The AP’s techniques usually are in various combinations:

  • Denying the existence of the TP: This can be blatant (“I don’t ever want to hear her name in this house”) or very subtle (refusing to acknowledge that the child has positive experiences in the other house). In one family, the father would play catch with the children and would not look up when the mother drove in, nor would he stop the game. He held the children’s attention until the mother was forced to intrude openly, at which point he would walk away from the children and mother, never acknowledging her presence.

  • Pairing good experiences or feelings with bad feelings: This is displayed by not responding to the child’s expressions of love or enthusiasm for the other parent, or pairing these good experiences with bad feelings (“Oh, that’s nice. I had a terrible weekend without you”).

  • Constantly attacking the TP’s character or lifestyle: Here, the AP creates an illusion of what “might happen.” Attacks are on the TP; the TP’s extended family (“Your mom can’t help the way she is, her parents abused her when she was growing up”); the TP’s career, living arrangements, activities, travel, or even religion; and the TP’s associates, especially new romantic partners.

  • Putting the child in the middle: This technique may involve engaging the child in a “spy game,” using the child as the principal communicator between the parents; or giving the child subtle “third degrees” (for example, one of the authors had a case in which the mother could reduce the child to a bundle of nerves by saying, “Let’s talk about….”–the child had learned that this was a signal to hate something that the father had said, done, chosen, etc.).

  • Generalizing from one or two instances to a global meaning: An AP using this technique might say, “Remember when your mother was screaming after us when we drove away [not mentioning that he closed the window on her when she was trying to kiss the kids goodbye]? That’s what I mean when I say that she is, well, out of control. She just doesn’t have control over her emotions. That’s why I get scared when you are over there.”

  • Taking normal differences and turning them into good/bad and right/wrong problems: The AP can manipulate circumstances to put the TP into a bad light in the child’s eyes or undermine the TP by expressing puzzlement about what is wrong with him or her. “I don’t know what’s the matter with your father. He knows that kids need to be in bed by eight”. The use of this technique can be very subtle (e.g., a shake of the head and a smirk when the child reports an activity with the TP).

  • Creating alliance in the parental battle: An obvious use of this technique would be, “Do you think it’s fair for your rich father to take your poor mother to court all the time?” A more subtle approach would be, “If you were the mother, what would you do? Would you go to court to try to protect your children?” This can include the powerful tool of the threat of withdrawal of love, or complete abandonment, if the child demonstrates love for or interest in the TP. Another version of this technique is to convince the child that kids need one parent (the primary parent syndrome) or to give the child the illusion that “I am the one who really loves you.” The other parent then becomes the threat because “she is trying to take you away from me.”

  • Portraying the child as fragile and needing the AP’s protection: This is very common in PAS. The child convincingly will portray his or her life as fragile, about to fall apart if anyone “makes” him or her have contact with the TP. The AP solidifies the relationship with the child by creating an image for the child that he or she is at great risk out of the control and protection of the AP. A frequent twist of this technique is to portray the AP as fragile to the child, requiring the child’s presence to maintain balance.

  • Lying: False or highly suspicious allegations of abuse, neglect, or molestation are examples of this. The blatant nature of some of these lies creates an illusion for the child, and many children simply do not have the nerve to confront or contradict the parent.

  • Brainwashing: Through a process of rewriting the child’s experiences in a way to create reality confusion, the parent incorporates the child into a false view of reality. This can include outright lies (“Your father never enjoyed spending time with you. He complained about that all the time, but not in front of you because he didn’t want to hurt your feelings. I wonder why he wants to see you now”), subtly implied rewrites of the child’s feelings (“You were scared of her even when you were a baby. You wouldn’t even let her hold you”), or implanted memories (“Remember when your father used to hit me, or have you blocked this out of your mind?”). The child resolves the confusion by adopting the AP’s view of reality.

  • Divorce Poison

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