Posted in Alienation

Nothing changes without frustration- by karenwoodall

This week we are keeping on working on our website and the edits of our book. This ongoing task of bringing two big projects to birth is the cause of some frustration for us at the Clinic, not because we find it frustrating to do this work but we do not have enough time to devote to it because of the huge demand for our services. We are working at full stretch in our family court cases, our coaching and our training delivery. Next week we will be delivering training in Dublin with Family Mediators and in the new year we will be co-delivering training for legal people in London together with leading Chambers (more on that and other training soon).  So busy are we that I have not been able to find the time to write for the blog this week and that in itself is frustrating. And so I thought that, in the spirit of creating dynamic change (which never happens without some level of frustration), I would share with you another section of the website and the book so that you know what is coming. I hope sharing it doesn’t frustrate you further because I know that you are waiting for this but I promise you we are working as hard as we can, well into the night some nights and over the weekends to get these projects ready to go. We want to put as much self help into your hands as we can. I hope this section helps for now.

Working with your frustration

Working with your frustration requires you to obtain the tools that help you to feel more in control. When your children are surly and withdrawn it can leave you feeling that they are in control and not you. When children are moving into an alienation reaction they often act as if they are older than they are and as if they are entitled to behave in that way. This is because they have been elevated in the hierarchy of relationships by the aligned parent and have been given permission to see you as someone who they should not respect or have regard for.

Working with your frustration requires you to learn three simple things.

  1. Acceptance – that your children are in an alienation situation and as such they are not going to behave as they used to or as you believe they should or as other children who are not in an alienation situation do.
  2. Understanding – that this is NOT personal, this is NOT about you it is about what the other parent is doing to them.
  3. Counter intuitive behaviours – are what are required to manage your children when they are surly and angry and withdrawn from you, how you deploy counter intuitive behaviours is dependent on your ability to closely understand what is happening.

Working from a place of acceptance, understanding and the ability to use counter intuitive behaviours you become an alienation aware parent not a naïve one. When you are alienation aware your frustration levels drop dramatically because you understand what is happening and you know what to do about it. Frustration comes from putting your focus in the wrong place and spending your time asking why does this happen? Reducing frustration is a core part of coping as an alienated parent and coping leads to healing.

Reframing your feelings is a core part of coping and healing from the impact of being alienated. The following table shows how reframing feelings leads to a greater degree of awareness and how being an alienation aware parent helps you to tackle the problem over the longer term.

Feeling Caused by Reframed as Outcome
  • Interruption of relationship with children.
  • Children’s behaviours.
  • Lack of understanding in the court process.
  • Acceptance of children as alienated.
  • Understanding that this is not personal.
  • Use of counter intuitive behaviours
  • Disconnection from the children’s attempts to cause hurt.
  • Ability to know what to do and how to do it.
  • Increased confidence in knowing it is not personal.
  • Knowledge of how to help professionals to understand.
  • Experiencing changes in children.
  • Feeling lack of control over own life because of what the other parent is doing.
  • Lack of understanding from other people.
  • Understanding how behavioural change occurs and why.
  • Retrieval of locus of control leading to knowing what to do and how to do it.
  • Ability to educate other people based on increased knowledge and self confidence.
  • Increased ability to manage children’s behaviours.
  • Feeling more in control over own life.
  • Less affected by other people’s ignorance.
  • Not knowing how children are going to behave or why.
  • Not understanding the behaviours of the alienating parent.
  • Being an educated and alienation aware parent.
  • Being an educated an aware rejected parent.
  • Understanding what brought you into a relationship with this person in the first place.
  • Increased confidence in using counter intuitive behaviours when you do see your children.
  • Increased confidence in unhooking yourself from the alienating parent’s control over you.
  • Seeing children change into being angry and rejecting.
  • Seeing children reject other family members.
  • Feeling that time is being wasted.
  • Knowing why children are angry and how to help them deal with it.
  • Helping family members to understand what is happening to the children and to depersonalise it.
  • Feeling that time is useful not wasted because it allows you to learn more about what is happening.
  • Increased sense of purpose and control over your life.
  • Increased knowledge and confidence about how to build strategies to help your children.
  • Increased ability to understand how to help others affected by alienation.
  • Not feeling able to do anything at all about the situation.
  • Seeing the other parent as having all of the control over your life.
  • Locating all of your hope and happiness in being able to stop the alienating parent doing what they are doing.
  • Knowing that you cannot change other people but you can change yourself.
  • Knowing that the other parent only has the control over your life that you give to them.
  • Finding the other things in life that are important to you and doing them alongside the things you are doing to create strategies to help your children.
  • Greater understanding of self leads to increased satisfaction in other areas of life.
  • Stronger relationships with other people as you learn more about what matters to you in relationships.
  • Increased enjoyment of other things in life alongside your children and your love for them.

To cope and heal from the impact of alienation it is vital that you pay attention to reframing those feelings which have driven you to despair and to avoid the prolonged sense of being under attack by the other parent that being controlled by parental alienation can bring. When you begin to unhook yourself from this way of living it brings immediate relief. Building on simple strategies which are proven to change your thinking, release and relief are not only possible but inevitable. Try the following reframing exercises on changing your thinking on a daily basis for at least the next 21 days.

Step one

Tell yourself you are the parent of an alienated child not a rejected parent.

Step Two

Keep your image of yourself as your child’s best hope for a healthy future at the forefront of your mind, freshen that image daily.

Step Three

Retrieve your locus of control from the other parent and focus on the things that you can control in your life not the things you can’t.

These exercises are based upon Cognitive Behavioural approaches to healing in which your thoughts are seen as the cause of your suffering. Whilst the outside world may not change, how we think about ourselves and the other people in the family drama of alienation can and do change, especially when we practice actively changing them. A thought is merely a reflection of the mind’s understanding of what your are feeling. In that respect it is vulnerable to change because it has been created by past experience and has therefore been etched into our habitual thinking patterns. At the Family Separation Clinic we are fond of the saying if you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always got‘ which is another way of saying, that if you repeat your habits the same outcome will always arrive. If you want something to change, you have to do something differently and the first thing you have to do differently is think in a different way, about yourself and about what has happened to your children. If all that you do is repeat to yourself that your children have been taken from you and there is nothing that you can do about it then all you will ever feel is despair and hopelessness. If you change that thinking into my children have been alienated and that requires me to think about my parenting differently in order to help them, then you immediately set up an expectation in your mind that you are going to do something differently. Life doesn’t just happen to us, it starts in our imagination. You cannot stand up or sit down without having given your brain the command to do so and you cannot change your world without first imagining a different outcome. Much of the work that we do at the Clinic in the first weeks we are working with families is to help them to imagine themselves differently. In creating new ideas and new thoughts we create new feelings and when feelings change we interrupt the negative loop that creates despair and hopelessness. When that happens anything becomes possible.

More next week when I hope to be able to tell you the launch date of the new website and the name!

Posted in Alienation

Considering Factors When Selecting an Expert on Alienation

The qualifications below can be used as a checklist to identify true expertise as opposed to limited or pseudo-expertise. It is imperative for the expert to have a strong background and training in relevant areas—rooted in sound science and the scientific method. While experience as a targeted/alienated parent, or perhaps a formerly-alienated child, can be very helpful, personal experience alone is not enough. We believe that it is this scientific educational background—applied to the phenomenon of PA—that separates truth from ideology, fact from fiction, and good advice from bad. Though a genuine expert might not meet every one of these criteria—for instance, an excellent clinician might not have published any scientific papers—a true expert should have most of these.

1. An advanced degree (masters or doctoral) from an accredited educational institution in a relevant discipline or field. This is not meant to trivialize the importance of some lay counselors and coaches who, through experience and/or “on-the-job training” may have much to offer, but it is critical for targeted parents to understand that, in general, PA is a complex, complicated problem that generally requires substantial scientific understanding and professional expertise.

2. A deep, extensive knowledge of the clinical literature regarding pathological alignment, alienation and estrangement, and pathological enmeshment, as well substantial knowledge and understanding of borderline, narcissistic, and sociopathic personality disorders. The reason for the latter point is that such personality disorders are not only common among alienating parents (and virtually ubiquitous among severe alienators), but are often missed by non-specialists, in part because individuals with these disorders tend to be master manipulators who are charming and highly-skilled at managing first impressions. They also tend to be pathologically dependent which helps to explain the pathological enmeshment with the child.

3. Authored or co-authored published works regarding PA in peer-reviewed publications. (Self-publication does not meet this criterion.)

4. Completed educational programs or other training by qualified experts in relevant areas. These training programs should be recent and should include advances in research and evidence-based practice.

5. Provided Continuing Education (CE) training to mental health professionals or Continuing Legal Education (CLE) to legal professionals on parental alienation. CE and CLE training experience suggests the presenter is a recognized expert in the subject matter he or she is teaching.

6. Qualified as an expert in a court of law with respect to PA and related issues.

7. Maintained an ongoing, collaborative communication with other experts in PA in order to benefit from an exchange of ideas and recent advances in the field.

Scientifically-Derived Consensus Regarding Parental Alienation

PA was first described decades ago, and has been given a variety of names. As the problem has become better recognized, our understanding has become increasingly refined. Evidence-based practice dictates that the key elements—the various “moving parts”—of PA must be examined and tested through using the scientific method. The following expert consensus opinions are the result of this process and form the foundation of our current understanding of alienation and related issues.

1. Alienated children present very differently than estranged children. The similarities are superficial. Although both alienated children and estranged children will often align with one parent over the other, to expert eyes—by which we mean a professional who specializes in alienation and estrangement—it is usually straightforward, if not easy, to distinguish between the two. On the other hand, the differences are often missed by non-specialists.

2. Many aspects of identification and treatment of PA are counterintuitive. For example, alienated children often appear to have a healthy bond with the alienating parent although it is actually an unhealthy, enmeshed relationship. Many alienating parents present well to evaluators and courts although they are actually engaging in destructive behaviors. Many targeted parents appear anxious and agitated despite being healthy and competent. For this reason, only a qualified PA specialist should conduct this work.

3. Children rarely reject a parent—even an abusive parent. Therefore, in the absence of bona fide abuse or neglect, when a child strongly aligns with one parent and emphatically rejects the other, that pattern strongly suggests alienation—not estrangement.

4. Clinicians and other professionals should carefully consider severity. PA is typically a progressive process in which—sometimes gradually, sometimes suddenly—the child begins to resist contact with and/or reject the previously-loved targeted parent. Severity should be identified as mild, moderate, or severe. This is important because, among other things, it allows the examiner to identify early warning signs of PA which, in turn, permits a qualified clinician to provide interventions in ways that are customized and appropriate for the level of severity.

5. The work of Dr. Richard Gardner (e.g., 1998), a child psychiatrist, provided a theoretical framework and conceptual model for understanding the phenomenon. His original insights have since been validated by both researchers and clinicians. His work was based on sound scientific principles and generally-accepted standards of psychiatric practice.

6. The eight manifestations of parental alienation first identified by Dr. Gardner are generally-accepted and valid. Although others have been identified, the original eight are well-established as valid and useful indicators of alienation, and are rarely, if ever, seen with estrangement. They have been tested empirically and found to be accurate, valid, and reliable.

7. The seventeen alienation behaviors described by Dr. Amy J.L. Baker are research-supported and evidence-based. They provide a valid and reliable set of useful indicators with which to assess the behavior of favored parents with respect to PA.

8. Although some cases are hybrids, the assertion that most cases are hybrids (meaning a mix of alienation and estrangement) is not supported by the clinical literature.

9. Children do not have the cognitive maturity or the capacity to make an informed decision about whether to have a relationship with a parent. They cannot imagine the implications of having a parent absent from their lives, and do not necessarily know what is in their best interest. Nor do they genuinely want the power to cut a parent out of their lives.

10. Children (and adults) can be unduly influenced by emotional manipulation to act against their own best interests. They can be misled to believe things that are not true, even about a parent. It is possible to induce false memories in children and/or to program children to relate events—often sincerely and convincingly (at least to naïve or unwary observers)—that, in fact, did not take place or did not take place in the way described.

11. Many, but not necessarily all, alienating parents have one or more personality disorders (typically of the borderline, narcissistic and/or sociopathic type). The more extreme or severe the alienating behavior, the more likely it is that the alienating parent has an underlying personality disorder.

12. Parental alienation is a form of child abuse, specifically psychological and emotional abuse. It meets the diagnostic criteria for child psychological abuse as described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the DSM-5) published by the American Psychiatric Association (2013).

13. Although Dr. Gardner popularized the concept and clarified many of the definitions and subsets inherent in the determination of what PA means, its development, and its deleterious effects upon the family, the concept appeared long before Dr. Gardner first wrote about the problem in 1985.

14. The model provided by Dr. Gardner has provided an excellent framework for both diagnosis and treatment. Although it has been refined and enhanced over the past 30 years, the basic concepts remain valid. Virtually all of the successful treatment programs for PA are based on his original model. Despite unsupported claims to the contrary, no alternative model has been shown to be clinically, theoretically, or scientifically superior. For the most part, proposed alternatives provide little or no outcome data and/or appear to be neither clinically, nor theoretically, nor scientifically sound.

15. Only reunification therapy provided by a PA specialist who thoroughly understands the clinical and scientific points in this paper, and whose treatment plan is highly-customized for PA based on sound scientific evidence and clinical outcome data, is recommended. Team-based “intensive reunification therapy” is appropriate in treating moderate to severe alienation while traditional in-office, out-patient reunification therapy may have its place when considering treatment for mild alienation. The treatment should be appropriately matched to the family.

We hope this information will be helpful in obtaining qualified advice or assistance.

Amy J.L. Baker, Ph.D., Steven G. Miller, MD., J. Michael Bone, Ph.D

And in alphabetical order

Katherine Andre, Ph.D.

Rebecca Bailey, Ph.D.

William Bernet, M.D Doug Darnall, Ph.D.

Robert Evans, Ph.D

Linda Kase Gottlieb, LMFT, LCSW-R

Demothenos Lorandos, Ph.D. JD

Kathleen Reay, Ph.D.

S. Richard Sauber, Ph.D.

Posted in Alienation

How to Select an Expert in PA

Parental alienation, a family dynamic in which one parent engages in behaviors that are likely to foster a child’s unjustified rejection of the other parent, is all too common. By some estimates 80% of all divorcing parents engage in some PA behaviors (Clawar & Rivlin, 1992). Although, not all children exposed to PA behaviors become alienated (unjustifiably reject one parent and align with the other), rates of alienation in children may be as high as 1% (Bernet, Boch-Galhau, Baker, & Morrison, 2010). A body of research now exists establishing the negative long-term effects of exposure to PA behaviors for children (e.g., Baker & Eichler, 2014; Bernet, Baker, & Verrocchio, 2015; Verrocchio & Baker, 2015). Some research, along with a host of memoirs, also documents the extremely painful experience of alienation for the targeted parents (e.g., Baker, 2006; Baker, & 2006; Baker & Fine, 2014).

Many targeted parents find themselves involved with legal as well as mental health professionals as they navigate their parental alienation journey (Gardner, 1998). Although there is considerable research and clinical wisdom in our current knowledge base, PA is still an emerging field. Presently, there is no credentialing body to provide professionals with an evidence-based training protocol and/or related information to address the problem of parental alienation. This parallels the progression in other mental health fields. For example, although addictions existed well before the 1980’s, it wasn’t until 1988 that the American Academy of Health Care Providers in the Addictive Disorders was created to provide credentialing as a Certified Addiction Specialist. Prior to that, anyone could claim to be an expert in the treatment of addictions regardless of his or her knowledge, experience, or skill.

This is problematic because—as a bona fide specialized field of practice—there is a knowledge base and core content that experts must have to properly assist families affected by parental alienation and to avoid common errors that can result in poor outcomes for such families. Such errors are very common among non-specialists because many aspects of parental alienation are highly counterintuitive. The field is counterintuitive because the human brain is hard-wired to commit certain types of systematic cognitive errors that are particularly common in PA cases (Miller, 2013). Consequently, non-specialists who attempt to evaluate or manage such cases will often fall prey to a variety of cognitive and clinical errors, particularly if they rely on naïve intuition rather than a highly-specialized knowledge base. Furthermore, such clinicians are likely to have great confidence in their incorrect conclusions. Indeed, the usual repertoire of clinical skills is often inadequate in such cases and will often result in poor clinical and forensic outcomes (Miller, 2013). To avoid such errors, clinicians require highly-specific training in PA and related family dynamics such as pathological alignment and pathological enmeshment (Minuchin, 1974; Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980). PA-specific training and knowledge is required in order to avoid such mistakes. Three examples are provided here (and mentioned below as axiomatic positions within the field).

The first is that mental health professionals are trained to rely on their clinical judgment and impressions when meeting and working with clients. These impressions form the data points that clinicians draw on when making decisions about client’s mental health status. This is problematic for PA cases because targeted parents often present as anxious, agitated, angry, and afraid. Having sustained severe psychological and emotional trauma, they are in crisis mode and will therefore often make a poor first impression. They may have pressured speech. They may display psychomotor agitation. They may avoid eye contact. They may interrupt the clinician.

They may appear to have an agenda and may even appear paranoid or delusional because they are likely to believe—accurately, if the case is indeed one of PA—that the other parent is trying to undermine their relationship with their child. They are also likely to appear defensive and—not unreasonably—be unwilling to take responsibility for causing the crisis. In contrast, alienating parents are likely to make an excellent first impression. They present as cool, calm, charming, and convincing. They are poised and in command of their emotions. They are basking in the glow of victory—of their children’s professed preference for them and emphatic rejection of the other parent. To a PA novice (regardless of how experienced the clinician might be with other types of cases) the parents’ contrasting presentations may seem genuine and come to dominate hypothesis generation and clinical decision-making as to the family dynamics. The children’s complaints about the targeted parent may appear well-founded and their preference for the alienating parent may appear reasonable. Non-specialists who fail to recognize this characteristic pattern—i.e., that targeted parents generally present poorly and alienating parents generally present well—are likely to accept the alienating parent’s version of events, especially when provided with an almost identical history by the child(ren). They are also likely to find the alienating parent more pleasant and likeable, and thus more sympathetic.

The second counterintuitive aspect of PA, one that is rarely appreciated by non-specialists, is that in moderate and severe cases the alienation is usually accompanied by pathological enmeshment. This is problematic because unless the observer or evaluator has extensive expertise in this area, pathological enmeshment appears to be—and could be mistaken for—healthy bonding—a close, loving, healthy, parent-child relationship. Evaluators who mistake enmeshment for healthy bonding fail to appreciate the serious psychopathology that is typical of enmeshed parents including pathological dependence or co-dependence, delusional thinking, and severe boundary violations. Such observers may also fail to appreciate that an enmeshed child has lost his or her identity, sense of self, individuality, autonomy, and critical reasoning skills to the point that he or she has become an extension of, and proxy for, the parent. This is potentially catastrophic in the setting of a custody dispute because the clinician or custody evaluator, having made these mistakes (often with great confidence), may then recommend that sole custody be awarded to the pathologically-enmeshed parent. If this happens, the child has been entrusted to a deeply-disturbed, personality-disordered, abusive parent who is incapable of putting the child’s needs ahead of his or her own. Indeed, in our collective experience, when cases of severe alienation and enmeshment are evaluated by professionals who are not bona fide specialists in alienation and estrangement such errors are common.

Third, a non-PA specialist is unlikely to know how to differentiate an abused child from an alienated child. Alienated children present as extremely angry, rude, aggressive, and provocative towards the targeted parent. They are likely to deny ever having had a good relationship with that parent and are unlikely to express any interest in repairing the relationship in the future. While this may appear to be a rational response to abusive parenting, it is actually not the expected response from an abused child. Research and the clinical literature consistently report that abused children generally cling to and are protective of the abusive parent. They want to repair the relationship and forgive the abuser, and they are likely to deny or minimize past abuse (Baker & Schneiderman, 2015; Clawar & Rivlin, 2013; Gottlieb, 2012). In fact, it is only alienated children who demonstrate a particular clinical picture which may—to the untrained clinician—appear to be consistent with maltreatment.

In sum, there is a knowledge base in the field of parental alienation that has been gathered through academic research and expert clinical observation and shared among experts but that is not yet routinely available to front-line clinicians in the form of a credentialing or training protocol. In the absence of such credentialing, any mental health professional can assume the title of an “alienation expert” with respect to diagnosis, intervention, or treatment regardless of his or her level of actual knowledge. Because we believe that some mental health professionals naively or otherwise claim to be PA experts when in fact they are not, we have come together to provide targeted parents with some guidelines for differentiating true PA specialists from non-specialists or pseudo-specialists.

Our motivation for undertaking this effort was that we understand how horrible it is for targeted parents to have their relationship with their beloved child undermined, disrupted, or damaged by a third party, either the other parent or some other alienator. Collectively, we have worked with several thousand parents who want to protect their children from this terrible form of child abuse.

We know that many targeted parents are avid consumers of PA knowledge and strive to educate themselves about this problem. We have come together, as experts in the field, to help such parents weed through the myriad resources now available on and off-line and to help them identify accurate and reliable information. Regrettably, some professionals claim to be experts in PA when, in fact, they lack the necessary background, credentials, or expertise to properly advise parents in this regard. Worse, some of these self-proclaimed “experts” promote ideas that are inconsistent with well-established scientific principles—that is, their opinions and theories are in conflict with generally-accepted, evidence-based scientific understanding about what PA is and how to remedy it.

Unfortunately, it is not always easy for non-scientists to distinguish between good science and bad science—or between science and pseudoscience. As the field has grown, and as more and more is written, there has been an explosion of information on the subject of parental alienation. There are multiple websites, YouTube videos, blogs, and Facebook pages devoted to the subject. When sifting through this abundance of information, it is important to understand that some statements and sources are more accurate than others. Likewise, some “experts” are more scientific than others. The purpose of this brief paper is to help targeted parents identify who is and is not truly an expert in the field.

The rest of this paper is divided into two sections. First, we present some guidelines as to what a targeted parent should look for with respect to the background, experience, and credentials of a genuine expert. Second, we identify core information, fundamental points, and basic concepts to which an expert should subscribe. These basic premises have been scientifically validated and are neither controversial nor debatable among genuine experts who are credible specialists in alienation and estrangement. No genuine expert in PA should disagree with any of these ideas—they are axiomatic within the field.

Posted in Alienation

The Personal Support Unit (PSU)

The Personal Support Unit (PSU) is on track to help a total of 50,000 clients per year by April 2016, a sharp increase from the approximately 5,000 assisted in 2008-9, the year of the financial crisis.

Backed by top judges such as Lord Neuberger and Lord Dyson, the PSU offers free support to court users facing civil and family cases without legal help. Many of the volunteers are law students.

Figures published in the PSU’s newly released annual report for 2014-15 show the extent of the incredible growth in demand for the charity’s volunteers. Continue reading in Legal Cheek.

Posted in Alienation

Covert Emotional Incest & Identity Loss

Covert emotional incest causes obsessions, compulsions and many emotion-driven behaviors, including:

  1. Identification: You express another person’s emotions
  2. Inner Child: Some part of you is split-off – you can be childish
  3. Identity Conflict: You swing between extremes – you live in conflict
  4. Lost Identity: You cannot express yourself – your life lacks meaning
  5. Relationship Bonds: You are bonded to someone – you are dependent

Emotional incest often accompanies Parental Alienation, in which
(in the mind of a child) one parent hates or alienates the other parent.
Often, such toxic beliefs are taboo – and taboo beliefs cannot be
consciously changed or even considered without help.

Covert emotional incest spans generations … there is no one person who caused it. It usually reflects chains of suffering going back many generations.

Emotional Incest – Signs of Abuse

Solve Emotional Problems

Did a parent try to partner you? Do you cling to fantasies and avoid responsibility (act like a child) or become super-responsible (act like a parent) … or both? If your parents included you in their fights and fantasies, you may be enmeshed in their drama.

Do you strive to fulfill a parent’s unfulfilled desires? If so – you may be diagnosed as having passive aggression, sexual problems, anxiety and/or depression. If you try to fulfill both parents’ conflicting desires. your life may include endless inner conflict.

My husband is a mature man half the time – but he acts like an aggressive child after visiting his mother. When he is mature – life is good … but a few hours with his mother and he becomes an irresponsible, conceited little boy! Washington

If you try to carry ancestral emotional baggage, you will fail. You may find yourself in crisis, depression, obsessions or addictions. Worse, your children will copy you.

I researched the huna healing used by native Hawaiian healers. Some referred toele’ele eke (black bags) of emotions held in the body which cause disease and are difficult to heal except through ho’oponopono – a traditional Hawaiian ritual.

Parents who Abuse Children

Some parents are abusive and manipulative, yet they usually claim good intentions. They often say that they’re doing the best that they know how to do.

My husband was a case of arrested development which made him easy to control. Since your sessions, he is taking more responsibility, but now my teenage son is angrily trying to be the “irresponsible one” in our family. New Mexico

Good intentions can have bad consequences. If a lonely parent loves a child as a substitute for a friend or partner, emotional chaos will follow. The consequences of this abuse includes destructive relationship habits:

  1. expressing contempt and conceit
  2. testing people’s acceptance of them
  3. expressing anger, rejection and emotional chaos
  4. showing inappropriate affection and inappropriate rejection

Father-bonded women or mother-bonded men may only relate well with other bonded adults. They may find themselves only falling in love with or sexually excited by immature or irresponsible people whom they neither like nor trust … or they may desperately seek immature people who will parent them.

Solutions for Transferences & Negative Emotions

Transferences motivate fixated and addictive relationships. Affected people may suffer negative emotions and relationship problems. They may say, “I don’t know what love is“. For more on this, see mother-son bonds and father-daughter entanglements.

When transferences fail – as they must, being lies – affected people
may seek distractions or drugs to avoid depression. We can
help you resolve emotional and relationship problems.

Posted in Alienation

Parents who NEED Children

People who use children as a source of adult love are trying to fulfill their emotional needs. Such adults often usually bond to opposite sex children … a depressed father more often bonds to his youngest daughter while a lonely mother more often bonds to her oldest son. Other combinations are possible.

If a parent feels rejected or alienated, he or she might focus on a child. Sometimes a parent+child couple may treat another parent as a child, especially if the other parent is immature or ill.

Children who try to emotionally support an adult shares the adults feelings and responsibilities. Children who act like substitutes for adult partners often develop unhappy relationship habits.

I felt like I was my mother’s mother. She is immature and lonely,
and I have been there for her since my father died. That meant
no university and few boyfriends. You showed me what I was doing
and now I am making different choices.

Such children may lose their personal identities. They may try to become special, while adolescents and teenagers may become perfectionist, rebellious or spiteful.

Most parents who abuse children in this way try to maintain these bonds, even when the children are adults. They use different types of manipulation and often show jealousy or contempt to their adult child’s potential partners. They may try to alienate their children’s partners or try to make potential partners look bad or stupid.


Expect children who are expected to repay their birth and care to feel enormous guilt. As such feelings may be too dangerous to be considered consciously. the feelings often become taboo. Such guilt is compounded if a child displaces a parent.

People who were raised by entangled parents usually consider this kind of behavior normal and justified. As adults they rarely search for maturity … until they have suffered enough.

These patterns seem to be more common in relationships between mothers and sons, than between fathers and daughters or other combinations. Many women confirmed that they experienced this when their partner and relationship was subjected to their partners’ mothers. Other common consequences are that a male partner may:

  • spend too much time with his mother
  • allow his mother to criticize or humiliate his partner
  • allow his mother to be overly and rudely involved in their partnership

My mother gave me life and she has priority … anybody who dares
to say anything against my mother must leave my house!

How About Your Partner?

If you are in a relationship with a bonded person, you already know the consequences to your family and marriage. Ask your partner about the feeling of owing something to parents; and how it would feel if he or she stopped trying to please parents and expressed true feelings to them.

And, if you are a partner of such a person, consider your own habits. What attracted you to this person? Why did you stay? People who are bonded to parents are usually strongly attracted to people with similar habits, and may exchange the roles of parent and child with their partners.

Over time, however, they may become irritated by their partner’s behavior (You are just like my father / mother!) Or they feel so much guilt for leaving their parents that they emotionally withdraw and sabotage their own intimacy. This leads to victimization and dependency … patterns of suffering that are often passed on to the next generation.

What would you have to believe to partner an adult who acts like a child?

If you wish to change, consider emailing us. A first step is to take responsibility for yourself and your own happiness. If a partner definitely does not want to grow up, there is not much that you can do, except perhaps to explore why you want to stay in this relationship. Or wait, pray and hope.

What will your life look like in a few years if you ignore this?
What will your life look like if you mature?

If you ignore covert emotional incest – families may suffer. Two common symptoms are feeling special – believing without evidence that you are extraordinary or exceptional; and identity loss – you lose access to your qualities, resources and emotions. This is often accompanied by addictive relationships and passive aggression.

I took many drugs to stop feeling so bad – I was trying to change the
consequences of my father’s weird ideas about love.

Posted in Alienation

Solutions for Covert Emotional Incest

Your early family relationships are the most influential relationships of your life.
Confusion in those early relationships can lead to confusion throughout life.
Contact us for help resolving emotional and relationship issues.

Go to: Emotional Incest Solutions (Part 2)

Covert emotional incest begins when a family member perceives
or responds to another family member as a substitute for a partner.
We help people resolve emotional incest, and remedy other child abuse.

The symptoms of emotional incest usually include feeling special (believing that you are exceptional). Associated issues may includeaddictive relationships, passive aggressionand perfectionism.

Children raised as special do not forget it. Love may not be enough … they often  demand devotion. If their need to be special is threatened, they may feel that life is not worth living. They may seek substitutes for parents … as partners. They may fall in love with people who have qualities that a parent had – or lacked. They may become irrational if or when a substitute parent withdraws or threatens to leave.

Posted in Alienation

Coping with Alienation – What TO Do:

  • Get support – talk to a friend or therapist and describe what you are dealing with. Break the silence and get a reality check and some constructive feedback.
  • Talk to the people you are being alienated from. This takes courage – but go talk to the people whom you have been told are monsters, or who have been told what a flaky, dysfunctional, abusive person you are. Make up your own mind about them, and let them do the same.  Perhaps they are monsters, perhaps not – you may be surprised by what you learn.
  • Stand up for your needs. Confront attempts at alienation abuse with a calm, yet firm, resolve not to allow someone else’s dysfunction cause dysfunction in you. Try saying, “I care about you deeply – and I also care about my own health – this is something I need to do.”
  • Visit loved ones and healthy friends regularly. Go alone if your personality-disordered loved one chooses not to come too. Give yourself permission to break an abuser’s arbitrary rules and slay sacred cows for the sake of healthy activities or choices.
  • Celebrate life for as long as you have the health and strength to do so. You do not have to join a personality-disordered person under their  canopy of depression and darkness. Carpe Diem – Use it well.

Posted in Alienation

Coping with Alienation – What NOT to Do

  • Don’t believe someone if they say you don’t need social contact with other people.
  • Don’t give in to pressure to stop seeing a loved one, family member or friend.
  • Don’t give in to inappropriate pressure and avoid group activities which are good for you.
  • Don’t retaliate or try to hit back at a person who is trying to sabotage your relationships.
  • Don’t kid yourself into thinking things will get better with time or that this or that will blow over – this is something you need to confront and fix quickly.
  • Don’t tell yourself that you can or must handle on your own – solitary confinement can break the most resolute of spirits.
  • Don’t sneak around or hide your social contact just to avoid conflict. This is something you need to insist on as a bottom-line issue.
  • Don’t tell yourself you have to fix the loved one in your life who suffers from a personality disorder before you can go on with the rest of your life. You can’t fix anybody, and you will just frustrate yourself and the other person if you try.

Posted in Alienation

Alienation – The act of cutting off or interfering with an individual’s relationships with others.

Alienation may be absolute, where all the victim’s relationships are sabotaged equally, or it may be targeted towards a particular type of relationship. For example, the victim may be cut off from social friendships; family relationships; professional relationships; contact with members of a group, club or organization; or contact with members of a particular gender, race, social status or religion.

A personality-disordered individual may frown on their victim having social relationships outside the home. They may try to break those relationships by making up shocking or accusing stories about either the non-personality-disordered (Non-PD) individual – or about the person the Non-PD is trying to befriending. The Non-PD may face consequences or punishments as a result of making or maintaining contact with a person who is not on thean “approved” list.

In the case of chosen relationships, partners are often pressured to avoid contact with their own siblings, parents or extended family. In the case of unchosen (family) relationships, the Non-PD’s romantic relationships, partnerships or marriages may be sabotaged.

Professional relationships may also be the target of alienation attacks by a personality-disordered individual.

The most widely reported form of alienation is parental alienation – where a parent tries to sabotage the relationship their child has with the other parent. This is quite common when divorcing someone who has a personality disorder.

Alienation may be overt or covert.

In overt alienation, the victim knows the abuser discourages or disapproves of a relationship. They may be confronted with threats of consequences or a system of rewards and punishments as an incentive to reduce or break off contact.

In covert alienation, the victim is not aware of the activities of the abuser. The abuser may attempt to subtly manipulate the victim’s habits or routine to reduce the incidence of contact with another person using diversions. The abuser may also use distortion campaigns or manipulations to divert friends or family away from contact with the victim. The abuser may also recruit proxies or third parties to directly or unwittingly sabotage or compromise a relationship.

Related Personality Disorders:

Alienation is a common occurrence in relationships involving people who suffer from Antisocial Personality Disorder, Avoidant Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Dependent Personality Disorder,Histrionic Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder,Paranoid Personality Disorder, Schizoid Personality Disorder, Schizotypal Personality Disorder.

What it feels like:

Alienation is a form of emotional abuse. We need social contact to maintain a healthy emotional state as much as our bodies need food and water to maintain a healthy physical state. If we are socially malnourished, we may begin to exhibit symptoms of depression, such as anger, insomnia, loss of appetite, or low energy.

When somebody denies us access to loved ones, friends and family, it can be as damaging as being denied physical needs such as sleep and nutrition. If you are an adult and your actions pose no direct threat of physical or emotional harm to others, no one has the right to control who you can and can’t see or where you can and can’t go.

When we are malnourished and abused in this way, we are vulnerable to making poor personal choices. We may revert to ineffective behaviors to try to resolve the issue such as anger, retaliation, begging, bargaining or sneaking around.

If we are subject to chronic alienation, we are prone to progress through the classic five stages of grief – anger, denial, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Once we reach acceptance, we are apt to become enablersof the abuse, denying ourselves the very thing we need most to become healthy. We may avoid contact with outsiders, defend our position, avoid scrutiny and avoid situations which threaten to shine a light on our plight. This process is sometimes referred to as Learned Helplessness or Stockholm Syndrome.