Parental Alienation Syndrome ©

Parental Alienation Syndrome was a term coined by child psychiatrist Richard A. Gardner drawing upon his clinical experiences since the early 1980s. The concept of one parent attempting to separate their child, irrespective of age, from the other parent as punishment or part of a divorce have been described since at least the 1940's. Gardner described PAS as a preoccupation by the child (adult) with criticism and deprecation of a parent. Gardner stated that PAS occurs when one parent deliberately or unconsciously attempts to alienate a child (adult) from the other parent. Hostile Aggressive Parenting leads to Parental Alienation Syndrome.

Gardner's original formulation labelled mothers almost exclusively as the alienating parent.

Parental alienation in its most severe form is a heinous form of child abuse and neglect. In many instances the sadistic mother is a sociopath and therefore guilt and remorse, and indeed compassion and empathy don't exist.


A unique feature of mothers involved in Parental Alienation is their ability to act the victim while victimising.  They victimise their children, their families, their neighbours, friends and work colleagues. They constantly deliver lies to these people with the sole objective of destroying their children's father's life.

One of the most telling ways of identifying that parental alienation has indeed occurred is the fact that the child/adult in the past had a warm, loving, caring valuable relationship with the now despised, rejected parent. Children, including adult children will use identical phrases to those uttered by the alienator without realising it, considering those ideas and words truly their own.

Another example is where the children/adult children will dialogue with the cruel punishing parent about the victim parent, while never discussing anything with the alienated parent. This results in a situation whereby the punished alienated parent is never told why they are being alienated, or what they are being accused of. This unresolved inability to dialogue and to seek a solution is then passed on from generation to generation. The victimised and punished sons and daughters are brainwashed by the uncaring parent into believing that they should never seek resolution as it is not a possibility.   

As all of the false accusations regarding the father are discussed and spread in a clandestine way, he is never actually accused of anything. Therefore, there is no method of defence for the victim father as he is not aware of what he is being falsely being accused of. People are in fact encouraged to make up and spread lies about the victim father.

A tactic the alienating parent uses involves mutual friends, neighbours, in-laws and community members. This parent might conscript them as allies against the children’s/adult's  other parent before, during, and after the divorce. These friends, neighbours, in-laws etc believing the punishing cruel parent do not approach the victim parent and therefore never learn the truth. 

It is important to note that these 'children' can be in their 20's, 30's, 40's and 50's.

The symptoms of PAS are: 

(1)  The children/adult children sit in judgement of the targeted parent’s adequacy and competency as a parent.

(2) The narcissistic parent covertly encourages, empowers, and rewards the children for this behaviour.

(3)  The narcissistic parent feigns innocence in this process. 

(4)  The children/adult children believe they are acting independently (that is, they believe they are not being influenced by the alienating parent.)

(5)   The children, of all ages refuse to dialogue with the alienated parent, thereby only knowing a one-sided biased story.

(6) The victimised children’s/adult children's anger at the alienator is taken out on the alienated punished parent.

(7)  The fear of the narcissistic parent is wrongly projected on to the victimised parent.

(8)   The alienated parent is punished for the wrongdoing of the alienating parent.

(9)  Relentless bad-mouthing of the character of the target parent, in order to reduce their importance and value.

(10) Creating the impression that the target parent was dangerous and planned to hurt the child/adult child, in order to instil fear and rejection of that parent.

(11) Withdrawing love, affection or positive regard for the target parent, in order to heighten the need to please the alienating parent.

The system is created as the alienating parent rewards the children/adult children when they say hostile or angry things about the targeted parent by encouraging and displaying “understanding” for the children’s/adult children's negative feelings, when what should really be occurring is the children should be taught to respect the other parent.  In essence, the children/adult children are gaining acceptance from the narcissistic parent as they complain about the target parent.


In essence, the children/adult children are empowered to disobey, disrespect, and disregard the victimised parent.  On the surface, the children/adult children feel and believe they are benefiting and winning, but in reality, they are playing a sordid part in the narcissist’s perverse mind games. 


The detrimental effects of PAS on these children are:

  1. Children’s/adult children's sense of value is diminished because they believe the targeted parent is unworthy of being identified with. If the children/adult children have any interests or traits similar to the rejected parent, then the children/adult children will be forced to reject those aspects of themselves as well.

  2. A child’s/adult's character is damaged as he or she is covertly rewarded to be disrespectful, entitled, rude, judgemental, condescending, ungrateful, parentified, and hateful.

  3. The children/adult children develop a toxic-bond to the alienating parent, as he or she manipulates them into fearing a lack of acceptance from him or her.

           

According to Gardner, PAS is characterised by a cluster of eight symptoms that appear in the child/adult child. These include a campaign of denigration and hatred against the targeted parent; weak, absurd, or frivolous rationalisations for this deprecation and hatred; lack of the usual ambivalence about the targeted parent; strong assertions that the decision to reject the parent is theirs alone (the "independent-thinker phenomenon"); reflexive support of the favoured parent in the conflict; lack of guilt over the treatment of the alienated parent; use of borrowed scenarios and phrases from the alienating parent; and the denigration not just of the targeted parent but also to that parent's extended family and friends. The outrageous behaviour by the disturbed parent is often so shocking that people don’t want to believe it. Their dramatic justifications for their aberrant behaviours defy reason.

What about therapy?

Surely a therapist can fix them! Individuals who will brainwash a child/adult are the worst candidates for therapy, because therapy implies that a person realises that there is something wrong with them and that they are motivated to do something about it. These people do not have the ability to self-correct behavioural or emotional errors. The wiring of their brain will not permit it. Therapy doesn’t work because one can’t have a conversation about the problem when the problem is doing the answering! As soon as a therapist suggests that they behave better or that what they are doing is harming their child, splitting occurs. The therapist then becomes the bad guy and the parent leaves. They do not form trusting relationships with others unless they believe that they are getting their way.

Few people understand the psychological underpinnings of PA and why a parent would treat a child so badly. Gregory Lester, Ph.D., describes possible causes that can account for the severity of the psychological disturbance seen in severely alienating parents. They demonstrate egocentricity to a fault and exhibit bullying behaviour. He suggests that their brain may be partially wired. He describes them as assuming that they are entitled to special treatment and expect others to take care of them, including their children/adult children. They don’t engage in the normal give and take that is customary in social relationships. They are takers, not givers. If they give something, the gift is likely to have strings attached. They talk a fine game, but they don’t deliver. They are masters at projection, the strategy that refers to when another person’s feelings, thoughts, and behaviours are reversed and used to describe the person making the complaint.  Actually, these disturbed parents are like little children who haven’t reached the age of reason; however, they do respond to rewards and punishment.

Parental alienation syndrome steals the bond and security that the child once experienced with the parent being alienated. The message that the child/adult gets is that the targeted parent is not worthy of respect or honesty, and therefore it's acceptable to avoid that parent. Often the child's/adult's own normal disappointments in the targeted parent are seen as further evidence that this parent is to be judged intolerable.  In addition, PAS typically involves destructive behaviours such as manipulation, lying, and deprivation. Parental alienation syndrome robs a child/adult of the ability to trust others as well as his or her own perceptions about life. In other words, he or she begins to distrust himself/herself as well as carry guilt. Parental alienation syndrome puts a child in a position of believing that the love and bond he or she has with a parent is contingent upon sacrificing the other parent, and they actively participate in protecting the parent responsible for alienating the other.

The innocent parent may have no idea why his or her children have turned against him/her, and may have no idea what to do about this disheartening problem.  It also may be impossible to remove the children/adults from the narcissist’s life because, after all, the narcissist isn’t doing anything illegal.  Because of these constraints, the non-abuser needs to be creative and figure out how to accomplish the above three objectives.

If you are a victim of PAS, here are some suggestions for you to try to help turn things around:

  • Be proactive; do not believe this problem will just go away on its own. It will most likely get worse.

  • Realise that there is not much you can do about the alienating parent. You can only change yourself.  Take a good look at your own behaviours and modify where necessary.

  • Be a strong parent. Do not roll over easily no matter how angry your children may be with you.

  • Find ways to attach with your children every day. Even if they don’t want you to. Call them, text them, talk to them, touch them; do whatever you can to connect to your children.

  • Be solid. Be direct. Be firm. Be consistent. Be stable. Even if you don’t feel those things, act as if you do.

  • If at all possible, find a good therapist who understands PAS and bring yourself and your children to see him/her.

  • Use strategies akin to those used when people leave a cult; in essence, PAS is a form of brainwashing.

  • Take very good care of yourself. Do things that are good for you and bring you joy.

  • Do not grovel, beg, or allow your children to see that you are threatened by their behaviour. Stand strong.

  • If the narcissist encourages your children to disobey you, hold your ground and make sure your children do what you request; starting with “no disrespectful behaviour in the home.” Period.

  • Develop some catch phrases to use with your children that you can say in moments when things are particularly difficult for you to handle.

  • Use humour. Be enjoyable to be around.

  • Be smarter than the narcissist.

  • Be determined and refuse to let the abuser destroy the relationship between you and your children.

  • Educate yourself. Never stop reading and arming yourself with knowledge. In addition to this, educate your children.

  • Join a support group so you can get help as you deal with this battle for your children.

 
 

Surviving Parental Alienation

Surviving Parental Alienation provides parents who have been ostracised from their children with the essential experience of having their feelings understood and validated.


This book offers true stories for parents hoping to find connection to others who have lived through alienation from a child or children.

Offering insight and advice, the authors guide the "targeted"

parent through the various issues and challenges that arise, and help them to better manage through this trying experience.


In response to this conflict, some children become aligned with one parent against the other – even a parent who has done nothing to warrant the hostile rejection of their formerly loving children.

These “targeted” parents suffer from the loss of time with their children, the pain of watching their children become distant, even cruel, and the uncertainty of not knowing if and when their children will come back to them.


These parents are on a painful journey with an uncertain outcome. Surviving Parental Alienation fills the tremendous need for concrete help for these parents.


Too often parental alienation stories that are shared by word of mouth, on the internet, or in books depict unending pain and frightening outcomes. Surviving Parental Alienation provides true stories and information about parents who have reconnected with their lost and stolen children, and offers better insight and understanding into what exactly parental alienation is and how to handle it.


Targeted parents are desperate to be understood and to find cause for hope, even as they search for answers. Surviving Parental Alienation is where they can start to find this hope.

 

Surviving Parental Alienation

Surviving Parental Alienation  a journey of hope by Amy J. L. Baker and Paul R. Fine provides parents who have been ostracised from their children with the essential experience of having their feelings understood and validated.

In that book several stories are presented written from the point of view of targeted parents and then the authors analyse the stories in order to say something larger about the dynamics of parental alienation. In the first third of “Surviving parental alienation” four stories are presented and analyzed. Each story describes the early relationship between the author of the story (the future targeted parent) and his or her spouse (the future alienating parent). With the benefit of hindsight, admittedly, the stories are deconstructed to identify the ways in which the seeds of alienation were sown into the relationship from the very beginning.


This book offers true stories for parents hoping to find connection to others who have lived through alienation from a child or children.

 

Gene Barry Psychotherapist

© Gene Barry