(Updated January 29, 2022)
I was in my middle fifties when I discovered a shocking truth about myself: I was brainwashed in areas of my life I never thought I could be deceived in.
Though this is not the place to delve into details on this unsettling personal revelation, it opened my eyes to facing the reality that if I, an older man who considers himself somewhat educated and partially enlightened on certain topics could be brainwashed, what does this say about the possibility of impressionable, trusting children being brainwashed in certain areas?
The answer is simple: children can be, and regularly are, brainwashed to various levels on a continual basis. In fact, I do not believe there is a moment on the continuum of life—from birth to old age—that each of us are not susceptible to being unduly influenced in one way or another. To believe otherwise is to virtually guarantee we will be taken advantage of in some fashion by con artists and those seeking control of our minds.
This brainwashing is an integral part of the reason why certain children carry irrational hatred toward one of their parents, a prime indication these children have been victimized by one of their parents through the process known as “Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) and its sister pathology, “Parental Alienation (PA).”
Though there are several definitions of brainwashing, I find the following Wikipedia article especially helpful and applicable for children traumatized by PAS/PA:
“Brainwashing (also known as mind control, menticide, coercive persuasion, thought control, thought reform, and re-education) is the concept that the human mind can be altered or controlled by certain psychological techniques. Brainwashing is said to reduce its subjects’ ability to think critically or independently, to allow the introduction of new, unwanted thoughts and ideas into their minds, as well as to change their attitudes, values and beliefs.”
One misconception concerning the process of brainwashing is that force must be applied in a direct frontal attack on the person subjected to the brainwashing, i.e., being locked in a small, brightly lit room without any sleep while someone is screaming in their face and torturing them for days and weeks at a time, tortured with lit cigarettes, water-boarded, beaten, etc.
In PAS/PA, the brainwashing is often subtle, applied by the alienating parent wanting to divide the child or children from the other parent using less dramatic, but equally effective and devastating, tactics. For example, the alienating parent (the one seeking to divide the child from the other parent) may choose as one tactic among many to rarely speak to the child/children about the other parent, treating the alienated parent as if he or she does not exist or whose life is so insignificant it does not warrant speaking about.
This sends a message to the child that her father (I use the father as the prime example because this is the parent that is usually the one being alienated, or separated, from the child/children) is a persona non gratis, not wanted, valued, respected, or worthy of love, attention and affection by the child being manipulated to reject her father. And it must be noted that such alienating behavior by the mother toward the alienated father is child abuse at best and criminal in nature at worst.
Observe what one article states about PAS:
“During a high conflict divorce, family can become a war zone at the emotional expense of a child. In response to personal rage and grievance, one parent sometimes tries to undermine a child’s love and affection for the other parent.
Parental alienation syndrome (PAS) is when one parent is targeted with a campaign of hatred by the other parent, who uses the child as a vehicle for his or her hostile agenda. Some psychologists consider this kind of affective manipulation to be child abuse.
Behavioral Scientist Steve Maraboli describes it as ‘an emotional act of violence” aimed at an adult but that critically wounds a child…‘”
Note the following phrases from the above article: “…family can become a war zone at the emotional expense of a child…” and “…one parent is targeted with a campaign of hatred by the other parent, who uses the child as a vehicle for his or her hostile agenda…” and “…child abuse…” and “…an emotional act of violence…” that “…critically wounds a child.”
These psychological manipulations are clear examples of intentional brainwashing undertaken by the alienating parent to break and ultimately destroy the once loving bond between children and their fathers. The horror of this attack upon the connection between the father and the children is this: the ones damaged the most are the children. Especially for daughters, this fracture with their father will have lifelong, serious, and devastating consequences.
One truth must be emphatically and repeatedly stated: a parent in a divorce who is successful in turning the child or children against the other parent, causing and/or facilitating an estrangement between them, is guilty of child abuse. This is a criminal action.
“The child, when they realize, like I did, what was done to them, I mean it will knock you on your backside. I mean it is like somebody pulled the rug out from under you because everything you thought you knew, all of the things that you believed and that you made decisions on and you had feelings on, was like you realize that you’ve been manipulated, you’ve been lied to.”Ryan Thomas
For healing to occur, children abused, manipulated and brainwashed by PAS/PA must come to the point where they look inward and at least contemplate that they have been psychologically manipulated and used by a parent they wholeheartedly believed loved and cherished them. Such a revelation will not come easy and may well become one of the most emotionally jarring experiences of their lives.
This may take years—even decades—for the brainwashed child to come to this realization. In my readings on this painful subject, many children never come to this place of healing and remain lifelong prisoners in a cellblock of hatred, spite and bitterness towards a parent they once loved and cherished.
And for those who do realize they have been cruelly abused by the very parent they believed wanted only their best interests, the journey toward healing will be long and difficult. But a reunification with the alienated parent will be worth all the suffering and pain needed to breach this chasm that has separated them and their fathers.
Below is a video of Ryan Thomas, who, as a child, was alienated from his father for about 20 years; eventually, they reconciled. What he has to share concerning children who begin to “wake up” out of their brainwashed state through the influence of their alienating parent is chilling (1:41 through 2:01).
He says, “The child, when they realize, like I did, what was done to them, I mean it will knock you on your backside. I mean it is like somebody pulled the rug out from under you because everything you thought you knew, all of the things that you believed and that you made decisions on and you had feelings on, was like you realize that you’ve been manipulated, you’ve been lied to.”
Ryan has other videos where he speaks about his personal experiences with being alienated from his father. In the one below, he provides further insights into how he “woke up” and began to realize that he had been alienated from his dad when he was in his late twenties: