Parental Alienation: Consequences of a Divorced Society. Looking for Answers
Parental Alienation: Looking for Answers by Monika Logan
Parental Alienation is when a parent turns a child against the other parent. Wait—it gets worse. The child plays a role as well; the child over time will contribute to hateful antics for a once loved parent. As a warning, Parental Alienation does not only occur in divorced families, but also may take place in intact families. The majority of cases occur after a bitter divorce. The divorce is often one that the alienating parent did not want to endure. Consequently, the parent that was served the papers is at an impasse. They are lonely, angry and want revenge. Feeling hopeless and helpless they attempt to settle the score by aligning himself or herself with their child. Considering that marriages do not last, professionals should educate themselves on the perils of Parental Alienation.
The alignment that takes place in parental alienation is unyielding. Yet, it is anything but a normal parent-child bond. Various factors will strengthen the alignment. If the child’s interests, temperament and disposition are closer to the alienating parent, the other parent may end up losing a relationship. Boundaries are blurred and friendships are formed. The parent becomes the child’s new “BFF” (best friend forever). The alienated parent may have no idea why their child is full of anger, spite, and employs language beyond their years. They also feel helpless and wonder what to do about the utter disrespect that they endure. Alienated parents also worry endlessly about the values their child was once taught. Alienated parents’ remain curious as why his or her ex-spouse decides to discard all the good that was imparted to the child when they were an intact couple.
Parents additionally question why an ex-spouse would start a campaign of denigration. They are in awe that their child is used as a pawn. To contribute to possible therapeutic options, Gestalt therapy might offer some insight. According to the Gestalt approach, “the past will make regular appearances in the present moment.” The approach is also phenomenological and based on the premise that people must be understood in the context of their ongoing relationship with the environment. For the parent left behind, their view is that their environment screwed them, life is unfair and they must seek revenge to savor their ego and rid internal conflict. They will stop at nothing, even at the expense of an innocent child. Freud might postulate that they are all ID. Gestalt theory also posits that individuals have unfinished business. Unfinished business is when figures emerge from the background but are not completed nor resolved. Clearly, one of these figures may be an ex-spouse and a broken relationship. The feelings go unexpressed and will manifest as resentment, rage, hatred, pain anxiety, grief, guilt, and abandonment.
For the deserted parent they will seek to fill this void of unfinished business. They will buddy up with their child and verbally terrorize his or ex-spouse and poison the mind of their child. As the norm, the parent that perpetuates Parental Alienation, does not seek therapy; they do not believe that they have a problem. Consequently, their emotional debris goes unacknowledged. Their present-centered awareness is cluttered and their child is becoming brainwashed. While Gestalt therapy allows one possible lens to view the sickness of parental alienation, it is unlikely that the alienating parent will care how they are thinking, feeling, and doing.
Currently, many helping professionals do not acknowledge the danger of Parental Alienation. It is not deemed treatment worthy. However, due to the divorce rate, especially vitriolic divorces, Parental Alienation should capture the attention of every helping professional. The notion that it is junk science should be discarded. Women’s groups should also realize that men too are capable of alienating. Parental Alienation is not biased but it is destructive. The mental abuse of innocent children will continue to occur while innocent parents’ live with worry. Continuing to deny Parental Alienation is harmful to children and families. Just one social networking site alone (facebook) has over 900 members . Individual members are from all around the world; seeking help, searching for children and desiring acknowledgment of PA. Rather than searching for fault-finding and debating treatment options, much can be learned from Person Centered Therapy.
Empathy is a key term in Person- Centered Therapy. When it comes to Parental Alienation, Carl Rogers core conditions should be embraced by those in helping positions. I disagree with Rogers notion that we are all innately good and are in pursuit of truth and social responsiveness however; Rogers focus on empathy is desirable for alienated parents. Empathy is not sympathy. Empathy is a deep and subjective understanding of the client with the client. Sure, empathy will not change that one’s child is alienated from him or her. Insight and understanding are not equal to change; nor will insight enforce court orders.
The fact is that the alienated parent may never have a restored relationship. Some may lose a child for months, years, or permanently. Parent’s are in emotional pain. “A chief culprit of this pain from the parent’s point of view—apart from the loss of the child—is that of being blamed for the rejection of the child.” (Baker & Andre, 2008). The parents are also in a constant state of worry. The child may continue to live in an unhealthy enmeshed adult-like relationship, in which all the other parent can do is sit back and watch. However, when alienated parents are understood, healing can begin. “If the person does not feel understood and accepted, he or she may lose hope of returning to normal and may not seek help in the future. Genuine support, caring, and nonpossessive warmth can go a long way in building bridges that can motivate people to do something to work through and resolve a crisis” (Corey, 2009).