

We are who we are because our (ex)-partners have and/or are

seriously abusing our children.  We need to stop the child abuse.

We need to separate our children from the abuse and from the abuser.

 

 What Is Child Abuse?

 When I googled “child abuse,” I found  countless  independent organizations trying to raise awareness.  I also found another group of organizations trying to provide some support for children who have gone through child sexual abuse.  I didn’t find anyone trying to stop the child abusers, except us.  

Just that little bit of googling "child abuse," raised 3 flags for me.

First, most of the organizations use the statistics cited by the federal government's  Children’s Bureau. Unfortunately, these statistics are woefully inaccurate and grossly underreported.  (But that’s another story).   Every site readily admits this, but oh well.  It’s as close as they can get right now.  The last report I read from the Children’s Bureau was the 2013 Maltreatment Report (the most recent, found here).  They stated that between 2009-2013 the overall rates of victimization declined, from 9.3 to 9.1 per 1,000 children in the population. This results in an estimated 23,000 fewer victims in 2013 (679,000) compared with 2009 (702,000).

§  Since 2009, overall rates of children who received a CPS response increased from 40.3 to 42.9 per 1,000 children in the population. This results in an estimated 145,000 additional children who received a CPS response in 2013 (3,188,000) compared to 2009 (3,043,000). States provide possible explanations for the increase in Appendix D, State Commentary.

§  Nationally, four-fifths (79.5%) of victims were neglected, 18.0 percent were physically abused, 9.0 percent were sexually abused and 8.7 percent were psychologically maltreated.

§  For 2013, a nationally estimated 1,520 children died of abuse and neglect at a rate of 2.04 children per 100,000. children in the national population.

Blah, blah, blah, blah.  Well, glory be!  Sounds like the government's got this thing under control except for…those accuracy and reporting problems I mentioned before.

Second, the sites that I looked at were almost exclusively focused on sexual abuse.  Sexual abuse can mean a lot of different things, according to our government.  All of which raise the hair on the back of my neck. Even Dr. Childress rates sexual abuse (or more specifically incest) as the worst type of abuse with narcissistic and borderline not far behind.   

 It isn’t the act alone that causes all the long term damage.  The most serious type of sexual abuse is when the sexual abuser is a parent.  These children become sexual prisoners in their own homes.  They are psychologically abused to allow this to happen without anyone finding out.  These kids are silenced by their terror and shame, paralyzed by their father’s (98% of sexual abusers are male) threats and have been psychologically groomed to protect him. 

A parent who can cross the generational boundary to have some type of sexual contact with their non-consenting child is someone we all need to be protected from.   Someone that, I would guess, probably demonstrates narcissistic and borderline patterns of behavior.   This is not bad parenting.

Third, I have a problem calling any of this child abuse. I googled the definition of  abuse and found this:

To use (something) to bad effect or for a bad purpose; misuse.

treat (a person or an animal) with cruelty or violence, especially regularly or repeatedly.

 I’ve never been one to nitpick words, especially in this case because  I am an animal rights advocate.   But I bet that some parents would take issue with the idea that child abuse is on equal footing with animal abuse (according to the definition).  I really think we need to be more specific. 

Child physical and sexual abuse are both contradictory terms. Generally, "abuse" differes from "violence" in that violence implies that the attack resulted in physical harm.  Obviously there is physical harm with physical and sexual abuse so these would be more accurately called child physical violence and child sexual violence.  Psychological abuse alone results in significant changes in the child’s physical brain, which affects a child’s growth, development and system functioning.  I don’t think anyone would argue that this isn’t physical harm.  In addition,  psychological abuse usually co-occurs with physical or sexual assaults making this violence even more devastating. Whenever a child shows symptoms of  external harm there will also be serious  internal harm.  That all counts as violence in my biology book.

The "googled" definition of abuse above does include 4 critical elements that all these assaults have in common; 1) the parent,  2) regularly and repeatedly, 3) uses our children, and 4) treats them with cruelty and violence.

Think about it and let me know.  What would you call it?

 

Kay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am not going to go into all of the details about why this is true or important, but since so many people have spent so much time advocating for these words, I did want you to know why Gardner himself would carry this sign, if he were here today.

When Dr. Gardner first saw one parent trying to alienate the children from the other parent, he didn’t recognize the narcissistic/borderline personality disorder of that parent (sound familiar?).

Gardner didn’t know that divorce caused this parent narcissistic injury that it triggered a psychological “melt down” into persecutory delusions.  He saw the illogical dynamics but that wouldn’t have given him a clue that the mentally disturbed parent was reenacting his or her childhood attachment trauma.   Gardner described the symptoms of a child who was being coerced and exploited to enmesh with the parent who had no empathy for anyone else, and would do anything, like make false allegation of abuse, just to win.  He saw this dynamic over and over again.  He knew it was horribly wrong, he pointed it out and he called it, parental alienation.

But, Dr. Gardner didn’t have the big picture, like we do now.  If we stand back, we will see the same episode play out with every narcissistic/borderline parent at the time that they get a divorce.  This predictable sequence of events cannot be sliced away from the parent’s personality disorder, attachment trauma, or the abusive family systems strategies they use to severely harm their family.

Look what happened when we did. 

Mental health providers were unable to recognize narcissistic/borderline personality disorder, attachment trauma, delusions, or the painfully obvious severe child psychological abuse.   In family court, targeted parents were/are blamed or at the very least were/are considered partially responsible.   Some of us were/are found guilty of abusing our own children!  Innocent parents got/get blamed for the horrific child psychological abuse that can only come from a delusional parent with a narcissistic/borderline personality who is reenacting their childhood attachment trauma.  But we were blamed, we were re-victimized, we were shamed. And then we would watch and listen as the courts indulged the dangerous parent and listened intently to what the children wanted.  Children, who were so terrified of the abuser and so psychologically corrupted that they would say whatever the abusive parent told them to say.

It didn’t matter whether the courts only gave the abuser 50% placement, he or she had 100%, because we knew before we even left the court room, that we wouldn’t see our children again.   What did the courts base their decisions on?  Where was the proof?  Where was the evidence?  There couldn’t have been any.   None.

As loving parents we have been tortured beyond words, some of us to death, all of us to a point of irreparable harm.  We sacrificed everything to pay the professionals who wouldn’t listen to us.    We were slaughtered along with our children under the all-powerful authorities. 

Good bye parental alienation, you cannot hurt us anymore. 

Hello Attachment trauma reenactment, we are going to expose you, because, we know where you are.