January 2018 – Parental Alienation

So often during this recovery process, I have been told by others—those who have been targeted by sociopaths and those who have not—that it does not matter why the sociopath did what he did. Focus on you, they said. Figure out why you were vulnerable and what kind of behavior patterns you need to change. It does not matter why the sociopath lied to/cheated on/manipulated you, they said. Focus on YOU! Although they meant well, their words did not help me.

It is absolutely important and necessary to be introspective and learn everything we can about ourselves as we try to crawl our way out of the darkness. However, that kind of self-discovery can and should wait. Before that (and along with it), it is necessary to make sense out of what has happened to us so that we can build a foundation for healing. And for many of us, immediately after we realize we have been deceived and betrayed, the burning thought in our minds is…WHY??? Whydid the sociopaths lie so much? Why did they work so hard to convince us that they loved us, only to discard us so callously? Why did they spend so much time with us, if they never, ever cared for us? Why did they keep things going with us as they pursued other “relationships”? Why did they suddenly turn into completely different people? Why do they make us feel like we are going crazy? And the list goes on and on…

We can find the answers to these WHY questions by understanding how, exactly, sociopaths operate. By “understanding,” I do not mean that we can or should emotionally understand their behavior or excuse it in ANY way. I mean that we can and should intellectually understand their behavior because, by doing so, we find new wisdom and we take back our power! Below, I summarize the main concepts I learned about the sociopathic mind from various experts in the field:

Continue reading “Undertanding how sociopaths think” →

Here’s some advice to parents in this situation. (1) Remember it’s their story and they’re sticking to it so don’t try to change or correct their version of the past. (2) Express your regret without letting them guilt-trip you; regret is guilt without the neuroses. (3) Stay open to their overture – who’s the grown-up here? – but don’t allow them to abuse you emotionally, physically, or financially.
Jane Adams, Ph.D., author of When Our Grown Kids Disappoint Us

The estrangement of adult children from parents, in cases where overt parental abuse had not in fact occurred, can in some instances be read as a mark of immaturity on the part of the adult children, who may not yet have experienced the emotional challenges of parenting; for this group, at least, there is the hope that if they find themselves in the same role a few years later, they will gain compassion, if not forgiveness, for their own parents. Some older parents can at least can hold out for this hope. No one, of course, had “perfect parents.” Forgiveness involves understanding and identification with the difficulties one’s parents may have had, and as such, forgiveness is an expression of love and maturity.
Robert C. Abrams, M. D., Professor of Psychiatry, Weill Cornell Medical College

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/karl-a-pillemer-phd/parents-estranged-children_b_7297294.html

Children in recovery from alienation tell me that they feel as if they do not know how to trust or who to trust. Children in recovery tell me that they didn’t want to be part of the war between their parents or be party to the anger and hatred of one parent against the other. Children in recovery tell me that all they want to do is be a child and have the grown ups in their lives do the grown up work of sorting everything out. Those same children who, before recovery, were telling me how bad one parent was and how perfect the other one was, tell me that they never wanted to say those things, they simply had no other way of managing the landscape they were trying to navigate. Children in recovery want someone to act on their behalf and make it all better again for the adults around them. The drama of the alienated child is that they are travellers in a landscape they do not belong in and do not want to be in. As practitioners it is our task to Shepard them through to a safer place, a childhood place where their troubles, carried on behalf of adults, are behind them.

via The drama of the alienated child (2)

I am an alienated child sometimes I am lonelier than I believe it is possible to be but I hide from that by surrounding myself with people who reflect back to me my own reality. Even then, sometimes, I miss you and wonder why I have to keep on behaving this way.

I am an alienated older child, at times the cognitive dissonance screams so loudly in my ears that I have to cover them up or hide from the reality that I see right in front of me. I have grown to a place where I can see the things that have been done to me are wrong but still I do not have the courage to put them right, I do not feel big enough yet to face ‘them’ but I know who they are.

I am an alienated adult child, I am starting to realise that whatever ‘they’ say about the parent I have been forced to reject, he is still MY father. I am starting to understand that mothers and fathers are not divided into all perfect and all bad, I am starting to realise that the step parent who was forced into the place of MY father is not MY father.

I am an alienated adult child and the parts of myself that were pushed into the shadows are starting to come into the light.

One day I look in the mirror and I see my father’s face, my grandfather’s eyes, my great grandfather’s smile. That half of myself that I cut off and threw away is emerging before my eyes.

via I am an alienated child.

According to Braiker

Braiker identified the following ways that manipulators control their victims:[1]

  • Positive reinforcement: includes praise, superficial charm, superficial sympathy (crocodile tears), excessive apologizing, money, approval, gifts, attention, facial expressions such as a forced laugh or smile, and public recognition.
  • Negative reinforcement: involves removing one from a negative situation as a reward, e.g. “You won’t have to do your homework if you allow me to do this to you.”
  • Intermittent or partial reinforcement: Partial or intermittent negative reinforcement can create an effective climate of fear and doubt. Partial or intermittent positive reinforcement can encourage the victim to persist – for example in most forms of gambling, the gambler is likely to win now and again but still lose money overall.
  • Punishment: includes nagging, yelling, the silent treatment, intimidation, threats, swearing, emotional blackmail, the guilt trip, sulking, crying, and playing the victim.
  • Traumatic one-trial learning: using verbal abuse, explosive anger, or other intimidating behavior to establish dominance or superiority; even one incident of such behavior can condition or train victims to avoid upsetting, confronting or contradicting the manipulator.

Continue reading “How manipulators control their victim” →

Protecting the Child
If the child shows any bonding motivation toward the targeted parent, or even fails
to sufficiently reject the targeted parent, then the child is exposed to severe psychological
retaliation from the narcissistic/(borderline) parent. We cannot ask the child-hostage to
bond with the targeted parent until we are able to protect the child from retaliation by the
hostage-taker should the child cooperate with us to show any degree of bonding with the
targeted parent, or even for the child not to show complete rejection toward the targeted
parent. Unless we are able to protect the hostage, we cannot ask the hostage to defy the
will of hostage-taker. To do so would only expose the hostage to the retaliation of the
hostage-taker.

The first, critical step in any hostage situation, whether a physical hostage or a
psychological hostage, is to rescue the hostage and ensure the safety of the hostage from
retaliation. As long as we abandon the child to the hostage situation, and do not rescue the
child-hostage from the psychopathology of the hostage-taker, then the hostage must do
whatever is necessary to survive in the hostage situation.

Power and Hopelessness
The superior power of the hostage-taker, of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent, is
continually demonstrated to the child-hostage. The hostage-taker is far more powerful
than the other parent. The parental rights of the other parent can be entirely nullified and
Court orders can be disregarded with impunity. The other parent cannot even defend his
or her own relationship with the child against the power of the narcissistic/(borderline)
parent. The hostage-taker can intrude into the other parent’s time with the child and can
disrupt their relationship without consequence. And an allegation of child abuse against
the other parent, made directly by the hostage-taker or one that is induced to be made by
the child through the psychological influence and coercion of the hostage-taker, can
entirely disempower the other parent, so that the child is left entirely vulnerable and in the
control of the all-powerful narcissistic/(borderline) parent for months, and even for years,
while the other parent’s time with the child is severely restricted or placed on monitored
supervision.
The narcissistic/(borderline) parent is clearly more powerful than the other parent,

Continue reading “Protecting the Child” →

1.) The Hostage Metaphor
The hostage metaphor captures the dynamics of psychological control that are
fundamental to the child’s experience, and it helps us understand why the child adopts
distorted beliefs and behaviors toward a parent. The child is essentially being held as a
psychological hostage to the psychopathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.1 As a
hostage to the psychopathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent, the child is
subjected to powerful psychological control tactics of nullification, unpredictable
psychological torment and retaliation for displeasing the hostage-taker (the
narcissistic/(borderline) parent), and indulgent rewards for pleasing and cooperating with
the narcissistic/(borderline) parent, all of which combine to induce the child’s
psychological surrender to the attitudes, beliefs, and will of the hostage-taker.
Protecting the Child
If the child shows any bonding motivation toward the targeted parent, or even fails
to sufficiently reject the targeted parent, then the child is exposed to severe psychological
retaliation from the narcissistic/(borderline) parent. We cannot ask the child-hostage to
bond with the targeted parent until we are able to protect the child from retaliation by the
hostage-taker should the child cooperate with us to show any degree of bonding with the
targeted parent, or even for the child not to show complete rejection toward the targeted
parent. Unless we are able to protect the hostage, we cannot ask the hostage to defy the
will of hostage-taker. To do so would only expose the hostage to the retaliation of the

Continue reading “The Hostage Metaphor for “Parental Alienation”” →

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