Paying For Services By the Hour

When we go to a doctor he or she assesses our condition.   If and only if the doctor gathers enough evidence to substantiate a diagnosis will one be made.   Doctors tell us what they think the problem is and why.   They also consider the best route of treatment to eliminate the problem.   We pay for the examination, diagnosis and treatment plan.   I think that is fair, we are paying for the service.   The majority of doctors will tell us to come back if the problem is not gone in 10-14 days and it is amazing the number of doctors who will follow up to check on our progress.   This is because medical doctors are committed to helping us reach the goal of getting better.  They make careful, thoughtful decisions and stand accountable for their judgments and actions.   I call these health providers "professionals". 

Unfortunately, there are other vocations that also call themselves professionals but do not make the mark, in my opinion.    Based on the collective experience of targeted parents; lawyers, judges, therapists and social workers treat us  the opposite way that we expect to be treated by "professionals".  

Targeted parents regularly seek lawyers and mental health providers to help us resolve the greatest tragedy of our lives and the lives of our children.   However, practitioners in both of these domains seem to have a lot of baggage in the way of being a true professional.  Unlike professionals who provide a helping service, legal and mental health providers do not practice in such a way that they appear interested in the quality of the services they provide or whether or not they resolve our problem.  

When working with either of these groups, targeted parents report that they don't appear to know what they are doing.    This would account for their unusual payment structure.  Rather than rely on their knowledge and skills to provide a valuable service for which we gladly pay,  they require us to pay them for their presence.  That is to say, lawyers and therapists are paid on an hourly rate regardless of what they do or don't do, independent of whether they help us or hurt us.  What seems to be missing in both situations is that people in these domains don't understand the problem or know what to do about it.    And most targeted parents don't ask.   

People who hide the fact that they don't know what they are doing are not professionals.  Not that all professionals know everything, quite the contrary, but true professionals will tell us the limits of their competence and offer to learn, collaborate with others, listen to what we say and take official documents seriously.  True professionals will tell us if they disagree with us and recuse themselves it they think that they can not be of service.   True professionals invest in a positive outcome and feel some responsibility to actually help us once they enter into a contract for service.  On the other hand, lawyers and mental health providers don't contract for service, after all, they don't know what to do or how long it will take them or what the outcome will be.  There isn't any way that they want to be beheld accountable for anything.    So what are we paying for? 

Well let's look at what we get for our out of pocket expenses.   We get misdiagnosed, misunderstood and minimized .    We get delays, discrimination and distress.  We get blamed, bullied and bankruptcy. 

We really need to have higher expectations

of those who we hire to help us save our children. 

We must have professionals who are trauma informed.  

Question to lawyer or mental health provider: Are you trauma informed?

 

Answer. I don't think I understand what you mean.

Response.  Wow, you would if you were worth the powder to blow you up (my mother's saying).  Isn't your profession part of the solution to the single greatest public health threat in this country?   My child has an ACE score of 6-8+.   The other mental ill parent is controlling the family, psychologically abusing us,  emotionally neglecting us, he or she is responsible for my child's loss of a parent (ME) and I am the only resiliency factor he or she has.  The mentally ill parent is lawless and teaching the same to my child by not following court orders, lying to authorities, etc.

How is it possible for you to help my family if you can't recognize complex interpersonal trauma from a narcissistic/borderline partner?  

If I hire you and you don't have and knowledge or experience with ACEs and you're not trauma informed, you will hurt us even worse!  In fact, you will become part of the problem that perpetuates the most severe and damaging type of abuse - psychological abuse!

Ok,  you get the point.  Regardless of their credentials, every mental health provider MUST assess, diagnose and design and plan for appropriate treatment to resolve the diagnosed problem.   A treatment plan MUST assess the impact of trauma and where it is coming from or the problem will never be solved.  

Demand that your therapist and your court is trauma informed!

 

I Should Have My Head Examined

Part 2 of 3: Targeted Trauma

Mental health is the only branch of medicine that treats severe and life threatening internal injuries and diseases without ever looking at the affected part of the body.  Instead, the American Psychiatric Association continues to condone the practice of guessing at what the psychiatric problem is and then medicating the symptoms.  

Brain scans are indispensable in assessing, diagnosing and treating most mental illness.  In fact, the National Institute For Mental Health (NIMH), who funds most of the research for mental health in America, dismissed the DSM-V because it ignored the objective, clinical measures that brain scans provide to accurately diagnose and treat problems of the mind and the brain. For targeted parents, brain scans validate the interpersonal traumatic injuries that our children and we experience at the hands of our narcissistic/borderline ex-partners/parents and can alert the world to the severity of our plight. My experience is a case in point.

2009 was the year in which my closely attached son started to suppress his attachment to me. This was the most traumatic of all times.  Of course, I began to search wildly for why I felt so terrified, confused, spacey, depressive and anxious.  While researching my symptoms online,  I took a survey that said that I was a good candidate for a brain scan (understatement).   I wasn’t sure if I could just go buy one or if I could even afford one, but I knew that I had to find out what was wrong with me.  If I could "see" what was broken, I thought I could figure out how to fix it.   I compared the $ 2K price tag of a SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) scan to the benefits of a concrete, accurate diagnosis and decided that it would be money well spent.

My first appointment was a bit weird.  I met with Dr. Best for a brief conversation.  After I answered a few of his questions he cocked his head to the side and asked me, “What are you doing here?  You seem so…well look at you!  You’re bright, articulate, you don’t look like you have a problem.”  Then, one of his staff opened the door and dragged in my health history.  The neuroscientist started thumbing through the documents and then quickly stood up and said, “OK, lets get you set up for a brain scan.”

Two weeks later I was back and met LuAnn, the lab tech.  LuAnn took me back into a small room.  I was followed by Dr. Best’s two German Shorthaired dogs, who didn’t think that I had a problem either.   LuAnn administered a radioactive isotope and then we talked nonchalantly to pass the time as we waited for the isotope to get to my brain (or whatever). 

I told her how long I had been struggling with depression and anxiety.  I also told her that I “hadn’t felt like myself in such a long time that I thought that I’d forgotten who I really was.”  LuAnn’s response was, “And this is the first time that you’re having a brain scan?”  I retorted, “First!  Am I going to have to have more than one? That’s not in the budget.”  Still, I just had to know if I was as crazy as my ex-husband had always told me. I had to know why I couldn’t make decisions and why I was so emotional and foggy.  I had to get my world turned right side up again by getting to the source of my muddled, insecure self.

As I let my mind wonder for a few minutes, I suddenly felt that familiar hyper-vigilance and fear spreading through my body.  I heard LuAnn ask me if I was all right.  The source of my fear became obvious and I looked back at LuAnn and asked, 

“What if my brain scan shows that there isn't

anything wrong? 

Will that prove that I really am crazy?” 

 

Two weeks later I returned and met with Dr. Best for my results.  He was slow in getting to the point, but then he crossed his legs, leaned towards me and asked, “What the hell happened to your brain?”  I was so relieved.  Finally, I had proof that the problem was in my brain, not in my mind.  Now this was something I could understand.

The conclusions based on these scans made sense to me even if I didn't know exactly what areas they were describing.  I have paraphrased the results below.

IMG_1177.jpg

1. Extreme or marked increase(in activity) in areas of the brain that are compatible with anxiety.  Remember, I'm laying in a bed somewhere trying not to think of much, but areas of my brain are still registering as being hyperactive.  The hyperactivecolors register dark red to black. The under-active parts are green and yellow.

2.  The hyperactive thalamus (black spot in the middle) plus the under-active left orbital-frontal area (big green spot) is compatible with depression.

3.  The blah blah blah right apico-mesial temporal blah blah blah extension to the pole blah blah blah indicates possible post traumatic etiology. 

4. The marked localized areas blah blah occipital and frontal lobes blah blah blah may indicate origins of episodic events.

 

 

Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way

I'm sorry this isn't a video blog, but my house is getting new windows and it's 90 degrees ( feels like 120 with the humidity) and I'm self conscious enough,  thank you. 

But there are many experts that we need to be listening to and one of them is Nadine Burke.  In this widely popular TED talk, Dr. Burke a pediatrician and public health expert,  describes the staggering "big picture" of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).   She represents just one of the professional domains who are quickly coming on board with the trauma-informed movement. 

ACEs and the Trauma informed movement is not a fad.  It is a paradigm shift in the way we address the toxic environments our children are being raised in.  This is a national scientific, child centered paradigm shift, not something we need the from the American Psychological Association (who didn't discuss our petition at their board meeting).  This movement dwarfs our petition and the APA.

Targeted parents are the perfect ambassadors to carry this movement into every community in America.  We are trauma survivors(or recovering)  and soon to be trauma informed.   As a brief and powerful introduction to the mission that awaits us, please watch "How Adverse Childhood Experiences Affect Children Over Their Lifespan".   And as you do, keep in mind that our children have ACE scores of 7-8+: highlighting for everyone to see, that our children are at the GREATEST RISK for mental health and physical problems. 

We are working hard on developing the very best presentation for targeted parents to take into their children's school system.  Partnering with educators is the fastest way to move this battleship.  While the APA is "discussing" what to do, we will be doing it. 

They can lead, follow or get out of our way.

(did I say that out loud?)

 

 

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. 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Targeted Trauma video 1 of 3

Remember to comment at the bottom!

What is trauma?

We usually think of combat veterans or people who have survived natural disasters, as victims of trauma but trauma can be caused to anyone who experiences something that is profoundly “life-threatening.”   Trauma is an extreme reaction an unnatural, terrifying event.   A victim of trauma tries to encode the cognitive AND the emotional memories but the experience is so horrific that it overwhelms our capacity to cope and cannot be processed or resolved.  It is a type of experience that is impossible to understand because it conflicts with the current perception of reality.   It rocks our world and then stays the victim’s head and is re-experienced every time it is triggered.

A trigger is an unconscious perception of something that has a connection to the trauma and thrusts the victim into the cascade of memories and feelings that were experienced when he or she was first traumatized.  Triggers conjure up the stored feelings of pending doom, helplessness, terror, confusion and other types of intolerable emotional pain that are unprocessed and continue to live within the victim.

It is easier to understand trauma in the context of combat or severe storms because these experiences have a recognized beginning and end and occur as a result of natural or man-made disasters.   But the numbers of individuals that experience trauma like this is relative small, compared to number of people who experience interpersonal trauma or abuse in our close relationships, which are even more traumatic.  Interpersonal trauma is more complex because the victim is exposed to multiple traumatizing experiences over a prolonged period of time and occurs in the victim’s everyday life.  These experiences are not “events” that can be compartmentalized in time or space.  The memories blur together into one hot mess that changes a person forever.  

How is trauma related to the targeted parent?

Most trauma begins at home; in our case trauma is home.  Our families are both the source of our agony and the ones who we need help from to resolve our emotional crisis.   Given the shear numbers and the particularly savage interpersonal experience that targeted parents experience, we are one of the most traumatized populations on earth.   While, billions of dollars and nationwide campaigns are in full swing to provide help to every other traumatized population, no one knows that we exist. 

First we married a narcissistic/borderline person who undoubtedly started psychologically abusing at his or her first chance and hasn’t stopped since.  We finally mustered our way out of the relationship to find out that our ex-partner can’t co-parent.  Soon after, our children start acting out in hate and rejection against us and everyone blames us.  Then, we must stand witness to the destructive abuse of our children from the other parent’s psychological manipulation and control.  All along the way we are blamed and our pain minimized or dismissed.  We lose our rights our integrity, our jobs, our homes, our children, our voice and finally ourselves.

The result is that we are condemned to cruel and inhumane psychological torture for years on end. 

Our brains were built to survive and protect our children. Our fear arousal system (fight/flight) takes over because we feel that our children’s lives are threatened.  But for all the fighting we do, nothing is resolved.  We also can’t run away because our ex-partners have our children hostage.

Our amygdala or alarm system is stuck on code red and keeps signaling for the release of the stress hormone, cortisol.

Our circumstances are so traumatic that it causes neurochemical, anatomical & physiological changes in us, real changes.   The ongoing toxic stress compromises our ability to make decisions, to plan and to communicate what is going on.  It hijacks our perceptions, reactions and our basic sense of who we are.   It doesn’t matter how long we’ve struggled, our fear arousal system (fight/flight/freeze) floods our bodies and drowns out almost everything else except for the commands to run, fight and save our children! 

We feel like we are losing our minds and in a very real sense we are as our brain continues to take non-essential functions off line.  We experience a fundamental shift in our brain’s neurochemical and physiological functions as the left, logical hemisphere shuts down and the right, emotional side amps up.  These changes reorganize the way we think, the things we think about and even limits our capacity to think at all.

We are chronically out of sync with others.  We have nightmares at night and the constant intrusion of horrible memories during the day.  We’ve been so abused that we become hypervigilant and desperate.   When we talk to anyone who will listen, our voice becomes tense as we “fire hose” them with anything and everything that we feel is relevant.  Unfortunately,  trauma impacts our ability to filter relevant information from irrelevant and there are no words to describe the hell we are in.

We want advice but often don’t take it and we don’t learn from our experiences.  We grab a hold ofanything that we think might help somebody“get it”  even when we know that what we are doing basically never works for anybody.   There are only so many times that we can say, “Don’t use the words parental alienation,” or “Stop listening to your ex,” or “Stay out of family court.”

As, targeted parents, we all have complex posttraumatic stress disorder, which is a very serious brain injury.  Brain scans of combat veterans look identical to what brains scans of you or I.   It is the outcome of prolonged exposure to the front lines of war.

 

 

Part 2 Symptoms or Diagnoses?

 May 12th, 2016, part 2. 

What my husband told me as I lay on the couch, reeling from the excessive medications and being shut off from the world was, “I like it when you are down, then I have all the control.”  I knew then that I needed a miracle.  

And I got three!

My disability had a fully favorable award, but that certainly was not a miracle.  I was enrolled in Medicare, which compared to the benefits I was getting at work, was absolutely not a miracle.  My supposed intelligent, heavily published, psychiatrist didn’t take Medicare so I had to find a new psychiatrist. This was the first miracle!  Interestingly, this doctor eventually had to have a liver transplant.  Apparently, he was taking as many of the medications as he prescribed for his patients. 

Only one psychiatrist in all of Green Bay would see Medicare patients.  It was minor miracle that I got into see anyone at all.  His name was Dr. Ashraf Ahmed and he was my second miracle.   This brilliant doctor immediately knew that I wasn’t bipolar and gradually took me off of all of the weird medications.  Once he got me back to my “better” self, Dr. Ahmed kindly he told me that I would never recover fully if I didn’t leave my husband.  He and I kept track of my mental health status and the quality of the relationship between my husband and me.  There was a direct correlation.  The more abusive my husband was with me, the more depressed and anxious I became.

Dr. Ahmed knew that my depression and anxiety wasn’t caused primarily because

it ran in my family;  he and I both knew that my depression and anxiety was caused

primarily because my husband wanted to run my family.

For the next couple of years I went to a Divorcecare program and tried to leave my husband, but even with Dr. Ahmed’s continual coaching and compassion, I didn’t have the courage.  Then, the third miracle came.   It was the holiday season, my absolutely favorite time of year, until I got married.  Eventually I learned to hate Christmas as much as my husband.  It was the day after Christmas in 2006 and my husband was in a particularly foul holiday mood.  He started punching in a wall swearing about me.  Then he got the kids out of bed and had them help him.  Both were young, but had taken Karate lessons and my husband encouraged them to hit and kick the wall while he instructed them.  “This is what you do when you marry the wrong woman!” he told them. I called the police. 

I didn’t know that they would handcuff him and take him to jail and  I also didn’t know that they would restrain him from having any contact with the kids and me.  This reprieve was the third miracle.  It gave me the chance that I needed to file for divorce.  During this short time I was walking on air.  I never realized that I had been living under his constant oppressive manipulation and control until he was gone.  When he left our home my depression and anxiety went with him.

We Need To Get To The CAUSE!

Yes, depression and anxiety run in my family and these were written down as my primary diagnoses.   But, Dr. Ahmed knew that these were just symptoms of a deeper, darker cause; psychological abuse.  We experience the same traumatic abuse that our children do; psychological abuse.  Your mental health care provider needs to recognize the causes, not the symptoms. 

Engaging in therapy with our children to eliminate our ex-partner’s abuse is really illogical.  We are NOT responsible for any part of our children’s rejection and neither are they. 

Yes, we are an emotional mess, and 

Yes, we are angry, confused and desperate, and

Yes, we might lash out in moments of intolerable pain, and 

YES we are traumatized by psychological abuse by our narcissistic/borderline ex-partner! 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *    *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Yes, our children have suppressed their attachment to us, and

Yes, our children behave with those horrible narcissistic/borderline traits, and

Yes, our children bought into our ex-partners’ delusion that we are awful parents, and

YES, they are being traumatized by child psychological abuse by the other parent!


What to Do?

The next time you are in therapy with(or without) your child(ren), make sure you know the diagnosis and why it was made.  In our cases, depression, anxiety, ADHD and PTSD are all symptoms of a traumatizing home life.  A traumatizing home life that you and your children are constantly being exposed to.  The Diagnosis is psychological abuse (both child and ex-partner). You need protective separation to resolve all of the symptoms.  Let your therapist or psychologist know the diagnosis.  Give them this article.  Have them contact us (info@targetedparent.com).  They are probably members of the APA.

 

 

 

 

 

Depression and Anxiety: Symptoms or Diagnoses?

 Depression and anxiety run STRONG in my family.   Both of my parents self-medicated with alcohol and my brother was suicidal, beginning in his teens.  So no one questioned why I woke up one morning severely depressed; not even me.  But, it hit me like a bolt of lightening on a sunny day.  I was an accomplished college administrator bringing home some pretty hefty bacon.  I loved my job and was using my successes at work to write my dissertation.  Everyday I hurried home to my two young children who were happy and healthy.  I was always in awe when I turned down our 1000’ driveway and it opened up to a pristine piece of heaven complete with horses running across the fields.

Then, in an instant, everything changed.  It was a Friday morning.  I felt so horrible that I didn’t hear my husband calling Cheryl, my therapist.  I had been with Cheryl during the years I struggled with infertility.  She also counseled “us” when my husband’s parental rights were terminated from a daughter he and his girlfriend had had in high school.  I had been seeing Cheryl again fairly regularly because I thought I needed a tune up.  I certainly needed more than a tune-up that morning.  I had hit a pothole in the fast lane.

When I sat down in her office, I thought about how we had recently been trying to right my ship.  Something in my life had become unmanageable, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.  That morning, I felt so far off course that I couldn’t imagine what “normal” felt like.  I leaned on my knees while Cheryl directed all of her questions to my husband.  There was a short pause in the conversation and Cheryl darted out of the room, reappearing a few minutes later with the psychiatrist.

Dr. Warren simply said to me,  “Kay, you won’t be able to go back to work again.”  I didn’t react, but I thought,  “That is absurd.  This guy doesn’t even know me.”  At the same time panic was setting in.  What wasn’t absurd was that I had an incredible amount of responsibility and a never ending number of projects to do and I was in no shape to go to work.  It had taken every bit of fight and energy I had just to get to this office this morning.  I needed someone to help me.

I sat across from my husband, Cheryl and the psychiatrist who were standing and waiting for me to say something.  Then Cheryl sat down next to me and touched my arm.  “Kay,” she said gently but firmly, “You have severe depression, that’s obvious.  How long do you think it will take you to over come this?”   Honestly, I had no clue, so I thought about how long it takes the body to heal from any major problem.  Then I padded my answer with a couple of weeks so I wouldn’t sound as uncertain as I felt and responded, “I don’t know about 6-8 weeks?”   There was a long deafening silence.  Cheryl and the doctor exchanged serious looks before she dropped her head in her hands, and blurted out, “try 6 years.”  

You would think that if depression just happens to people because of a genetic link, that I would have succumb a lot earlier than 43.  But that wasn’t even the issue. At some point, soon after that Black Friday, my husband had had a private discussion with the psychiatrist and had made another appointment for me.  During that second appointment, the doctor diagnosed me with Bipolar Disorder.  I had never even heard of Bipolar at the time, but come to find out bipolar is the most genetically influenced mental illness.  However, unlike depression, bipolar had never turned up in my family’s history.   I insisted that he was wrong, but Dr. Warren told me that other people (meaning my husband) could see my moods and behaviors better than I could.   I really wasn’t buying it, but I was desperate for the depression to lift, so I got my marching orders and I started on a boatload of medications, hoping that soon I would feel a lot different.  And I did, I soon felt like a zombie.

I was scared as hell about the “side effects” I was having with these medications, but I was even more frightened about not getting better.  I faithfully took my toxic medications, attended individual and group therapy, underwent countless bouts of electroshock therapy and read, studied and prayed day and night.  When my mental health continued to deteriorate, my psychiatrist filed papers for disability.

In the meantime, I laid on the couch wondering if my husband was right and I really was crazy.  I didn’t know how people “go crazy” or “are crazy,” but I didn’t think that one day I’d be having children, riding horses, and feeling the normal pressure of a demanding profession and the next day, “boom” I couldn’t function enough to sign my name. 

Everyone was really worried about me, except my husband.  He didn’t even care for me during that time.   I agreed with him, as I always agreed with him, that “we” didn’t want the children to see me in such a fragile state; so I was closed off in a small room with a T. V.   I only now know what he was telling my children.  What he told me was, “I like it when you are down, then I have all the control.”  I knew then that I needed a miracle.

 

To Be Continued…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mission Possible.

NATP Agent,

You are one of the founding members of the National Alliance For Targeted Parents.  That in itself, tells the great story of your heroic efforts to save your children despite the widespread lack of knowledge or support from the mental health profession.  You’ve done everything to prevent and stop the trauma from psychological abuse that has hurt your children and you.  Nothing worked because no one knew what you knew about how your (ex) partner was/is treating your family.  And when you did tell the authorities, they thought that you were the problem.  The social workers in Child Protective Service didn’t understand psychological abuse or the opportunity they had to break the cycle of abuse just by placing your children with you long enough for the two of you to heal from the toxic influence of the personality disordered parent.  Every school or private counselor misdiagnosed your children with depression, anxiety, ADHD and other things when there was no evidence.  Your ex-partner manipulated the mental health professionals because they couldn’t recognized the serious mental illness that drove him or her to destroy your relationship(s) with your children and cause prolonged interpersonal trauma.   

You went to family court because you were desperate to help your children and had no other place to go.  Family court put the nail in the coffin by misreading every sign of psychological family abuse.  They thought your trauma was instability and your children’s insecure bond with the abusive parent was healthy.  

America’s Mental Health System must stop this epidemic of inter-generationally transmitted abuse and trauma and we have their attention.  Now it’s time to bring our children home.  The APA has the power and resources to mobilize quickly and save our children.  But the APA Board of Directors will only take this action if they are convinced of the critical nature of our problem.  Then they can take swift and decisive action to save your children and mine.  You don’t have to teach them about the pathology.  They know the caustic influence of a narcissistic and/or borderline parent.  They know our children are being sacrificed and have been derailed developmentally.  They know how to heal our unseen wounds.  We just need to tell them that we need them, now.

You have one more duty to perform in this war against the family.  One more mission before the APA will take the lead.  You need to accept the assignment to write the APA a letter.  Your letter doesn’t have to be long and arduous.  You don’t have to go into a lot of detail.  But you are the expert in the trauma and the pain.  The APA needs to know that this is a crisis with unparalleled destructive force.  Your children were FORCED to choose between the parents they loved.  They were FORCED to cope by suppressing their attachment from you because they couldn’t choose.  It has arrested healthy development and caused you unbearable complex grief.  It is above all, this country’s greatest travesty of unnecessary cruel and inhumane torture.  Tell the APA to make this their number 1 priority!

Grandparents TOO!

Grandparents TOO!

What To Do

1.  Write your letter.  Plagiarize anything from this website, or just scribble HELP! on a piece of paper.  I’m going to include a couple of pictures of my children and me to make it more personal.  Give them your contact information and offer to provide any level of detail they might want.  Refer them to your Facebook if you have one, or other resources that you particularly like.

2. Contact Howie Dennison or Phil Taylor for names and addresses of individual APA members.   Print a copy for each APA member you are given. 

3. Put your letter in the mailbox before you go to bed tonight.  Then sleep well knowing that you have been a good and faithful parent and a hero to this country.

For Far Too Long...

 For far too long we were isolated and alone.   For decades, narcissistic parents tore the souls out of our innocent children that they called their sons and daughters, as if they had the right.  Slowly they bled the life out of their happy and healthy partners, as if they had the right.  No one believed that a person would terrify their own children into complete submission and use them as decoys and weapons to hurt the person who had pledged them their love.   Pure trauma engulfed the American dream and crushed our spirits aided by the mental health and legal systems.  Friends, family members, neighbors and bystanders chose to ignore or even profit from our pain and torture.  We remained isolated and alone, for far too long.

Last October, a few isolated targeted parents banded together on a hope and a prayer over the Internet.  Together, we faced the hard facts.  First, we accepted that we had loved, trusted, married and had a family with someone who never had the capacity to care about anyone but themselves.  We were not unlovable, as they tried and sometimes succeeded to convince us; they could NOT love.   Second, we acknowledged that no one else was going to care enough about the health and future of our children to actually DO anything to help us.  Child protective services just whined about caseloads.  Law enforcement didn’t enforce the laws.  Mental health professionals couldn’t recognize trauma, child psychological abuse or narcissistic patterns of behaviors and misdiagnosed us as the problem.  Guardian ad litems were insecure, arrogant and uniformed.  Getting to the truth, was too much work for what they were being paid.  And Family Courts felt entitled to ignore state statutes, roll their eyes at our constitutional rights and punish us if we protested their misconduct or questioned their mistaken assumptions. Third, we decided that awareness and education had gotten nowhere and needed to be replaced by action.  We; you and I were exactly where we needed to be at exactly the right time.  We decided that this horror had to end.

None of us had any money or extra time to devote to the “good of the order,” but we had to start DOING something.  Three months after a pretty shaky start, the National Alliance For Targeted Parents launched a petition to the APA demanding that they formally acknowledge that the pathology of “parental alienation” is tragically real.  We didn’t care what they called it or who took credit for labeling it, we were done arguing a mute point in the face of our children’s demise.   It was time for America to recognize that narcissistic parents were  psychologically/emotionally abusing and neglecting their children to reject the other fit and emotionally available parent.   The American Psychological Association(APA) was the avenue to acknowledge us as a special population and assert the need for protective separation between our children and the abusive parent.

It's a sad commentary that we are surprised and feel grateful to the APA for taking a strong, visible lead.  At our request, the APA is moving forward to validate and address our family crisis by establishing a conference/team of experts in attachment theory, personality disorder pathology, trauma, and family systems.  The goal is a short and intense conference to produce a white paper on the pathology of “parental alienation.”  Our request for a conference of experts has only one more committee to hurdle before it can be presented to American Psychological Association’s Board of Directors for consideration. 

Concurrent with this movement, the web page that contained the APA's position statement on "Parental Alienation Syndrome" was removed.  Although we haven’t heard why it was taken down, this actionis extremely significant.

 For over a decade, the published position statement has fueled a false adversarial relationship with our natural and common allies in domestic violence and stalled progress.

2008 Statement on Parental Alienation Syndrome
The American Psychological Association (APA) believes that all mental health practitioners as well as law enforcement officials and the courts must take any reports of domestic violence in divorce and child custody cases seriously. An APA 1996 Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family noted the lack of data to support so-called "parental alienation syndrome", and raised concern about the term's use. However, we have no official position on the purported syndrome.

What is becoming abundantly clear is that narcissistic abusers have stayed under the radar by NOT battering with their fists.  My ex-partner would shame me and insist that he never abused the children or me because he never “touched” us.  And the fact that society focuses almost exclusively on physical and sexual violence leaves narcissistic-abusers free to savagely assault their ex-partners and children without ever being held accountable. 

This is about to change!

If you haven’t had the chance yet to join us as an official member of the National Alliance for Targeted Parents, please fill in your name and email at the bottom of this page.  You are no longer isolated or alone.  Join us as we save our children, save the next generation, and save this nation!

Emotional Abuse and Neglect in America It's Everyone's Problem Now.

This blog has two parts. The first part is summary of the status of child psychological abuse as it pertains to our families and the second part is a short description of the "significant and observable changes" in a child who is being psychologically abused.  Please share this information with everybody you know.  While the APA is setting the stage to address this issue in the public's interest, the public can be given the tools to start recognizing and reporting severe child psychological abuse.  Both of these documents (Indicators and SAVE A CHILD)  can be found in the learning links section of the website, underChild Abuse Reports.

The number of children who are psychologically maltreated (emotionally abused and neglected) from living with a parent who has a serious mental illness has reached epidemic proportions.  As many as 22 million parents with children have relationally abusive and high conflict personality disorders (Harman and Biringen).  These personality disorders are unrecognizable by the general public and the majority of mental health and protective service professionals including law enforcement, child abuse investigators and family court.  Emotional abuse and neglect is grossly under reported and the least likely type of child abuse to be investigated or stopped.

This article describes the observable behaviors ofchildren who are being psychologically maltreated by a relationally abusive parent to reject their other healthy or  “targeted” parent.  Psychological abuse and neglect by a mentally ill parent is as damaging to children as sexual abuse and/or physical abuse; and in many cases it is worse.   The most powerful resiliency factor to protect children from the ravages of psychological abuse is for them to have strong relationships with healthy adults, most importantly, their other parent. 

Child Psychological abuse and neglect has been unraveling the fabric of America for generations and now poses a serious threat to our country.  Aside from the daily pain and anguish that relationally abusive parent inflict on their family, they also transmit their problems inter-generationally, which accounts for the rising percentage of these personality disorders in our society.

Child Psychological Abuse (p. 719, DSM-5, 2013), has mandatory standards of practice that apply to every case, in every state, for every child, at every age.  Clear and strict compliance to state and federal laws are such that ALL mandatory child abuse reporters, including mental health, legal and educational professionals can be held accountable for not reporting these cases.

But you don’t have to be a mandatory reporter to save a child and serve your country by reporting these cases.  As friends and family of a targeted parent, YOU can make all the difference, by reporting what you see to your county child protection agency.   When targeted parents report the abuse, the abusive parent retaliates by making things worse on the child and the targeted parent.  In addition, they often file counterclaims and the children are induced to support the lies against the targeted parent.  It rarely ends well.   However as an objective witness, your report carries much more weight, and can be anonymous.

By the time a child is have completely changed his or her demeanor, the normal development and survival systems have already been derailed.  This means that they are unable to extract themselves from the abuser without intervention.  A period of protective separation from the abusive parent is necessary for the child to recover.   During this no contact period the child and targeted parent reconnect and learn how to protect themselves from further abuse, allowing for the child to have a safe relationship with both parents.

SAVE A CHILD,

SAVE THE NEXT GENERATION,

SAVE OUR NATION….

REPORT CHILD PSYCHOLOGICAL ABUSE!

 


 

Clinical Indicators of Child Psychological Abuse

As Defined by State Statutes

Children who are being psychologically maltreated (emotionally abused and neglected) exhibit one or more of the following characteristics to a severe degree: 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.

In severe child psychological abuse cases, children will exhibit the following three substantial and observable changes. (Childress, 2015)

1.    A complete suppression of a child’s normal, healthy attachment to one parent.  Abruptly, a child begins to reject one parent for no reason.  He or she will publically display disdain and/or contempt for the “targeted” parent.  As this condition worsens the child will treat the targeted parent more and more harshly, with less and less remorse or empathy.

Early in the family’s history, the child felt attached and cared for by both parents.  Even though the mentally ill parent could not connect emotionally with the children, the healthy attachment to the other parent allowed the children to develop normally.   However, this never lasts.  Partners/parents who have relationally abusive personality disorders thrive on escalating conflict.  For reasons too complex to discuss here, these individuals lie, exaggerate problems and blame others to drive wedges between other members of their family.  They do not communicate directly, but instead plant seeds of suspicion and contempt in the minds of one family member against another.   The happy home quickly disintegrates and separation and divorce ensue.

Once the abusive parent has the children alone, the child psychological abuse reaches a pathological level.  He or she begins to apply subtle but constant pressure to make the child question their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors toward the other parent.  Under relentless coercion and manipulation the child starts to think that the targeted parent is a danger or threat to their survival (this is called trauma).  In order to cope with the extreme demand from the abusive parent to choose between parents, children suppress their positive feelings for the targeted parent.   

 Forcing a child to “choose” to love and care for only one of their two parents is simply evil.  The child must suppress their love, respect, attraction, emotional needs, positive thoughts and good memories of their healthy parent, who makes up half of their identity.  When the child internalizes these negative feelings it affects their perception of themselves and their relationships with others in the world around them.  This disrupts their emotional, cognitive, and personality development.  Suppression of attachment to a healthy, loving parent is so far outside the normal range at any stage of development that it is contrary to our primary motivation for survival.  It is impossible to understand the severity of torture these children must feel that drives them to have to take such drastic measures to cope with the demands of one parent.

Example: About 6 months after my divorce was final and the children were spending 50 percent of their time in each home, my 10 year old son came back from placement with his father, crying.  He said to me, “I’m so confused mom, dad says that you lie all the time.”

We sat down and I asked him to tell me when he could remember a time that I had ever lied to him.  I watched his contorted, tear stained face start to relax when he realized that what his father was saying wasn’t true.  He smiled and hugged me, relieved to know that I was still the same mom that he always had.

 At the time, I thought that I would be able to combat his father’s campaign against me by keeping open communication with my son.  However, the next time he came back from his father’s his  negative emotions toward me were so chaotic and caustic that he was no longer able to think critically and I couldn’t reconnect with him.   He was angry, belligerent, hyper aroused, frustrated and confused.  He withdrew.  It was 9 years later, after his first year in college when my son felt safe enough to let his attachment to me resurface.

2.    Children imitate the abusive parent’s patterns of narcissistic/borderline personality traits, such as superiority and entitlement.

 This drastic change in a child’s behaviors, emotional responses and cognition, is completely abnormal for any age or state of development.

Thankfully, the child does not have a personality disorder or the disorder traits themselves, but a child learns what he or she lives and they begin to imitate the abusive parent’s language, behaviors, and attitudes.  Psychologically abusive parents treat the child as if they are above the targeted parent in the family hierarchy.   They are encouraged to think that they have the right to judge and punish the targeted parent.   They use language that is not within the norm for any age or stage of development.  In particular, children start to use dramatic and attention getting words such as “abusive” and “forced” when describing the relationship with the targeted parent.

The psychologically abusive parent also creates an insecure attachment with their children.  The children believe that they will lose both parents, if they do not adopt the hateful and denigrating attitudes and feelings that the abusive parent has for the targeted parent.

Example: I told my son that his dog missed him when he was gone.  He immediately turned hostile and said that he didn’t have a dog, or a sister, or a mother.  Then he began telling me how I had failed the family.  He said ” You should have stayed in the marriage and just taken what dad dished out.  It wasn’t that bad, it’s not like he abused you, he never hit you!”  Then he started blaming me for his father’s affairs and also blamed me for the fact that his father’s girlfriend had broken off his most recent relationship.  My son vowed that if I “forced” him to follow placement he would make me cry everyday, because he would never stop hating me.  He ended the confrontation by snarling,  “I wish you would die so I could spit on your grave.”

3.    Children share the abusive parent’s delusion that the targeted parent is all bad and dangerous.  They begin to fear the targeted parent and resist contact.

Fear of a targeted parent is indicative of a 180-degree shift in a child’s behaviors and emotional response to their healthy and loving parent.  This is completely abnormal for any age or stage of development.

Children are ambivalent towards their parents.  They like and dislike somethings sometimes about one or the other.  They even favor a parent at times.  However, even when children temporarily favor one parent over the other, that doesn’t cause them to fear, hate and/or reject the targeted  parent. 

Example:  My son called the police on me the night that I confronted him about his drug use. He reported that he was afraid that I was going to hurt him.   When the police arrived, they saw my son cowering in a corner.  Scotty (named used with permission) was well known.   Heplayed on a State and National Champion Rugby team and one of the best weightlifters.  

 The police looked at him and then at me, his 5 ft., nothing, 50 year old mother and raised his eyebrows.  All he said was “Scotty, we’re not buying this.”  Almost immediately, Scotty returned to normal and we had a pretty decent time until he went back to his father’s.

 

 

 

 

 

APA Responds With Respect and Enthusiasm

We were delighted to receive a confirmation from the American Psychological Association's (APA) Committee on Children, Youth & Families (CYF) that our petition had their full attention.  What really made me smile was that they immediately realized that the crisis we experience day and night can not be handled by their committee alone.  CYF bumped our petition up to their parent board, The Board on the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest (BAPPI), who determined that our petition has strong practice implications.  And indeed it does!

 BAPPI is considering forming a joint working group with the Practice Directorate but there are others who need to be represented on the work group in order to get all the pieces together.  The following diagram is not perfectly accurate, but illustrates how fragmented and complex our issue is.  However it also illustrates the power of collaboration, which is highly valued by the APA.

This diagram only illustrates the point that our issue is complex.

 

The NATP is not a polished, well-funded lobbying organization, or celebrities or even folks with any clout or influence.  On the contrary; we are parents who have been abused, tormented, marginalized and re-victimized by every system in place that claims to advocate for the best interest of children and families.  Even so, we never stopped trying to find a way to protect our children from our narcissistic/borderline ex-partners who have caused so much pain and suffering.  

Now, for the first time in the history of this nationwide travesty, one of the world’s most powerful organizations, the APA has heard our collective voice and responded swiftly with respect and compassion.  

Chills just ran down my spine as I re-read that last sentence.  I know this means that we are just at the starting gate, but my dear long suffering and heroic targeted parents, we are

AT the starting gate

and it’s only April.

We didn't start this war on families in American, but we will finish it. We still need to get as many of us in one place as possible, so PLEASE Join Us!  Submit you name and email in the red and black box at the bottom of this or any page of our website www.targetedparent.com.  

 

The Silver Bullet

Since interpersonal conflict and self centered, abusive behaviors are two of the criteria seen in parents with narcissistic/borderline personality disorder traits, it’s not surprising that when people with these traits divorce, their custody cases dominate family court dockets.  Parents with this high conflict personality are abusive and unable to resolve conflict in a healthy way.   They cannot collaborate, co-parent or mediate. They also do NOT follow court orders.   These parents do not come to court to get help in making decisions that are in the children’s’ best interests; these parents come to family court to win custody at all costs.  The children are trophies to be taken away from the other parent to “prove” to the world that they are the better parent.  

High conflict parents know how to win in family court and it has nothing to do with parenting, children or doing the right thing.  They keep the court focused on the other parent, casting him or her as the “bad” parent; the unstable parent and the abusive parent.  They blame the other parent for the family’s problems, while blatantly sabotaging efforts for the children to have a relationship with the other parent.

One would think that Family Court Judges would impose consequences on a parent in their courtroom that repeatedly violate court orders and teaches their children to do the same. In addition, one would think that Family Court Judges would not be influenced by the “he said, she said” of a parent who accuses the other parent of everything they can think of but never has any evidence to back up those accusations.  But that is not the case.  Family Court Judges consistently ignore the abusive parent’s lawlessness and dishonesty and then gives that parent placement, often because of the Silver Bullet.

High conflict parents with narcissistic/borderline patterns

of behavior will do anything to win custody

including using the Silver Bullet.

The Silver Bullet is when a parent or child makes false allegations of abuse about the other parent.  These parents know that as long as they “claim” the other parent is abusing the children, the courts will suspend custody or visitation with the other parent until the claims have been investigated.  They also know that the public will pay for the investigations and even if the accusations are unsubstantiated, just the accusation had caused skepticism about the other parent.

The abusive parent uses the suspended custody time to psychologically abuse the children into aligning with their story (if they haven’t already).   Abused children are helpless to get away from their abusive situation and will “bond” with an abusive parent because they are afraid of him or her.   Sometimes children are afraid that they will be punished if they don’t do what the that parent wants and sometimes children are afraid that the parent will abandon them if they do something that he or she would not like.   In either case, Judges consistently read this fear driven connection between the abuser and his or her children as a “healthy bond.”   Their mistaken perception is further reinforced by assuming that if a child rejects a parent then that parent must have done something to deserve it.

When I was still in family court, my children brazenly told me exactly what they were doing.  My daughter, who really did NOT want to be breaking the law, confessed to me that she “had to lie in court” because if she didn’t, “dad would go to jail.”  In addition, my son explained if he didn’t reject me and treat me bad, “his father would abandon him.”   Falsely accusing a parent of abuse may be called the Silver Bullet, but it is deadly when a child pulls the trigger.  The supposed children’s “voice” is what ultimately sways Family Court Judges to leave or place the children with the abusive parent. 

When abusive parents use their children to lie in court to hurt the other parent and get placement, it wounds all of us; the children, the fit parent, the justice system and society.  But, based on the high profile cases of Tsimhoni and Worlfers, it is obvious that very few people understand this type of abusive scenario.   The general public have been dangerously misled by the media on both of these cases. The media has only explained the situation from a very superficial level and they generously omit pertinent information and thus have come to the wrong conclusions.

The saddest part of this whole charade is that as a mother who lost her children to their abusive father, I can clearly see that my ex-husband and both women have the same abusive patterns of behaviors.  It’s just creepy that 3 parents with no connection can act in such predictable  ways.  None of them could collaborate, co-parent, mediate, or follow court orders.  All of them deprived their children of normal developing lives; to play, go to school, attend dances and develop their own personalities.  They all disobey placement orders so the children were only exposed to their view of reality.  All three exercised rigid psychological control so that the children will think that their first priority is to “protect” their mother (or in my case father) by lying under oath,  hiding in secrecy, breaking laws, and accusing us (the other parent) of doing things we never did. None of the three parents could accept the evidence that the other parent was NOT abusive.  Worst of all, these two mothers drove their children’s father out of their lives, just as my ex-husband drove me out of the lives of my children.  The pain almost killed me, the complex grief and PTSD still linger behind every corner, as I am sure it does for the other fathers.

It was hard for me to accept that mothers could be as heartless and abusive as my children’s father.  I use to think that only men could be so cruel and callous as to hurt their own children.  But the two high profile cases have proven that women can induce their children to shoot the Silver Bullet, just as easily as a man.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

albert-einstein-pic.jpg

 

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.






Fatal Attractions

I recently found this story I wrote 7 years ago, after one of my Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy sessions.   As I reread it, I thought about how I was attracted to narcissists because they were the best at filling my unmet childhood needs.   Narcissists need us to regulate their emotions and they “hook” us by first mirroring our needs.  It is a two way street, for a little while.  Our ex-partners were attracted to us because of our emotional vulnerabilities and we were attracted to them because of our emotional vulnerabilities.  We were set up from the beginning.
The first half of this story illustrates how our mental models dictate our relationships.   In my case only a narcissist could induce that intoxicating infatuation that we call love.  

February 18, 2009

Our EMDR session started the same as usual.  I put on the headphones and the sound of an approaching rainstorm traveling over the ocean filled my senses.  I held a beacon in each hand that rhythmically pulsed back and forth, imitating the REM stage of sleep and preparing my brain for reprocessing.  I took a few breaths and relaxed in the soft overstuffed chair.

First, my therapist took me to my safe place; my sister’s spare bedroom.  It has been my safe place for my entire adult life.  It is a place that I could escape to anytime the burdens of life became too great to bear.  My sister and her husband kept their front door open 24/7; just in case I needed an emotional shelter.

I envisioned entering the small bedroom at the top of the steep set of stairs.  My grandmother’s bed filled most of the room.  The dark wooden spindled frame was adorned with a cream colored bedspread and lots of pillows.  There is one window in the room that overlooks the backyard and the gardens.  An old bubble lamp sheds just enough light for me to focus on whatever I wanted to focus on.  The atmosphere is clear of responsibilities and duties and empty of expectations and criticisms.  I was free there.  Free to sleep or not to sleep, to eat or not to eat, to stay in or go out.  Free of the conditions, restraints and heartache that had become my daily life. 

From my safe place I journeyed to the house I grew up in.  There, I was standing in the dining room with the phone dangling from my fingertips.  I had just learned that the man I loved and who I thought loved me had just returned from Alaska, married.  How could this be?  We were going to get married.  His family had become my family.  How could the relationship, that I thought would last forever, vanish in an instant?   I stood in shock for a few moments and then the adrenaline of rejection and abandonment shot through me.  I ran out the front door.  I ran for blocks, cutting across lawns, darting across streets.  I never felt my feet touch the ground or heard my labored breath.  I fled to the small-secluded park behind the church on the hill.   I ran to the end of the dock, fell face down and cried for 10 years.

Suddenly, I was hovering about 30 feet above the dock.   I saw the back of a small framed young woman lying on the wooden boards below, surrounded by the greenish blue waves of a polluted lake.  Her face was buried in her arms and her body heaved in torment.  I heard her cry, “Why doesn’t he love me?  Why am I not good enough?  Why doesn’t anyone love me?  I don’t understand.   I want to be something to someone.  I want someone to be there for me.  I can’t stand the loneliness any longer.”

The phone call had caused an enormous train wreck between my fantasy relationship and reality.  My reality had just confirmed that I was unlovable.  I had committed my heart and soul to this relationship in a desperate need to rectify my feelings of rejection and abandonment by my father.  But true to form, my first romantic relationship was just like the relationship I had had with my father, one way.

  The phone call had shattered my fragile imaginary sense of significance and my daydream was exposed for what it really was—a dream.   It would be 10 years before I felt that intense emotion again, this time the attraction was fatal because he married me.

 

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.