Continuing from the theme of my last post, what’s hardest for me to understand is, after all the long list of dirty, nasty things he did and said to me, how the hell did I succumb to the brainwashing?
I’m an intelligent person. I’m genuinely bright, but that man savaged my self-confidence and always managed to blame it on other people. Again, I’m not saying my mum was a perfect parent; she was far from it. Sometimes she was even cruel, but most of the time she did her best. He made me doubt my own mind. When I felt uncomfortable about him insisting on me going swimming during puberty or deliberately starting intimate and inappropriate conversations, I’d say so – but somehow, he was never wrong. I was. He was never wrong, never at fault, never to blame, and always had a million excuses as to why it’s your own fault that you feel uncomfortable because you misread him drawing pictures of your breasts/got embarrassed by him using the word “erection” during a game of scrabble with two teenagers/kept ornaments of men with large penises around the house.
When you’re consistently told something – in this case that I was imagining his bad behaviour – it sticks eventually. I feel so stupid for falling for this. I can forgive myself for believing in my dad as most kids do. I can forgive myself for not knowing he is a nutter when I was a teenager. What I can’t fathom is how I allowed myself to believe in him as an adult?! I’m currently on my second university degree so I’m not uneducated. My offspring fares excellently – thriving, in fact. No criminal convictions for anyone in my house. I’m a good person. I contribute. I have responsibilites and respect from my friends. And yet, I fell for brainwashing until I was 35. I feel utterly ridiculous.
Unless I’m wrong, I’ve answered my own question. Brainwashing overrides your confidence in your own opinions. When someone you (secretly fear and) look up to and think is your friend builds you a world view from six years old and no one challenges it, when that person insists that they are always right and know better because they are older and male and no one corrects him, it imprints on your mind, despite the evidence of your own eyes and ears, despite your own best judgement, despite your instincts.
PAS is also referred to as a psychiatric disorder of the alienating parent in which they will do everything to exclude the target parent from the children’s lives. There are varying levels of PAS in children and alienating parents, from mild to severe and can include times of alienating feelings and words to a constant degradation of the target parent. An alienator is commonly an angry and resentful person. Anger and resentment towards the target parent is exacerbated by the pain of divorce and by the facilitating of the children maintaining a healthy relationship with the target parent.
Alienating parents often feel very insecure about their own relationship with their children and almost feel that if they don’t alienate the other parent; they will be the one that is excluded. They precipitate this with the children with terms like “Your (target parent) doesn’t like me to be with you”. The PAS then rears its ugly head with further comments about the target parent that are clearly derogatory and undermining the healthy relationship the children have with the target parent.
Alienators can not necessarily see the difference between the breakdown in the marriage and relationship with their spouse and the relationships that they have with their children and the relationships that their spouse has with the children. The blurring of this line can precipitate PAS in one parent, causing them to begin to denigrate the target parent to the children.
In some cases, the alienating personality actions are not conscious. The derogatory and alienating comments can be made hastily in times of conflict and distress and signals the lowest form of PAS. Divorce is not easy for most people, and the feelings and emotions can run high when in the process of divorce. In more moderate cases, the alienator becomes more intent on the alienation of the target parent. The alienator will understand the basic importance of a healthy relationship with the target parent but believes that the target parent can not be as important to the child as they are with little sense of the value of the target parent in the children’s lives.
More obvious alienation tactics by the alienator are precipitated by hatred of the target parent and such tactics are quite blatant. The alienating parent will begin to only describe and remember everything bad about the marriage relationship and relationship with the children. (Remember that time your dad yelled at you…he did that a lot…) These actions of the alienator reflect on the target parent’s unworthiness as a parent and spouse.
In the most severe stages of PAS, the alienating parent no longer needs to actively participate in alienating actions and comments. By this stage, the children have adopted the alienating parent’s feelings towards the target parent and usually outright refuse any contact or visitation with the target parent. At this stage, the alienating parent is usually happy and satisfied having ‘got what they wanted’ and seeing the target parent has having received what he/she deserved by the way of lack of relationship with the children. Ultimately, it is important to realize the symptoms of PAS as early on as possible and to interject yourself into your children’s lives with regularity and a response that is opposite of alienation. By showing concern and care for the alienating parent, you can be slowly undoing what is being done to your children.