From Division to Resilience: The Recovery Journey of the Alienated Child

The alienated child in recovery goes through a series of psychological changes, these are distinct and recognisable and are mapped through our work with children post intervention.

Children in recovery are repairing the psychologically split state of mind, that which is used as a defence against the intolerable dilemma of having to choose one parent to love and one parent to lose.  This is not an easy recovery journey.  Although it can be swift at the outset with alienated children being able to immediately move from absolute rejection to acceptance and warmth, the conditions for this response must be right for this to be seen.

Children in recovery go through a recognised process from rejection of a parent  to acceptance and then into an encounter with grief, shame and guilt. After this comes search for meaning (why did this happen to me) and then a search for congruence (how can I trust that adults around me are telling the truth). From there a child must be helped to gain and maintain the perspective which was destroyed by the alienation reaction. The final phase of recovery for the child is the development of resilience, in which the child is able to recognise that the ‘choice’ they made to reject a parent, was made at the behest of a parent who created an impossible situation for them. When this stage is reached, the child recognises that their needs are primary and that alignment with either parent is not helpful, they also recognise what healthy parenting feels like and are content within the reconfigured hierarchy of authority which governs their lives.

Helping a child to reach this stage of recovered self is undertaken in the months after the reunification work is done.  Attempting to do this with a child who is still living in the situation in which they are being influenced by a parent is unethical for practitioners because the child is being asked to change in an unchanging dynamic. This is a key issue for practitioners to consider and is the reason why the legal and mental health interlocking relationship is so vital.  It is clear from all of our work with children and from the research in this field, that children who are alienated are responding to the dynamics created by the adults around them. Whilst it is the child’s vulnerability to these dynamics which determines whether an alienation reaction flourishes or not, a practitioner who attempts to get the child to change without attending to the dynamics which influence their behaviour, is causing harm to the child. The only right way to do this work as a mental health practitioner is to accept the responsibility for advocating on behalf of the child in court, in order to change the dynamic and then carry out the intervention which liberates the child. Leading on from that the therapeutic work with the child can begin.

The practitioner who does the work of freeing the child can also deliver the therapeutic assistance which moves the child into recovery. The therapeutic alliance in such circumstances is strong because the child has already placed trust in the practitioner who has listened to the unspoken narrative and acted upon it. Children in recovery are clear that they did not want to reject their parent but that they understood the instructions to do so, instructions which are given sometimes verbally and sometimes in the behavioural commands which are conveyed in the intra-psychic relationship between parent and child.  Having someone intervene, lifts the burden of responsibility of choosing to change from the child’s shoulders. This creates trust and builds a willingness to be guided in therapeutic work. For some children, this work offers them their first opportunity to understand that their needs are separate and distinct from a parent, for others it offers them reassurance that their lives can be lived under their own control rather than that of the parent who has hitherto swallowed up their independent sense of self.  All of this work is undertaken in short term therapy which lasts no longer than six months post intervention in most cases.  By the end of this phase of work the child should be in complete recovery in relationship to the previously rejected parent and should be well on their way to re-establishing the relationship with the previously alienating parent.

Healing the split state of mind in a child however is a tricky task and the core conditions for therapeutic work must be in place at the outset in order that this occurs as the foundation stone for all future work.  The core conditions for therapeutic work are that the child has entered into the warm acceptance of the previously rejected parent and that this parent is enabled to provide for the child the reconfigured hierarchy of authority in which they will flourish. Within this setting, which occurs within the first days of reunification, the child experiences a resetting of the external dynamic which in turn triggers a change within.  A child in these circumstances has often arrived into reunification from a world in which they were enmeshed with the alienating parent and in which they were given responsibility for making decisions which they were too young to make. Helping the child to experience the warmth and security of being held and contained in a relationship in which their parent is beneficent is an important part of this work.  Reducing anxiety and confusion is helped by the child being helped to recognise their own needs and how these are now being met.

Children are often in the early days of reunification, concerned with feelings of guilt and shame which arise from the reality that the cognitive dissonance which has been present in their lives, has been changed. Alienated children know deep down that what they are doing is wrong and they feel, underneath the brittle proclamations of hatred and rejection, a great sense of guilt and shame for it. When they are released from the trap they have been in, they encounter those feelings and seek forgiveness.  When this is received, they can move on and in giving the child release from these powerful feelings, the once rejected parent moves back into the position of authority.  Helping parents to recognise when a child is seeking forgiveness and the importance of giving it even though it is not required by the parent, is part of what a practitioner must do to ensure that the flow of healing is maintained in the right direction for the child. Many formerly rejected parents are simply so happy that their child is back to normal again that they are at risk of overlooking these important stages. Guiding the parent through the child’s recovery is an essential part of the skill of providing post reunification care.

A child who is forgiven enters into the stage of searching for meaning and has in place the building blocks for a return to a healthy future. When this stage is reached it is time to look at the reconnection of the child with the once alienating parent. This stage is a delicate one but it cannot be missed out upon because if a child has to lose one parent to gain the other, their recovery cannot be completed. Unfortunately, for some children, the alienating parent does not, cannot or will not engage in assisting the child at this stage and continues their distorted belief system, refusing to see the child and in some situations simply disappearing completely. This is often seen in situations where a parent has a personality disorder and in the most severe cases of alienation where a parent has a delusional disorder and cannot change their beliefs.  When this occurs children have to be helped to understand the objective reality of this parent’s state of mind and have to be assisted to see that this is the responsibility of the parent. Preventing children from relapsing because of the pressures brought about by a return of the old dynamic (if my parent will not see me it must because I have done something wrong) which is filled with guilt and shaming strategies, is key in this stage.

Beyond the reconnection with the alienating parent the child begins a search for meaning and then for congruence in which they seek to make the reconfigured meaning of the past fit both internally and externally. The challenges for children here being that if the alienating parent does not change, the child encounters cognitive dissonance but this time in the direction of the alienating parent.  Preventing the child from using the splitting mechanism to deal with this is a key part of therapeutic work and is achieved by ongoing exposure to the alienating parent in tandem with therapy. Having one practitioner undertaking this work is critical to ensure that the child has one consistent person to depend upon. Thus a practitioner who reunites the child will work with the child and the once rejected parent and will supervise contact with the alienating parent whilst a second therapist will work with the alienating parent if they are considered suitable for that input.

This work takes no longer than six months maximum and leaves a child, where possible, in a relationship with both parents which is as near normal as possible.  Only where severe contraindications are in place, such as lack of acceptance of contribution to harm and lack of behavioural change, would we wish to continue supervision in such circumstances. Whilst we can and do supervise contacts for much longer than six months, largely we would move to the use of parenting co-ordination to case manage beyond six months. Parenting co-ordinators offer management of child arrangements orders in such a way that the dynamic is held firm so that a return to previous behaviours cannot be used.

The journey of the alienated child in recovery is predictable and responsive to therapeutic input and it can be demonstrably replicated through assistance.  When children recover they go on to live normal healthy lives. This work is not long winded and it is based upon interventions which seek to change the dynamics around the child first after which therapeutic work is made more potent. Understanding this, a practitioner in this field must pay attention at first to getting the right conditions in place via the legal process. Only when this is achieved, can the healing really begin.

 

 

 

 

 

56 comments

  1. Ted Wrinch · March 21

    Karen, you say elsewhere that there are many causes of alienation beyond narcissism. Above you describe it as common in alienation for the child to be enmeshed with the parent and given decisions they were too young to make (to be parentified). This is what narcissistic (and borderline) parents do. Splitting is also part of cluster B psychopathology.

    I think that children coming out of the brainwashed state of alienation created by a narcissistic/borderline parent are changed forever and, as you say, thereafter life will not be easy and finding meaning for the experience becomes important. Our son has been left feeling isolated and that much in normal life doesn’t make sense (as an example: he understands the mental illnesses and relationship dysfunctions at work but no one understands or can share what he’s been through); he is pushed to look harder than most for answers to who he is and what he should be doing in life. He is in therapy and is overcoming the splitting reaction, realising that his mother was a victim, being abused by her mother, but also that she chose to become an abuser, when he was around 10 or 11, and is responsible for this choice.

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  2. Owen Lucas · March 21

    How unfathomable that HM Family Law courts are responsible for psychological child abuse on a macro scale…

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  3. karenwoodall · March 21

    In am actually not convinced that children coming out of the alienated state of mind are changed forever Ted, it really depends on their resilience levels and the manner in which the receiving parent (rejected parent) is able to work with them. Depending on the age group we might offer the child an age appropriate narrative for the behaviour of an alienating parent so that the child understands that it is different to other parents, but we would not give the child the burden of carrying an understanding of parental mental illness, even when it has been diagnosed. It is not for the child to have to understand the parental mental illness, that is for others to take care of. Later when the child is older – past 16, they may wish to understand intellectually, the reasoning for their parent’s behaviours but I would really not want to give a child the responsibility for doing that because it is to further the parentification behaviours in some way. Having a child analyse parental behaviours denotes that the child is not in the right place in the attachment hierarchy and I would not want to do that in therapy with a child. My goal for children who have been alienated is for them to return as quickly as possible to normal life, if we get to the child in their childhood then it is possible to do that, if the child is left without help and struggles out of the split state of mind in later teens there is a poor prognosis unless they are able to get help from alienation aware therapists. How does you son understand what he has been through Ted? Does he feel he has been through something dreadful which has harmed him or has he been told that he has been through something dreadful? When older children come looking it is vital that rejected parents wait to hear from the child themselves before giving any kind of intervention or telling the child they have been alienated. If your son has come out of the alienated state of mind with help then you would not want him focusing on his mother’s behaviours but on his own right and need to have his needs met, in therapy one would focus and refocus the young person’s mind on the knowledge that they are normal and healthy and that they can and will recover. Splitting is not a life sentence and alienation can be recovered from and life can be normal and healthy. When the young person is able to be in relationship with both parents and can receive the love that can be given, even if it is limited from personality disordered parents, whilst remaining protected through resilience, all is well for the child.

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    • Ted Wrinch · March 21

      Karen, he’s 25 and it’s too late for him and his sister to have been protected from this; all they can do is learn about it, that their mother can never love them (NPDs are not capable of love, only abuse, and most children end up going no contact with the NPD parent), and get healing . He has followed me, from May 2015, as I diagnosed my way out of the gas-lighting and brain-washing I had been subjected to by my ex for 12 years and understood the damage it must and has had on a developing child’s sense of self. I have tried to leave him free to make up his own mind of what he makes of this knowledge, new to both of us, and how he sees his mum. He has gradually accepted my diagnosis over the last few months, though is too scared to say anything to his mother, who would only rage, deny and project away the knowledge (following the mechanism of her illness). It’s been a long slow process of recovering repressed and misunderstood memories for him, that have revealed the typical, unacknowledged, horror children of narcissistic parents experience, most of which was hidden from me (through the secrecy covert narcissists use). You understand, I suppose, that parental alienation is only one of the symptoms of this damage (many, maybe most, narcissistic parents will not alienate but the damage they inflict is the same, profound and lifelong; there are typical stories here in the largest web support group https://www.reddit.com/r/raisedbynarcissists).

      The only help he got in coming out of the splitting and alienation was nearly dying when his heart stopped for 3 minute under anaphylactic shock when he was 20 and finding his mother didn’t care. That caused him to begin questioning the lies she had been telling about me and to want to know me again, after 10 years of alienation within the ‘marriage’.

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      • karenwoodall · March 21

        that is a common route out of alienation Ted, the older the brain the more perspective it is capable of and the lack of interest in crisis times certainly triggers awareness. But he really needs to be working on this in therapy which is about him and his experience, relying on your diagnosis of his mother won’t give him the solid ground he needs to walk on, he needs to be in intensive care in therapeutic terms, being helped to do the work he has missed out on in terms of his developmental stages and you unfortunately, at his age are not the person to give him that because he will seesaw between belief and disbelief and feel that his own experience is lost in the middle. He needs his own therapist who is alienation aware and who can work with him over a period of 2-5 years to enable him to recover lost ground. Then he will be balanced and with equilibrium and resilient to his mother’s behaviours and free in his own mind to enjoy his relationship with you. Does he have an alienation aware therapist? K

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      • Ted Wrinch · March 21

        He is doing all you say, Karen; now working in therapy (and for the previous 1.5 years with me) on recovering lost developmental stages, overcoming being a people pleaser, discovering who he is, what he likes, etc, outside of the parentification and narrative that was imposed on him by his mother . I am aware that as part of the family I’m part of the problem and that he needs professional, external help (he asked me to be his therapist when I first discovered and explained this knowledge to him!). I tried to get him help back in Summer 2015 but he had a panic attack outside the therapist’s office and wouldn’t go in. He now gets panic attacks at work (from memories connected with his mother) and went into therapy 6 weeks ago. The therapist has experience and knowledge of narcissism (however, no therapist I’ve interviewed knows what we victims know and most must accept we will educate them; he’s found this is the same for his therapist but, unlike me, finds it hard to tell her).

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      • karenwoodall · March 21

        I would let him find his own way Ted, the defence which drives the need to educate others is rooted in the fear which is caused when one has not been understood. Some therapists can be trusted and in fact HAVE to be trusted in order that the healing work, which takes place in the relationship, can begin. So much of what needs to happen for him cannot enter through the intellectual self but needs to enter at the deeper level of the embodied self and the feeling self. Children of narcissists need to be able to see themselves in the mirror of a therapists love and care and that needs to go on for a long time in order that the child within receives the triggers that activate the missed developmental stages. He mustn’t be encouraged to focus on telling the therapist what she doesn’t know, that will simply create a defence against what he needs, let him be open to her care uncritically and reduce the focus on the intellectual understanding so that he can get what he has missed out on and he will be well, in time. K

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      • Ted Wrinch · March 21

        Yes, the path to healing is through experiencing the embodied and feeling self and the empathic mirroring that the Nparent could not give; but narcissistically parented children have the greatest wounds of all (no less than the sexually abuse and the children of alcoholic or drug addict parents, which parents are often also narcissists) which makes the greatest demands on therapists. It is common for these adult children to find uneducated, everyday therapy ineffective and sometimes invalidating or destructive (and the power asymmetry of the therapy room is attractive to narcissistic therapists). To prevent this occurring, clients need to have knowledge of narcissism to re-assure themselves that they are safe. This is different, of course, to using the intellect to avoid feelings, which would hinder healing.

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      • karenwoodall · March 22

        Ted, this focus on narcissism seems to extend into a belief that even therapists are narcissists who need educating, I am really struggling to work out why you feel that this is the case, is it because you have been told that it is the case or is it because you have decided it is the case? It feels to me as if you are on a mission to tell other people what they should be doing and thinking and feeling and there is a real echo of narcissism in that comment that children of narcissists have the greatest wounds of all….really? What evidence do you have for that and why on earth would you want to rank wounding so that children of narcissists are the MOST wounded of all? When we are recovering from narcissistic parenting we must examine those things which have narcissism in ourselves, the trap is set when we are children for us to grow in the same manner. Projecting that hidden narcissistic self onto others is something we have to take great care to avoid and trusting others and knowing that they can take care of our needs, is something we have to learn. Defences are high when we see narcissists everywhere who have to be educated. Learning that we are just like everyone else, no more or less special no more or less wounded and capable of normal healthy living when we realise that, is a key task. As is learning to trust others who can help us.

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      • Ted Wrinch · March 22

        Karen, I did not say what you accuse me of saying; I think you are being triggered here, not me. You can’t educate narcissists. I can understand that you might not want to believe it but some therapists are narcissists; a famous therapist who now specialises in narcissistic abuse was abused by an Ntherapist (and there’s another one here https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/society/2016/feb/11/george-osborne-brother-adam-struck-off-psychiatrist-affair-with-patient-medical-tribunal ). Calling the victim of narcissistic abuse narcissistic is common; in fact, I am not narcissistic, scoring bottom of the scale in the narcissism test and above average in Baron-Cohen’s empathy test. I accept one cannot rank how people experience pain but nevertheless narcissistic abuse is the worst (it encompasses all the others and adds the dimension of psychological and emotional abuse, which Teal Swan, who suffered them all, thinks is the worst).

        Waking up to the existence of narcissistic abuse is waking to a deeper awareness of reality and particularly the emotional realm; knowledge once gained cannot be unknown and its natural to use it to see and understand more deeply. Narcissists are not like us; they are a different species and to think otherwise leaves one vulnerable to further predation. If people had faced up to the fact that Jimmy Saville was a narcissist he would not have been able to get away with the abuse he did.

        “‘How big is this problem? How many disordered people are out there?’

        The predators I am referring to are the approximately 12% of the population who have serious personality disorders. Technically, they’re the psychopaths, sociopaths, antisocials and narcissists. They are all exploiters and manipulators, and will victimize, in one way or another, just about everyone who crosses their path.

        ‘Why do you think people don’t know about personality disorders?’

        I want to expose the biggest skeleton in the closet of the human race. Here it is: Millions of human predators live among us. They look like us, they talk like us, but they are out to exploit us. Nobody tells us this. In fact, what we hear all our lives is, “Everybody’s created equal,” and “there’s good in everyone,” and “we all just want to be loved.” Well, these statements true for 88% of the population, but not for the other 12%. And believing these statements turns us into sitting ducks.”

        http://everythingehr.com/donna-andersen-of-love-fraud-on-mental-health-news-radio/

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      • karenwoodall · March 22

        Ted, I will decide when I am triggered not you, I think you should be very careful when you post because you are making sweeping generalisations which are not always helpful and I think it might help others if you listened more and lectured less. Sometimes it might help to remember that other people are not all narcissists and that even those who are, are people at the end of the day not monsters, though they may do monstrous things. K

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    • Ted Wrinch · March 21

      Paraphrasing the video:

      1. “Severe PA is almost always caused by the alienator having a cluster B personality disorder”

      2. “Symptoms include enmeshment and parentification”

      3. “95% of psychologists and psychiatrists will get severe PA diagnosis wrong.”

      Why do they get it wrong? They are not educated in narcissism-psychopathy. This is why the epidemic of PA continues and is being enabled by courts and human service professionals.

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      • karenwoodall · March 23

        I would like to remind commentators of the rules for commentating on my blog: Please be polite, please make sure that your own personal experience is not something you are using to advise others without thinking about their own circumstances first, just because you approach things one way doesn’t mean it will work for everyone. Do not diagnose people, or label them, even narcissists are people and to dehumanise them is to dehumanise the self . Do not assume that that your solution will fit everyone’s circumstances. Above all, listen and show respect and if someone is not listening to you, step away and allow me to moderate.

        I will moderate comments which are unhelpful to others, rude and aggressive or factually incorrect. I will also not allow abuse of other people or this space, which I created as a safe place for everyone affected by alienation, including alienating parents if they come here to learn and be helped. I do not allow attacks on anyone, including me. This is a place where hurting people come to find help, it will gradually this year, move into PADirect where much more interactive help will be available and where we will work hard to provide a safe haven for everyone. A place where issues like personality disorder will be discussed but where there will be perspective and the issue will be set in a wide and far reaching context. For above all, what alienated children need are people with perspective who can listen and who can provide a solid foundation for normal healthy lives.

        Some may not like what I say but I cannot allow that to dictate the mood and the security of this place. This blog is read by more than two thousand people from around the world every single day and there are many reading who do not comment. This place is for everyone and I will keep it that way.

        Thank you all for reading and for those who comment, for abiding by the rules that keep this place safe for all.

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      • Ted Wrinch · March 23

        I’m in RaisedByNarcissists and many other groups. I’ve stated my position and objection to what you are doing. You are denying and projecting. I leave you to it.

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      • karenwoodall · March 24

        Ted I don’t think anyone is denying or projecting when they attempt to tackle what had become a far too dominant focus on narcissism. K

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      • Ted Wrinch · March 24

        It’s simple. Karen, and the opposite of what you say (that’s the denial and projection operating). I joined, shared my story of 3 generations of narcissism in my family, including 2 generations of PA, people responded and we talked, sadsam ignored what I said and attacked me (I was wrong to speak in court, I was taking the role of psychologist/psychiatrist, I was being a victim, etc), you joined in his attack (I was narcissistic, projecting, aggressive, abusive etc). I did not dominate anything; you did. You have a pathological need to control your environment, which is narcissistic. The narcissistic cannot be reasoned with.

        https://drcraigchildressblog.com/2017/03/24/ignorance-is-our-enemy-knowledge-is-our-weapon/

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      • karenwoodall · March 24

        this comment speaks for itself Ted, it is the last comment I am allowing through and others can consider its veracity. K

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      • Ted Wrinch · March 24

        Yes, of course, rather than addressing the argument you are trying to co-opt flying monkeys.

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      • karenwoodall · March 24

        Ted, you are becoming offensive, I would like you to stop this please, I have not allowed some of your comments because I find them really unhelpful to others and to be honest, offensive. I wonder if others who come on here are happy to be called flying monkeys, I find the term unhelpful and I find the whole division of people into good (those who you agree with) and bad (those who you don’t because they challenge you). I do not subscribe to the idea of narcissistic people as being evil and nor do I subscribe to the idea of anyone who does not agree with me as being automatically wrong/bad/wicked etc. I moderate comments on here because I find personal attacks problematic for others. I realise you felt that my challenges to you were personal attacks, they were not, they were attempts to assist you to understand that not everyone who disagrees with you is a narcissist. I also felt that you might be helped by understanding that your son has his own journey to make and that you cannot control that. I defended Sadsam because I felt s/he needed to be protected because I could sense fragility. I can sense yours too and I am not going to let this go on because I do not think it is helpful to you or to me or to anyone else on here. If you wish to label me and others flying monkeys then that is your prerogative but here is really not a place where the world is divided quite so determinedly as that. K

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      • Susang · March 24

        Ted, I am really saddened by your “flying monkeys” accusation levelled at Karen as a narcissist who cannot be reasoned with, and at the rest of us commentors on this blog. By lumping us all including Karen as narcissists you do us all a serious disservice, and undo the good your earlier posts have done to alert workers in the field of alienation of the difficulties of dealing with parents who have severe personality disorders. You must be really hurting not to see that you are ruining your own case by maintaining that everyone you come across who doesn’t agree with you must ipso facto be a narcissist. You are right on so many things, and have done the research, but you have not heeded the gentle warnings Karen has given you, and you have not picked up on mine either. I am really sad for your peace of mind. I hope your son and daughter reach resolution and peace, and that you do too. You have fought so hard and so long…

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      • Ted Wrinch · March 25

        Susang, I haven’t said what you say I have. I’ve done no lumping. Thanks for your well wishes.

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      • Susang · March 25

        Oh dear, Ted. Another denial. Others saw the red flags before I did…

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      • Ted Wrinch · March 25

        Who’s denying? You say I lumped you all together as narcissists. I didn’t. No one can help you to see that you are denying realty, or why, but you.

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      • karenwoodall · March 25

        Ted, I think if you were to look in the mirror you are holding up to other people you would perhaps see that that which you see in other people is that which you have split off and denied in yourself. We are all friends here, we do not need to go around splitting people up or denying or projecting or accusing or labelling or anything else really. In life there really is no right or wrong and those who were brought up by narcissists must learn that before all else. Escaping the narcissistic parent or spouse or anyone else does not require us to go around accusing others of being narcissists. We are all human at the end of the day, human first with all of our failings. This place is safe and the world is safe and people can recover and be well and it doesn’t require the division of all into good and bad, narcissist or non narcissist. What after all is reality and who has the truth and the whole truth in their hands? No-one, not even you. You are welcome here where we all just bumble along doing the best we can, if you prefer to be in the black and white divided world, this is not the place to be. I wish you well. K

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      • Susang · March 25

        Ted, you strongly implied that Karen is a narcissist who cannot be reasoned with, and that when she would allow others on this blog to decide for themselves the veracity of your comments she was calling in “flying monkeys” instead of addressing the argument. That is a derogatory term and as such, I feel it has no place here. You now seem to be accusing me of not facing reality: your words are clever, so that if I argue that point you will be able to deny what you meant. I have met that before. I had thought that we were getting somewhere on alerting people to the difficulties of dealing with PD people. I think Karen is right with her mirror metaphor concerning what you might see of yourself in it.

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      • Ted Wrinch · March 25

        Life is full of right and wrong, truth and untruth, and distinguishing them is part of being human. As I’d hope you know, denying, projecting and splitting are core psycho-pathologies of narcissism. Labelling is important, it’s a part of diagnosis; with diagnosis comes knowledge for action.

        To answer the question of who is projecting onto whom requires one look at the evidence. You haven’t done that; I have, which is why I’ve suggested you look in the mirror. Just turning it around and suggesting I look in the mirror is not the way it works. That’s called deflection; Teal Swan has made a video on deflection and describes how people projecting often accuse others of what they are doing, to prevent them having to introspect.

        You interject yourself into the conversation between SusanG and I, whilst censoring my other posts; this is controlling. You continue to make accusations against me with no evidence. The accusations I’ve made against you have been backed by evidence, which you ignore (as you did with the evidence against Sadsam).

        The world is definitely not a safe place and after one has been worked over by a few predators one learns to spot and avoid or defend against them. It’s dangerous to pretend otherwise and sets vulnerable people up for abuse.

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      • karenwoodall · March 26

        ted, the only world which is so clearly divided as you describe is the world of the personality disordered person who uses splitting as a defence mechanism. Healing from that splitting is the goal of recovery. When you see in others what you cannot see in yourself you are projecting. You read my comments as accusations, they are nothing of the sort. You see my moderation of comments, something I explained I would do and why, as controlling. You speak of evidence AGAINST people, which is completely not the the world I live and work in where the goal of healing is to assist in resolving the blaming and splitting. I feel that your need to live in a world of good and bad people in which you are on the side of good and anyone who disagrees with you is bad/narcissist is unhelpful to you and as a therapist I would want to work to assist you to understand how that is not helpful. I cannot do that because you have labelled me narcissistic and levelled many accusations at me including that of ignoring the evidence you post for your conclusions. I feel that you have a mission which cannot be changed and thus I feel that this exchange is not helpful to you or to anyone else and so we will close this. You cannot hear Susang, you cannot hear me, I suspect that is because your own voice is the loudest and you have convinced yourself that you are on the side of right. Defences matters though, they keep us safe from that which we cannot tolerate – yet. I wish you well on your journey. K

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      • Ted Wrinch · March 26

        Saying I’m wrong because I disagree with someone who agrees with you, Susang, rather than because my evidence is wrong is classic controlling by proxy, the use of flying monkeys. This is what I said you would do.

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      • karenwoodall · March 26

        Ted, it is abundantly clear that you have your view and that no-one other than you is right.

        I am not having any further discussion about flying monkeys or any such related nonsense on here because I do not subscribe to this belief system and it is offensive and unhelpful. You are better off having your discussions about such stuff elsewhere. I understand your points, your evidence and your beliefs, I simply don’t agree with them, which doesn’t make me a narc, a flying monkey, a consort of flying monkeys, a bad person, someone in denial or otherwise.

        Enough now. Go in peace.

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      • Susang · March 26

        Karen, I just want to thank you for having the courage to allow these postings from Ted, in spite of your misgivings. It has been a most revealing journey. In Ted’s eyes I have gone from ally to enemy in a twinkling. I have allied myself with you, now apparently a narcissist, and that makes me a flying monkey; (which he said I would be, apparently) and all because we have not looked at the “evidence”, including that “against” Sadsam. (Is this a court of law to examine the evidence, or a forum where we can safely explore the issues before us?) The evidence has actually become more self-evident with each post, and the red flags have been there all along, right from the time I queried the fact that everyone in Ted’s sad case was on the PD spectrum. No one helped him; he was all alone; he bought his son a house so that his ex could have no control over his son’s finances, leaving Ted in control, of course. The sense of antagonism towards any of us who raised a query should have alerted me earlier. In the end, Ted’s own deep knowledge of narcissism tells us, correctly, that you can never educate or change a full-on narcissist, or ever win an argument as the goal posts change all the time: all you can do is close down the interaction; go “go no contact” as it’s known in the trade, which is what you are, in effect, now doing. It has all been absolutely fascinating, and highly instructive. Thank you for allowing the journey to be open for us all to see.

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      • Ted Wrinch · March 26

        Susang, you’ve ignored my evidence and accepted Karen’s accusations of me without evidence. That’s aligning with her as a flying monkey.

        Karen, the personality disordered use splitting to regulate their emotional illness and split the world delusionally. Saying there is truth and falsehood, right and wrong, predators and normal people in the world is true; it is not splitting or delusional. You continue to say that I’ve said those who disagree with me are narcissistic; I haven’t but it suits you to say I have. You say it is wrong to accuse you of ignoring my evidence; I did so because you have . You call me narcissistic; I call you (covert) narcissistic ; the way to decide is to look at the evidence.

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      • karenwoodall · March 26

        enough now Ted, you are again becoming offensive. I am not posting anymore of your comments so please desist. I wish you well, here it just not the place to try and further the flying monkey philosophy, you know where it is welcome and I think you should go there instead. Sending you good wishes, go well. K

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      • Ted Wrinch · March 26

        Like Susang, I’m grateful to Karen, but for something different – her behaviour has been a classic demonstration of covert narcissism, the using of false humility and concern for others as a way of disarming them and getting them to provide narcissistic supply. CN is the new, ‘evolutionarily successful’ (Sam Vaknin) form of narcissism that is sweeping through society and taking over from the more well known overt form of people like Donald Trump. Susang’s own unhealed emotional childhood wounds have left her unable to see this and instead she had been triggered into becoming a flying monkey, in the way described in Dr Childress’ article and demonstrated here (and notice how she has ramped up herself criticism of me, still with no evidence). As the narcissism epidemic grows, knowledge of this phenomenon will become ever more important for people to have to be able to protect themselves and contribute to the healing our society needs.

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      • karenwoodall · March 26

        I wonder how many people, over the past ten years would read back over this blog and consider me to be using false humility Ted. I am not posting any more comments because I don’t think you realise how rude you are being and it is simply not acceptable.You are offensive and rude in your continued belief that you and only you are right and now we’re onto covert narcissism, a new category of narcissist it seems. I am cutting off the supply now and closing this thread down. I think you might find the other blog more suitable for your needs, I wish you well.

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      • Ted Wrinch · March 26

        It’s fascinating that you support Susang but have no problem with her saying I’m a narcissist who’s abusing our son. It shows your lack of empathy, a trait of narcissism.

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      • karenwoodall · March 27

        Ted I have not supported Susang and not you. I have sent you my well wishes, my good wishes and my best wishes too. I have simply disagreed with you and your escalating aggression. I said in my earlier comment that defences are useful and I have understood that yours have escalated as I have attempted to help you and so I have desisted from pushing you. I have stopped the flying monkey comments because they are just silly and not at all helpful. No-one is supporting people against you, no-one on here is against you and I don’t think anyone has said you are abusing your son either. You are welcome here to post and discuss so long as you do not lecture or hector people. K

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  4. Pingback: From Division to Resilience: The Recovery Journey of the Alienated Child – Parental Alienation
  5. Susang · March 21

    Karen, Lostdad made a point in the last blog in this series that in shared parenting cases it could be hard to tell the truth from what the children say about which parent is doing the alienating, or abusing. I think if both parents are seeing the children then that cannot be called Parental Alienation. But that does not mean that the NPD parent has ceased to abuse. You say you would not give a child the responsibility of having to understand parental mental illness: but if a child has already realised that possibility, and in fact has in her own way made a correct diagnosis of what we would call a personality disorder, as in “it’s no good telling anyone at school, (about drunkenness, abuse of various sorts) the grownups don’t know Mummy lies all the time”. And ” there’s something wrong with Mummy, is there a name for it?” Then I think you would not probably advocate prevaricating or lying to the child? What we said was, yes there is a name for it, and when you want to learn more you can read all about it. The abusive parent still abuses during contact, and the children are growing shells to protect themselves. The trouble is that they can’t remove those protective layers. They have tiptoed round the edge of a volcano all their lives, and especially when they were separated from the non-abusive parent. It leaves scars.

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    • karenwoodall · March 21

      It is such a tricky road this one. The way in which the family courts leave children in residence change situations in shared care arrangments with parents who have not changed really bothers me. We would never leave a child in that situation until we are confident that the child is protected with resilience and understanding at a child appropriate age and the skills to manage the parent. I would certainly uphold the child’s congruent sense that mummy lies all the time but depending on the age I wouldn’t introduce the idea of mental illness at all and especially if it has not been diagnosed or recognised by the court because what you are doing then is taking the risk that the child will grow up and repeat that back to the parent who will tell them that you lied and then the see saw will begin again for the child. What we do at the Clinic is produce a new narrative for the child. If the court says that the child has been harmed we would say you are now living with your mum/dad because the Judge decided that your dad/mum had harmed you by doing xxx and xxx. That doesn’t mean that your dad/mum is a bad person, but it does mean that your dad/mum has to learn that he/she cannot do that anymore. No I wouldn’t suggest lying to the child but neither would I tell a child under the age of about 13/14 depending on their maturity, that the parent has a mental illness and it is called this or that. What I would advocate for parents in those circumstances is supporting the child’s understanding but then moving them on to other things and not dwelling on it. I would want to focus on building resilience and reassurance and if I thought the child was still being harmed in a shared care situation I would advocate reduction of time or supervision to keep the child safe from harm. It is not that hard to differentiate what is going on when one understands the signs of alienation – I do wish that change of residence was not accompanied by simply throwing the child into shared care the other way because if the problem is not resolved in the child the see saw effect is horrible for them. Children who are alienated recover absolutely normally when the underlying dynamic is right, they do not have to be scarred at all, alienation itself does not necessarily leave any scars, I have worked with many children who are now absolutely normal and healthy despite being severely alienated previously – the key to that however is the control over the relationship with the alienating parent and the way in which adults are enabled to manage that rather than it being left to the child to be rexposed to the problem again and again. I accept that the courts don’t always get it right – they would if I had my way. K

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    • Ted Wrinch · March 21

      Susang, exactly! Alienation is only part of NPD parental abuse and does not feature in all NPD relationships (though will tend to if its not fought). When children can see what’s happening one of the most healing and important things people that also see can do is agree that they are experiencing what they experience. The NPD lies, manipulates and distorts reality as part of their illness – they are delusional as Steve Miller says above (and my dad correctly spotted in my ex) – and they do this to take control of the victim’s sense of reality to control them (the need to control others is part of their illness and makes them disastrous parents). This is gas-lighting and the antidote is to reaffirm and to validate the victim’s sense of reality, that is being undermined by the abuser. This is particularly damaging for children of course, whose developing sense of an independent reality should be being gently nurtured and encouraged by a loving parent. To kick-back against the abuser’s gas-lighting and brainwashing is why critical thinking is taught on some re-unification courses.

      Our son suffers from this – no one understands the abuse he’s been through or the effect it’s had on him (the abuse has increased his empathy and is why he understands others’ illness and suffering so well) and this adds to the isolation he feels and feed the doubts he has about his understanding of reality. Something I’ve been able to do since I’ve discovered NPD is to validate his sense reality. His therapist can now do the same.

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      • karenwoodall · March 21

        He doesn’t need to be isolated Ted, let him do the work he needs to do and he will find that others understand him. He needs to be in long term work with his therapist so that he can begin to see himself in a healing mirror. Try your best not to overwhelm that with your understanding of NPD because he needs that space to feel and receive the care that has been missing. I am sure you give him the care and stability he needs for the platform he needs to begin his healing but don’t overwhelm him with your experience, his mother has done too much of that so far, let him find his way, he will heal, most of them do. K

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      • Ted Wrinch · March 21

        Thanks, Karen. When I discovered NPD and its damaging effects on childhood development (which was all new to me, as my background was physics and software engineering) I perceived our children had a Herculean task of recovery ahead of them. My father and I have bought my son a house, so he has complete economic freedom from his mother’s economic manipulation, and he has been able to move to part time work, giving him a degree of outer, material stability, which we hope will let him focus on the psychological work. I just hope our daughter will one day begin to wake up…

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      • Ted Wrinch · March 21

        He also gave me a father’s day card this year for the first time, saying he was glad to be out of the spell, to know me better than ever and that he was proud to be my son. I was deeply touched. I know he has a long, painful road ahead but I think he’s making good progress….

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  6. daveyone1 · March 21

    Reblogged this on World4Justice : NOW! Lobby Forum..

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  7. Anonymous · March 22

    Hi Karen excellent article as always. What about when the children are adults mid to late twenties. What prevents these adult children from coming out of the state of parental alienation? Are the recovery stages you mention above the same across all ages of alienated children into adulthood ? Are there anything I can do to bring these children out of the state of parental alienation?

    Anonymous

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  8. Karen, a great post and a really helpful debate. Thank you Ted Wrinch for sharing your path.
    I too am interested in what prevents late teen children from coming out of the state of parental alienation? Is there any evidence to back my feeling that before any change there will a period of increased alienation, when the pressure on the child is ramped up (for instance by a house move for the child and the AP, and possibly a separation from relatives within the AP’s wider family). Is it darkest just before the dawn? Is there anything the NP or others can do to bring these children out of the state of parental alienation?

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    • Ted Wrinch · March 22

      Cathryn, you’re welcome. I think that by sharing our stories we overcome the secrecy the abusers desire. It’s been said that the narcissism epidemic is the equivalent in the emotional realm of the Black Death of the Middle Ages. The cure to narcissism is love of truth, humility, and to feel one’s feelings; this cultivates empathy, the opposite of narcissism.

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  9. wavytracy · March 22

    Karen, are you able to teach other people to do this work? We’re in Cornwall and we need help too.

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  10. sadsam · March 22

    “….in which the child is able to recognise that the ‘choice’ they made to reject a parent, was made at the behest of a parent who created an impossible situation for them.”

    Karen wondering how the above sits in ‘Hybrid Alienation’ scenarios? The above explanation to a child seems to put the blame squarely on one parent. Also in situations where the child(ren) feel the need to lie to one or both parents, as a way to deal with the poisonous atmosphere between conflicted parents, how is the Alienation at ” the behest of a parent who created an impossible situation for them”, if a parent innocently believed, what might have been lies told by child(ren)? As you have written elsewhere children in these settings can be extremely convincing and deciphering the truth an almost impossible task….at least for the parent and it’s hard to feel any confidence in SWs , Cafcass or courts doing a better job.

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  11. sadsam · March 23

    I for one welcome Karen’s all encompassing approach to all the participating parties in a PA scenario. For only by seeing something from different angles can we truly gain perspective. I am also acutely aware that those of us who end up ‘alienated’ from our children may have had a hand (to varying degrees) in this coming about, though that is an acutely difficult thing to acknowledge. Further that there are scenarios where one parent may be labeled an ‘alienator’ at one stage only to find themselves ‘alienated’ at another point. If I understand it correctly from Karen, children do subconsciously what they feel they need to do to psychologically survive a toxic environment between conflicted parents (whether separated or still married). I for one am still working on expanding my understanding of this phenomenon in terms of its actual external presentations, which from my own experience can be utterly conflicting & distressing and create scenarios which are far removed from ‘normal parenting’. Knowing what to do for the best in such cases isn’t easy or straightforward. When SWs enter the fray, the confusion often deepens, with an ensuing foray into family courts that further heightens emotions and judgements….at court level the true picture is not always revealed, heaping pain & misery on already distressed parents & children.
    That’s why the considered, empathetic approach Karen uses would appear to have much to recommend it …..if healing is the end result then that counts as success in my book.

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  12. sadsam · March 23

    “….to flag up that there is a condition that some parents experience which acts against reunification possibilities and against your child returning to you. This condition is best described as fixed projection of blame and it comes when a parent is so focused on the wrong doing of the other parent and what has been taken away, that they lose perspective. This condition perfectly mirrors that of the alienated child and when it occurs, it is as if the child and parent become perfect reflections of each other, neither one moving for fear that change will come. For parents in this condition, I often experience the fear of change as being greater than the desire for reunification. When it occurs, it is incredibly difficult to raise with the rejected parent, who will become angry and blaming towards the therapist, solicitor, court process, anyone else who gets in the way, even, in some cases, other parents who have themselves been rejected as in the case of the man on the facebook page whose anger towards a fellow rejected parent so obviously demonstrated. Loss of a child is a terrible thing, injustice suffered at the hands of your child’s other parent is intolerable and forced prevention of a relationship at the hands of the family courts compounds the nightmare. The way you respond to this however, lies in your own hands, your own heart and your own ability to understand and cope with what has happened to you and your child. Do not let the bitterness, fear and anger overwhelm you, keep a place in your heart for compassion, humility and strength to carry on. Most of all, keep your own life alive and live and laugh and share your world with others, and never forget that those who really understand are those who have experienced the worst of it. Do not close them out.

    Nelson Mandela, a man who experienced injustice, forced separation from loved ones and absolute discrimination in his life said of his release –

    “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”

    The above is from a Post by Karen in March 2014……a timely reminder perhaps of the dangers of becoming ‘entrenched’ and “focused on the wrongdoing of the other parent” to the detriment of the healing process.

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  13. sadsam · March 23

    On the subject of ‘dandlebears’ …..Karen you wrote stories about these bears in the lives of separated families…… Did you and your daughter go on to publish them as a series as you hoped?

    .. Perhaps they should be compulsory reading for all separating/ separated parents……seeing life through a child’s eye could remind us how tough that crossover from one parent to another truly is…

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    • Anonymous · March 23

      We have turned them into animations as with me doing the voice over they will be available on padirect.com shortly k

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  14. sadsam · March 23

    “The key issue for all parents who separate is not, how much time can I have with my children, but how well can I resolve the outstanding issues from my relationship so that we can continue to parent effectively together. Too many parents, faced with the hurt, pain and suffering of the end of an adult relationship, expect to agree parenting time without dealing with this pain. Little wonder so many attempts to maintain co-operative relationships around parenting children fail so quickly.”
    This is from a May 2011 Post by Karen on shared parenting. I wonder how many of us can say that we “resolve(d) the outstanding issues from my relationship so that we can continue to parent effectively together. “…. I know I didn’t and because of that the toxic atmosphere persisted and children and parents alike suffered. I wish someone had been there for me/us and so maybe the children could have avoided the alienation horrors and then there would be no need for such a recovery process as described in the Post. Would that I could go back in time to talk to my younger self and warn them …but of course that is fantasy. Perhaps today’s separating families should all have the chance to read our miserable stories before they too join our number…as they say…forewarned is fore armed. Apologies for commenting so much on this thread….but the wounds cut deep….would love to hear others thoughts …

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