i am reblogging this because it is such a beautifully written expose of what is going on in so many families where alienation is arising in children. i am excited by the way in which the bigger conversation is starting and how many people (some of whom are parents affected by alienation issues, some of whom are professionals) are starting to do the necessary work to build new thinking and evidence based strategies. I am delighted to have met expofunction recently and find this blog to be entirely complimentary to my own work adding to my thinking and prompting me to consider further how we can get the messages out there and the support to help parents who are in this terrible place come through it and survive, for their children’s sake as well as their own. Thank you expofunction, I look forward to collaboration and creation of something new and exciting in 2013 and beyond. K

expoƒunction

[This is the third post in a series. Consider starting with the first.]

The Overwhelmingly Strong Personality may already be familiar to you. Many of us might recognise or have experience of an awkward work colleague or a family member who is interpersonally rigid, easily offended, self-absorbed, blaming and finds it difficult to empathise with others. However kind, generous and supportive we are towards them, the atmosphere increasingly becomes permeated with resentment, anxiety and stress as those around them split into two camps; those who support (and are supported by) the Overwhelmingly Strong Personality and those who do not.

We may realise that something is wrong, but seldom manage to put our finger on what it is.

In order to sustain some self esteem, self image and control in their lives – and to get others to give them some loyalty and respect – such people employ a whole…

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8 comments

  1. pauldmanning · December 11, 2012

    I read this karen, but I found its reading interesting but disconcerting. I shall tell you why… I had a wonderful close relationship with my 10 year old son, I was his main carer from birth while my partner worked, so we become very close. I was never overbearing with him and always allowed him freedom to express his own ideas and tried to allow him the room to develop his own character and personality. I always gave him my time, no matter how tired I was, he came to me with every problem and we gently talked about them and how to iron them out. We were as close as close could be. My partner was and still is the type to always want her own way, and there was never ever any arguing with her on any subject or in any decision making, I always just gave in to her, I didnt see the point, she was just to over bearing. (After all, She is French. Action directe!)

    Coming to the point here, I and my partner eventually broke up and agreed a shared care arrangment with our son when he was six years old. This went very well for 2 years after our breaking up. However, the time came when she met another man and things began to change from that point on. She tried to cut me out of my sons life and the matter ended up in court. We were both sent to see a psychologist, and to my amazment I was the one that was labelled with the personality disorder of being a Narcissist, the very thing I thought my partner had! What the psychologist interpretated in me as narcissism was my anger, yes I was angry at being parted from the child I loved for a period of 4 years, who the hell wouldnt be angry? Can you explain this one please? And the evidence that she has alienated my son is plain to see, but her actions seem to go unchallenged in court. Im confused to say the least. I am now refused contact with my son, not because I’ve ever hurt him emotionally or physically, but because of an opinion that im a future danger somehow, ‘the crystal ball effect’ its called. How can such decisions be made based on no prior harm to a child?

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  2. karenwoodall · December 11, 2012

    Hi Paul,

    Sometimes what happens in situations where there are strong personalities at play is that the issue (in the case narcissism) is identified but it is being ‘projected’ by the stronger person who is more in control onto the person who is in a weaker position. I think that in your situation, the issue of narcissism is at play, your son’s mother assumes that she and only she has control over him, he is only able to grow in reflection of her. The professional, who is not aware of their gendered assumptions that ‘children should be with their mothers’ after separation, pick up on the fact that your son is not free to grow in his own image and identify narcissism as the reason why but cannot tolerate the possibility that the narcissistic parent is the mother, because this would mean that the child is at risk of removal from his mother. Thus you have arising what is called ‘unconscious collusion’ in which the first professional who identified the problem of narcissism, colludes with projecting it onto you. All subsequent professionals are allowed to see the original professionals report and immediately fall into the trap of enmeshment with the original diagnosis. Your anger and perhaps, dare I say, determined approach at times, allows them to confirm for themselves the diagnosis that they are comfortable with. Thus we see gender discrimination perfectly at play and quite possibly allowing generations of children to be left with the parent that they are most at risk from, whilst the other, good enough parent is pushed out.

    Its not you Paul, its her, but the professionals are lined up in collusion against you within a system which is inherently gender biased. K

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    • Kat · December 11, 2012

      My belief is that these strong personalities are often quite capable of sucessfully projecting an image of being the victim. They are very convincing liars because they believe their own lies and live in denial. I remember being stunned by mum telling dad that she had always been the one who was there for the children and that’s why they are now aligned with her. I remember thinking: “of all people dad is the one who knows this isn’t true, why is she saying this to him?”. Now I think that she genuinely believes this is the truth, because the perfect mother would never have done what she did. As she is the perfect mother it is impossible that these things happened.
      Hence professionals get it wrong if they are not very adept at seeing though such things or haven’t got the time – on one side you have the (justifiably) angry dad on the other the perplexed mother who projects a convincing image of having done everything in her power to sort this out to no awail.

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  3. Ben · December 11, 2012

    What is more, that gender bias is so deeply ingrained that it is all but submerged in all the guidance given to people working in the industry, to the extent that they can simply point to the language in a document like the Children Act and say “where is the gender bias?” and leave you standing looking like a fool.

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  4. Andrew · January 7, 2013

    Just glad Xmas and new year is over. It used to be my favourite time of the year. Second Christmas without seeing my precious daughter. Its just so so hard…… My New Years resolution will be to work even harder than last year against the broken system to get contact reinstated. I’de love to spend a couple of hours with her next Christmas.
    Andrew

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    • Mum-minus-daughter (No longer!) · January 14, 2013

      That is very sad to read Andrew. I hope that you can take heart that your exact comment could have been written by me this time last year. But this Christmas I spent some wonderful days with my daughter, after two years of my barrister and I pushing and working the legal system. I refused to give up. Please keep up your strength and courage I hope that you will find justice and joy this time next year.

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      • Andrew · January 16, 2013

        Thanks for your kind words.

        Andrew

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  5. pauldmanning · January 9, 2013

    The heartless Lioness. A story written by Paul Manning (Pt 2 available on request)
    Once there was a lioness called Teha, she was beautiful, but very vain and haughty. Teha roamed the jungle in search of prey that she killed without a seconds thought and without mercy as many lioness’s do. One day she came upon a he-lion who she took to and they became good friends. Together they lived in a dark and dank cave that had strange paintings on the walls that dated from long ago, Teha showed little interest in these, but her mate pondered on their meanings and marvelled at them greatly. In time Teha gave birth to two she cubs, Joy and Ella that took after their father in looks and they loved him because of his gentle but sad nature. However, in character they were like Teha, so she taught them all her ways in hunting and the skills of laying traps. Eventually the cubs were trained to follow Teha wherever she went, while their father pondered thoughtfully while gazing at the walls of the cave. Years passed and for Teha it was as if the black and gloomy cave, where they lived, had become a darker and darker place. Because of this Teha had become accustomed to going out on her own late at night and hunting under the light of the moon. Her favourite place was at the pool where all the other he-lions gathered to growl and snarl and to impress and to show who was the strongest. Teha came to crave adventure, she wanted excitement in her life, and after all she was a proud Lioness who deserved better than a dark cave to live in. One night at the pool Teha met a skinny Lion who was called Bow, he did not have a full grown mane nor was he intelligent, but he did at least go hunting, which to Teha came in useful. Both would meet at the pool and go off into the mystery of the jungle, as the other lazy lions slept on full stomachs by the pool. Eventually Teha became bored of Bow’s company and because she did not love him she found it easy to abandon him while he wasn’t looking, such were her ways. Sadly Teha became lonely and had no friends and so wandered back to the cave and back to her cubs that licked their mother with glee on her arrival. For a time Teha settled again and decided that the only place that she could really call home was the cave even though she had to live with her mate who paid little attention to her only the puzzling drawings painted on the walls. Teha had not hunted for some days and her cubs became hungry and tearful and blamed their father for all their problems and misfortunes. One night Teha had a dream, a dream that she thought would change her life forever that would make her future much happier, or so she imagined. She gently nuzzled her two cubs from their slumber while whispering to them ‘shush now, come, we are leaving the cave and we will find a place that is fit for beautiful Lioness’s like us’. The cubs looked confused and Teha could see that they were wondering about leaving their father. To placate them Teha said, ‘don’t worry he will be alright without us and anyway he has his wall paintings to keep him company’. So, the three of them quietly stole out of the cave while the father he-lion innocently snored oblivious to being abandoned by his family. Out into the long grass they journeyed, under the tall trees and over the savannah, mile after mile in a quest for a new home. Teha was never satisfied with her lot in life, for her there was something more out there in the big wide world, a dream of happier times that surely needed fulfilling, and living with an unexciting mate was not good enough for her and she had tired of him just as she had tired of her friend Bow. By now, in a far off land, they came to a place called, Romlye, a land where the Sun shone cheerfully and the birds sang sweetly in the green bushes. Teha even found a new cave with white inner walls. It had an opening in the roof where you could look up and see the blue sky and they all settled in at once. The two she cubs had now become adolescent lions and learnt quickly how to fend for themselves and went hunting on their own. At times they saw other adult lions across the open spaces with their own families. At times they imagined that they saw their sad old father amongst them, but they knew that in reality he was still living in that dark cave far away from them. One day Teha brought home a kill for her family to eat, they had their fill and were all relaxing by the entrance of the cave… ‘I wonder what father is doing now, I wish I could see him’… said Ella. Teha gave her a stern look of displeasure at her remark and in reply said… ‘I guess he’s still trying to work out his wall puzzles and I wouldn’t bother him if I were you.’ Ella somehow knew that to dwell on the subject was a no go area and so she suppressed the urge to say more on the subject. As before Teha came to crave excitement, she was easily bored, she wondered where all the he-Lions gathered at night and if there was a local pool where they quenched their thirsts. And so when the Sun had set she decided to go out and investigate. She made sure that Joy and Ella were safe and sound before she left and headed in the same direction as some Elephants who seemed to be in a purposeful rush to make an appointment somewhere. Teha’s instincts proved correct as she found herself by a fast flowing river where storks waded by its muddy banks and hippo’s frolicked in fat groups, but where were all the he-Loins?
    Just then Teha heard the distinctive low rumble of her own species from across the opposite side of the river and decided to answer it. Back came an invitation to cross the waters and to join with the mystery Lion. Water droplets sprayed in all directions as Teha vigorously shook herself off after clambering out of the river onto the other bank. To meet her, proudly sitting on his haunches and with a white tidy mane was a middle aged he-Lion named Vole. She sidled up to him and gestured a greeting with a sway of her head and a lowering of her long sleek tail, he reciprocated in kind. They spent the night together and Teha told him of her life and her travels and of the sad old mate she had left behind in a dark black cave, of her adventures and of her dreams. Vole listened intently to her story and to some degree sympathised. He told her of his own life and of his beliefs and ideas and that at times he had been sad too and that life was not always kind. That we have to be satisfied with what Mother Nature gives us and to expect perfection of others is just illusionary. They both talked and talked and after many meetings by the river, in time, they came to trust each other and could not be parted for any length of time. Teha asked Vole to come and join her with Joy and Ella back at the happy cave, Vole accepted willingly and all four of them settled harmoniously and loved each other deeply. Teha’s dream had come true it seems and life was just as she wanted it, surely she could not want for anything else? Teha had two females in the pride, but now she wondered what it would be like to have a male cub fathered by Vole, before she became too old in years. And so it came to pass that she bore a wonderful cub who they both named ‘Liot’. Young Liot loved his father greatly and spent as much time with him as possible. They would play in the sand and pretend to fight with snarls and growls. Vole was happy to have his cub in his life and since he was no youngster, or in his prime, he counted himself lucky and blessed. Nevertheless, to have the ability to procreate was something still precious to Vole. Teha did not feel the same as Vole and saw her own cub bearing as over and that the pride was large enough. When Liot was six months old his weaning was complete and Teha’s milk flow ceased, now was the time for him to eat the meat of the prey. Teha persuaded Vole to put aside his principles and that he should throw away his prowess of procreation, but how to apply this in practice was a problem for Lions. While at the river Teha met a fierce Tiger, she complimented him on his very long sharp claws ideal for ripping into the flesh of any beast, when she saw them Teha had an idea? The next day Teha told Vole that she had met the Tiger and that he should meet him in the forest so that they could see who had the sharpest claws. Vole was suspicious at this because Lions never had dealings with Tigers, but he naively agreed to go. The forest was a hot place although the Sun rarely got the chance to see the forest floor and so to Vole it felt strange to walk upon the dampness of rotting leaves. ‘This way I think’, said Teha, leading the way through the undergrowth. Eventually they stopped by a huge mahogany tree that seemed to reach into the heavens up above. By this time Vole was feeling weary and tired and was not used to the hot humid atmosphere that hung like gas in the air. Teha led Vole to some huge leaves that were as big as open umbrellas that were full of a strange green liquid that had fallen from the canopy above. ‘You need a drink’ she said, ‘then you’ll feel better I’m sure’. Vole had never drunk from the leaf of a plant before, or come to that from a forest, but such was his thirst he drank deeply, but Teha did not. Within seconds his eyes were seeing double and his head began to spin, his strong limbs gave way beneath him… and then there was nothing. The Tiger leapt from his hiding place high above on a branch and fell up on the helpless Vole. Extending his razor sharp claws he cut into the loins of the proud but sleeping Lion. In seconds his work was done and any future generations that lay within the seed of this mighty beast were now gone and so was Vole’s dignity. ‘And the reward you promised?’ asked the tiger, with a glint in his eye. ‘I shall bring you two antelope after my hunt tomorrow’, answered the Lioness. And with that the Tiger with one bound disappeared and was gone. Vole stirred and felt a pain that he had never experienced before and found himself laying in a pool of blood that he knew was his own. Teha looked at him and said… ‘Don’t worry you’ll recover, but it was the only way’, but to take the chance of having more cubs and feeding them would have been a mistake, don’t you agree? Vole didn’t answer. They both left the forest for home, on the way Vole felt a deep sadness, for he knew that something in his life would never be the same and even though it was true that he didn’t want any more cubs, the thought that he couldn’t was a hard realisation to accept for a proud Lion as he. Perhaps it was all worth it, Vole thought, and besides he was prepared to do anything to please the Lioness he so loved, but only time would tell. Joy and Ella had thought much about seeing their father and got up the courage to ask about it to their mother, who did not want to have anything more to do with a sad Lion that stared at walls, and this she decided for Joy and Ella too. Two months later on a rainy day, which was a rarity, a sad old Lion was seen sitting some distance from their cave hoping to see Joy and Ella. He was to sit there for the next 5 days without so much of a twitch of a muscle or a swing of his tail. ‘I wish he would go away and get back to his dreary cave’, said Teha, ‘and how did he find us anyway?’
    Vole thought differently he knew instinctively that Teha was being selfish and was beginning to see a different side of her, but perhaps she would change in her attitude, he thought. To prevent Joy and Ella from seeing their father he knew was very wrong. He wondered that if it was possible for Teha to do this to her previous mate that perhaps she might do the same to him, but immediately Vole dismissed the idea out of mind. He knew that their love was unique and that a relationship like theirs would see any problems fade into the background. To Vole’s relief, after the five days were up, Teha agreed to allow Joy and Ella to leave the cave and go and see their father who wept on meeting them. This reunification was to be a regular occurrence, once a month, but it was plain to see that it was hard for Teha to stomach and due to her selfish ways she resented it.

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